Jurnee Smollett has been a fixture in Hollywood for a long time. She and her siblings have dominated the entertainment industry for a while with each carving their own niche. However, the recent past hasn’t been too kind to the Smolletts, and Jurnee is aware of it.
Recently, the 35-year-old said, “it’s no secret” that her family is “heartbroken” after several hardships in recent years.
Jurnee Smollett isn’t the only celebrity in the family
Smollett isn’t the first celebrity in her family. As children, she and her siblings Jojo, Jazz, Jussie, Jake, and Jocqui pursued work in acting, modeling, and music. Smollett got her first big break in acting when she appeared in Full House as Michelle Turner’s best friend Denise.
By 1994, all the Smollett siblings had landed a show. On Our Own featured them as orphaned children who navigating the way through life and trying to stay together. Although the show ran for one season, Smollett said “it was heaven.”
Smollett appeared in The Great Debaters playing Samantha Booke. Her character was loosely based on the solo female debater at Wiley College Henrietta Bell Wells. The role garnered Smollett critical acclaim and she received an NAACP Image Award for it.
She also appeared in Grey’s Anatomy for two episodes and as a regular cast member on Friday Night Lights where she played Jess Merriweather. In 2013 she appeared in the Tyler Perry film Temptations: Confessions of A Marriage Counsellor, which was a box office hit.
In 2015, the actor appeared in Underground as a shy house slave on a plantation in the 1850s. She joined the DCEU in 2020 when she starred as Black Canary in the critically acclaimed movie Birds of Prey. That same year she began starring in Lovecraft Country as Letitia Lewis.
Jurnee Smollett says her family has been ‘heartbroken’ by recent events
The Smolletts haven’t had the best couple of years. Smollett’s brother Jussie was a megastar due to his hugely popular show Empire, which put his acting and singing abilities on display. However, in 2019, Jussie claimed to have been attacked by two men as he was walking in Chicago.
The actor alleged that his attackers used racial slurs, were homophobic, and doused him in chemicals before throwing a noose around his neck. Due to his star power and the serious nature of the claims everyone rallied behind the actor offering him support.
The claims also led to an investigation by the Chicago police who later announced that Jussie had faked his attack. This resulted in him being written off the show Empire and getting charged with disorderly conduct resulting in five months of jail time. However, Jussie continues to deny the charges.
As if her brother’s legal woes weren’t enough trouble for Smollett, she filed for divorce from her husband of 10 years, Josiah Bell, in 2020. The pair had tied the knot in 2010 at a botanical garden with close friends and acquaintances.
Bell and Smollett announced that they were expecting their first child together in 2016. However, in March 2020, Us Magazine reported that the actor had filed for divorce. That same year Lovecraft Country got canceled.
Smollett told The New York Times in May 2022, “The past few years have been heartbreaking,” also considering that their estranged father died in 2015 after a battle with cancer.
Things are looking up for Jurnee Smollett
Despite having a rough couple of years, Smollett has turned to the one thing she knows how to do best, acting. The actor has worked through the pain, appearing on a barrage of shows, and she isn’t done.
She landed a co-lead role in Netflix’s Spiderheard alongside Marvel star Chris Hemsworth and Top Gun: Maverick star Miles Teller. The movie premiered on June 17, 2022. Smollett also landed her own spinoff movie Black Canary, which is currently in development as per Deadline.