- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Justin, Justin, Justin.

Justin Smollett is a talented millennial.

He’s quite handsome, has the status of a rising star and has been in the business long enough to have rubbed shoulders with or professionally intersected with the likes of estimable Brat Packer Emilio Estevez, and filmmakers Reginald Hudlin and Lee Daniels.

In fact, he is a producer as well.

To his misfortune, though, he may have burned that Hollywood bridge he’s walked since his preteen years.

Justin’s mug shot was blasted by Chicago police on Thursday after he was charged with filing a false police report and felony disorderly conduct.

It seems Justin, better known as Jussie Smollett, wanted more money for his role of “Empire” sibling Jamal Lyon, so he planned a racially-motivated, homophobic attack on himself — and for good measure he threw in red-hatted MAGA wearers, bleach and a noose.

A perfect script, was it not?

The cameras caught much of the “attack,” but the director of the fantasy lost his way. He never seemed to even grasp the reality that he was attacking himself — his credibility as an actor, singer, producer, a TV star, a friend — or “Empire” coworker, if you will — whose ethical behavior others depended upon.

All because Mr. Smollett’s script fell apart.

Mr. Daniels, if Mr. Smollett had or has asked, probably would have explained that ad-libbing is always allowed, whether the writing is on the wall or in the original script.

In la-la land, ad-libbing and improving can make a difference. It certainly did in “Ghost” for Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg, whose spiritual medium huckster told Demi Moore’s ingenue “Molly, you in trouble, girl.” “Ghost” also won an Oscar for best original screenplay, but the line was not in the original.

Ditto for Humphrey Bogart’s improvisational “Here’s looking at you, kid” in “Casablanca.” And in another Oscar winner, “Apocalypse Now,” Marlon Brando’s ad-libbing and incoherent mumbling came across as his character being out of touch with reality.

And so it perhaps goes with Mr. Smollett, who, blessedly, is lovingly embraced by his siblings, including sister-actress Jurnee.

First, though, he must stiffen his spine and apologize. After all, he did sit face to face with Robin Roberts — herself long-respected as a sports journalist on ESPN and ABC’s “Good Morning America” anchor, who also is gay and black and gave him a voice to paint himself as a victim.

And sure, in some way or another we’re all a victim of something or another. However, for a high-profile actor such as Mr. Smollett to use his voice and talents as he did — which old-school folks used to simply term “lying straight up” — only he can accept, admit and apologize.

Precisely what his future holds is unclear, of course. Even though the investigation is likely over, Mr. Smollett, 36, still must appear before the judges — who will hand down his criminal obligations and decide whether they will forgive and forget.

The former and the latter, in his case, carry equal weight.

Perhaps, as he ponders his own undoing, he’ll write a book considering a title “Love Lost: How to Hurt Yourself Without Really Trying,” and explain to people whether the central character is/was Justin Smollett or Jussie Smollett.

Lying and joking not allowed.

⦁ Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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