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Former Empire actor Jussie Smollett, whose career achievements were eclipsed by his alleged staging of a hate crime early last year, is back to business after a year of laying low. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the 38-year-old is set to direct and produce B-Boy Blues, a film adaptation of the 1994 novel by James Earl Hardy.

Production began earlier this week in New York City. The story follows the romantic relationship between two Black men: Mitchell, a 27-year-old journalist, and Raheim, a 21-year-old bike messenger. The original book, which gave birth to a series of five additional titles, is often praised for exploring themes of homophobia and racism. B-Boy Blues was previously adapted by Hardy for the stage; it was also a finalist for a 1995 Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBT/Small Press Title.

Meanwhile, Smollett still faces criminal charges and a civil lawsuit from the City of Chicago. In 2019, he allegedly paid masked men to stage an attack; he claimed that a noose was tied around his neck by white men who shouted, "This is MAGA country." Cook County state's attorney Kim Foxx dropped charges for his filing of a false report. But in February, the case was reopened by a special prosecutor, and the actor was charged with six counts of felony disorderly conduct.

In September, Smollett and his legal team were denied a request to have the charges dropped. He pleaded not guilty and maintains his innocence. In fact, in an Instagram Live interview with BET News Host Marc Lamont Hill, the actor doubled down on his claims, saying that evidence in his favor remains hidden from the public.

Only time will tell if he's granted forgiveness by both Hollywood and the courts.

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