Early Life and CareerEdit
Smollett was born Jurnee Diana Smollett in New York City, the daughter of Janet and Joel Smollett, a cable splicer. Her father is Jewish (his family immigrated from Russia and Poland) and her mother is of African-American, Native American, Creole, and Irish descent. The fourth of six performing siblings, she received critical acclaim for her performance as ten-year-old Eve in the independent film Eve's Bayou (1997). In casting the role, writer-director Kasi Lemmons envisioned "a light-skinned black child who could convey the nuances of a Creole child in the 60s."
She co-starred with her siblings in the ABC television comedy On Our Own (1994–1995) and guest appeared in numerous television shows: Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, Full House, Martin, Wanda At Large, House, Grey's Anatomy, etc. Smollett co-starred in the last two seasons of Friday Night Lights.
Smollett was featured in the 1996 Francis Ford Coppola film Jack. She starred in the racially charged 1999 Disney film Selma, Lord, Selma. In 2000, she co-starred with Sharon Stone (Smollett played daughter of Stone's Hush) and Billy Connelly in the comedy film Beautiful Joe. 2001 would find Jurnee co-starring as daughter to another popular actress, Angela Bassett, in the film Ruby's Bucket of Blood. Smollett co-starred with actors Bow Wow and Brandon T Jackson in the 2005 skater movie Roll Bounce. In 2006, she joined the film Gridiron Gang. In 2007 actor/director Denzel Washington cast Smollett in his starring/directorial vehicle The Great Debaters. The film was produced by Oprah Winfrey and Harvey Weinstein.
On March 17, 2009, she visited eKhaya Multi Arts Centre for Arts and Performance, KwaMashu, north of Durban, South Africa, where she led an exchange youth forum sharing her experiences with KwaMashu youth.
From September 2010 to March 2011 she co-starred with Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell in the CBS legal drama The Defenders.
In 2013 Smollett starred with Lance Gross and Brandy Norwood in Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor. In January of the same year, it was announced that Smollett will be joining the cast of True Blood when the series' sixth season begin on June 16.
Smollett has one sister, Jazz and four brothers: Jojo, Jussie, Jake and Jocqui. The Smollett siblings starred together on ABC's 1994-95 series On Our Own.
She has been active in HIV/AIDS causes since she was eleven. She spoke at the Ryan White Youth Conference, and elsewhere, on this issue. Her first encounter with the disease came at age seven when a crew member of On Our Own died of AIDS.Smollett is on the Board of Directors of Artists for a New South Africa, dedicated to dealing with HIV/AIDS in Africa. She is also on the Board of Directors for the Children’s Defense Fund.
On October 24, 2010, Jurnee married musician Josiah Bell.