Jessie Smollett regrets doing that infamous sit-down with Robin Roberts in 2019. In a rare interview, the actor said he was “mortified” watching it back for the first time last year.
Smollett chatted with SiriusXM’s Sway Calloway to promote B-Boy Blues, his first project since he was fired from Empire when police determined he staged his own hate crime. The 40-year-old actor shed new light on his mindset three years ago and revealed he wasn’t aware of online backlash for quite some time. Smollett, who was sentenced to 150 days in jail for lying to police, maintains his innocence but wishes he spoke out in a different way.
“I didn’t wanna do an interview,” Smollett said on Sway in the Morning, explaining he initially wanted to respond to doubters directly on social media. His team determined the videos — which he still has on his phone — seemed “too angry” and “defensive.” “I love and respect Robin Roberts… I did not want to do that interview. That interview wasn’t for me, that was for my character.”
Smollett didn’t actually watch the interview until it was played by the prosecution at last year’s trial.
“I watched it and I was mortified. I mean, I was mortified. I mean, I cringed at just the, every single word that I said in that interview was the truth, but there was a certain level of performative nature that came from it because I didn’t want to be there,” he said. “I was so angry and so offended that I had to go on national television and explain something that happened to me. And it was so political, and it was all of those things, and I found myself dealing with my own internalized homophobia.”
Smollett, who is Black and gay, said he was trying “to represent all of us that had been assaulted based on who we are… but I also didn’t wanna be associated with people who had been attacked.”