Jurnee Smollett is an American actress who began her career as a child actress on On Your Own and Full House. The then 10-year-old earned critical acclaim and a Critic’s Choice Award for playing the role of Eve in Eve’s Bayou. Several minor and recurring roles followed before she starred in the 2007 film The Great Debaters.
Two years later, she landed a role in the NBC sports drama Friday Night Lights. She went on to star in the vampire drama True Blood and the supernatural horror drama Lovecraft Country.
This piece will look at Jurnee’s parents: Janet Harris and Joel Smollett.
Jurnee’s mom instilled the love for acting and activism in her six children
Jurnee was born on 1st October 1986 in New York City to a Jewish dad and an African-American mom. She grew up alongside one sister, Jazz, and four brothers Jussie, Jojo, Jake, and Jocqui.
Janet inspired her children’s love for performance by encouraging them to sharpen their skills whenever possible. Jurnee and Jussie told The New York Times that poetry readings and dance-offs were common in the household. “Creating was something that we just were expected to do,” Jussie said. “And I don’t remember a time not wanting to do that,” Jurnee added.
Harris’ work paid off as all of the kids landed a role in the 1994 ABC series On Our Own. As the children grew, Janet gradually sensitized them on politics and the need for activism. The civil rights movement gave Janet purpose and love as she met her husband at a civil rights campaign in the Bay Area. Jussie said:
“My mom was in the movement with Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, and one of the first mentors was Julian Bond. To this day, Angela Davis is one of her dearest friends. We’ve spent Mother’s Day with Angela.”
Jurnee and her siblings regularly show the love they have for their mother via social media. On 16th May 2018, Jazz posted a photo of her, Junnie, and Janet alongside the caption:
“Happy Mother’s Day to our beautiful mother Janet Faye!! She is superwoman. To do birth nursing and raising six times over is a miracle. I love you with all my heart mommy!”
Jurnee’s dad passed away in early January 2015 after a battle with cancer
Sadly, the Smollett family lost its patriarch in early January 2015 due to cancer. The family honored him for being a good husband to Janet and raising six successful children.
Jurnee remembered her dad on Father’s Day 2020 via Instagram. She posted a throwback photo of the family and attached the caption: “Happy Father’s dad. Miss you.”