Midway through their conversation, Corden asked how the Empire cast was holding up following the firing of Jussie Smollett. The actor, who had played Howard’s son on the show, was dismissed earlier this year after allegedly staging an assault in Chicago, in which two men physically attacked him and yelled racial and homophobic slurs while wrapping a rope around his neck. Smollett was indicted for filing a false police report and faced up to three years in prison, but the charges were controversially dismissed. However, Empire co-creator Lee Daniels officially announced in April that Smollett would not be returning to the show.
“I was so proud of that young man that played my son,” said Howard of Smollett’s time on the show, “because he still loved me at the end of it, and all he wanted to do was get closer to me. And then out of nowhere, he’s snatched away from us…He was the heart of our show, and now it’s like our show is on a blood, a heart and lung bypass machine.”
He went on to describe the cast’s confusion while the news cycle around Smollett’s assault was happening, where the story appeared to change by the day. “I don’t know what it was like, because we are still trying to figure it out. We are all still trying to put the pieces together.”