"I still want to believe, with everything that happened, that there's something called justice," Jussie Smollett says

By Aurelie Corinthios
February 14, 2019 11:11 AM
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Jussie Smollett is opening up about being violently attacked in Chicago in an apparent hate crime last month.

The Empire actor, 36, appeared on Thursday’s Good Morning America for his first in-depth, televised interview since the Jan. 29 incident. After detailing what occurred and hitting back at critics who have questioned the accuracy of his account, Smollett got emotional, confessing his fears that his assailants won’t be found.

The Chicago Police Department has confirmed that Smollett, who is gay, was involved in a “racially-charged assault and battery.” They have also released two photos of the persons of interest; however, the images did not show the individuals’ faces.

“I want that [surveillance] video found so badly for four reasons,” Smollett said in the interview. “Number one, I want them to find the people that did it. Number two, I want them to stop being able to say ‘alleged attack.’ Number three, I want them to see that I fought back. And I want a little gay boy who might watch this to see that I fought back. It does not take anything away from people who are not able to do that, but I fought back. They ran off, I didn’t.”

“Learn to fight. Learn to be a fighter,” he continued, addressing young gay men. “I am not advocating violence at all, so let’s be clear about that. If you’re going to die, fight until you do. If you don’t fight, you have no chance. I have fought for love. I’m an advocate. I respect too much the people — who I am now, one of those people — who have been attacked in any way.”

Credit: ABC

After being asked if one can heal if their attackers are never found, Smollett broke down.

“I don’t know. Let’s just hope that they are, you know what I’m saying? Let’s not go there yet,” he said, crying.

“I was talking to a friend and I said, ‘I just want them to find them.’ And she said, ‘Sweetie, they’re not going to find them,’ ” he said. “That just made me so angry. So I’m just going to be left here like this? I’m just going to be left here? They get to go free, go about their life, and possibly attack someone else. And I’m here left with the aftermath? That’s not cool to me. That’s not okay.”

“I understand how difficult it will be to find them but we’ve got to,” he insisted. “I still want to believe, with everything that happened, that there’s something called justice.”

Smollett said the incident changed him forever.

“I will never be the man that this did not happen to,” he said. “And I don’t subscribe to the idea that everything happens for a reason. But I do subscribe to the reason that we have the right and responsibility to make something meaningful out of the things that happen to us, good and bad.”

“I think that what people need to hear is just the truth,” he continued. “Everybody has their own idea. Some are healing and some are hurtful, but I just want young people — young members of the LGBT community, young black children — to know how strong they are. To know the power that they hold in their little pinky.”

Even before the incident, additional security had been hired for the Empire set after Fox Studios’ Chicago offices allegedly received a threatening homophobic letter addressed to Smollett.

The FBI, who has not responded to PEOPLE’s request for comment, is investigating that alleged letter, a spokesperson for the Chicago Police previously told PEOPLE.

Smollett, who has since returned to work on the hit Fox show, told GMA he “absolutely” thinks there’s a link between the alleged letter and the attack.