Jojo Smollett is an American actor who is best known for his role as Jimi Jerrico on the ABC sitcom 'On Our Own'. On the show, which ran from 1994 to 1995, he appeared alongside his five real-life younger siblings; Jazz, Jussie, Jurnee, Jake and Jocqui. He began to act back in 1991 when he was roped in to play the role of Chuck Jr. on the comedy drama series 'Roseanne', and Desmond on the crime drama film 'City of Hope'. His other television credits include 'Moesha' (1997) and 'The Practice' (1997). After a long gap, he was again seen on TV alongside his siblings on the Food Network family cooking show 'Smollett Eats' in 2016. While he does not act in films or television series anymore, he often accompanies his actor and musician brother Jussie to his shows. He was beside him in February 2019 at the Troubadour club in West Hollywood, where he performed for the first time following the alleged hate attack.
Rise to Stardom
Jojo Smollett first made an appearance on television at the age of 14 on the sitcom 'Roseanne' in May 1991. He featured in the episode 'Scenes from a Barbecue' of the popular series. In the same year, he made his film debut in the crime drama 'City of Hope' and also acted in the short drama film 'Last Breeze of Summer'. However, it was his appearance on the ABC sitcom 'On Our Own' (1994 – 1995) that earned him widespread recognition. He played the role of Jimi Jerrico, one of the seven Jerrico siblings, and appeared alongside his five real-life siblings, who played the roles of the other Jerrico children. While he went on to work in a couple of more television shows, such as 'Moesha' and 'The Practice', both in 1997, his acting career came to a halt after that. In 2016, he was again seen on television with his five siblings in 'Smollett Eats', a family cooking show on Food Network. He also serves as the executive producer of the show. He lived a quiet life, away from the media attention for the most part, until the hate crime controversy revolving around his younger brother Jussie Smollett created a renewed interest in the Smollett siblings.
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Controversies & Scandals
In early February 2019, Jojo Smollett accompanied his younger brother Jussie who was going to perform in public for the first time after alleging hate crime assault a few days back. Jussie, an openly gay black artist, had earlier reported that he was sent a letter with death threats on January 22 at his Chicago studio. On January 29, he was physically assaulted by two people who also subjected him to racial and homophobic slurs. He added that the attackers shouted "This is MAGA country", referring to President Donald Trump's 'Make America Great Again' slogan. Despite widespread support, some people expressed skepticism over Jussie’s allegations, which prompted him to say that more people would have believed him if he had said his attackers were Mexicans, Muslims, or black people.
Before the show, Jojo spoke to the media and expressed his concerns about the "false, undercutting stories" and wondered whether or not his brother should perform so soon after the "traumatic experience". He added that he wanted Jussie "to stay out of the public until he healed" fully. In mid-February, following an investigation into the incident, the Chicago police said that the attack might have been staged as the assaulters, two Nigerian brothers, claimed to have been paid by Jussie. This led to a huge controversy and Jussie was also arrested, even though the charges were abruptly dropped later. While his siblings Jocqui and Jurnee shared a Malcolm X quote on social media, blaming "irresponsible media" for making a villain out of a victim, Jojo has remained quiet since the staged racial attack theory came to light. Incidentally, the FBI is currently investigating why the charges were suddenly dropped.
Family & Personal Life
Jojo Smollett was born on August 28, 1977 in California, United States. His mother Janet (née Harris) has African-American heritage, while his father Joel Smollett is an Ashkenazi Jew whose family originally emigrated from Russia and Poland. Jojo is the eldest child of his parents and has three brothers; Jussie, Jake and Jocqui; and two sisters; Jazz and Jurnee. Both of his parents were actors, and all their children decided to follow into their footsteps at some point of their lives. His father left the family when he was young, but he came back into their lives later and stayed in touch until his death in January 2015, following a long battle with cancer.
Among his siblings, his sister Jazz is an actress who is married to Troy Warwell and has a daughter with him. His brother Jussie is a popular actor and singer, known for appearing on the Fox drama series 'Empire' and films like 'Alien: Covenant' and 'Marshall'. His second sister Jurnee is also an actress who is known for her acting in the series 'On Our Own' and the film 'Eve's Bayou', which her younger brother Jake is also famous for. Jojo’s youngest brother Jocqui appeared on 'On Our Own' as an infant, but now he is a well-known data analyst who has worked for Survey Monkey.