Actress and activist Jurnee Smollett’s career in Hollywood has spanned more than three decades. The star made her first television appearance in a commercial at just 10 months old. However, despite her longevity, the actress still found herself dealing with the dark hardships of the business.
During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the “Eve’s Bayou” actress revealed that she had been sexually harassed on almost every film and television production set she was on since she was a preteen. “I don’t know that I can confidently say that I worked on one job prior to ‘Lovecraft [Country]’ from the time I was 12 on where I hadn’t been sexually harassed, whether it was by an AD, a co-star, director, producer,” the actress explained.
Smollett later reportedly asked that THR, where she appeared on the cover of its Aug. 5 issue, amend her statement after she was able to recall a small number of productions where she was not made to feel uncomfortable at work.
However, the actress did give detail about a time where a co-star made a rude comment regarding her body shortly before they were set to shoot an intimate scene together. “Like, a guy saying before we’re about to do this love scene, ‘Hey, your tits are going to be hanging in the wind,’ is not OK,” the actress explained.
“The Great Debaters” star also recalled a time where the sexual harassment she experienced was so intolerable that she was left with no choice but to ask to be released from her contract. “And they let me out,” Smollett said.
The star spoke on the lack of support she received from people, including her agent, who dismissed the incident all together, saying, “Oh, you know, he’s just being a man.”
Still, Smollett said she has learned how to navigate the industry and never hesitates to speak out against inappropriate behavior, even telling producers on the set of “Lovecraft Country” that all sexual banter would be off limits shortly after signing on to the project. “And I don’t apologize,” the actress said. “It’ll be like, ‘Listen, this fake-a– sexual harassment meeting that we’re having, I’m going to raise my hand now and let you guys know that the standards that they’re setting are bare minimum.’”
Smollett also talked about the importance of “building our own mother–king table” instead of asking for a seat in an industry that still has a lot more work to do, Hollywood’s false portrayal of liberalism, and her brother Jussie Smollett, who is facing new criminal charges in connection with his alleged false reporting of a hate crime in January 2019. You can check out the full interview here.