“Empire” creator Lee Daniels took some time to explain how the cast of the hit Fox show was dealing with the fallout over Jussie Smollett on Wednesday, one week after the actor pleaded not guilty to 16 charges in what police say was a hate-crime hoax.
Daniels posted the unofficial statement to his personal Instagram page, apparently so eager to address fans that he didn’t even pause to finish brushing his teeth before hitting record.
“Oh my god. These past couple of weeks have been a freakin’ roller coaster,” he said. “We have ― me and my cast ― have experienced pain, anger, sadness and frustration, and really don’t know how to deal with it.”
Smollett, who is black and gay, grabbed headlines in late January when he reported being attacked on the sidewalk outside his Chicago home by two men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs. He said the men also wrapped a rope around his neck and threw a chemical substance at him.
Both Chicago police and the FBI investigated the actor’s claims. In a bizarre twist, their findings led them to doubt Smollett’s version of events. Authorities arrested Smollett and accused him of paying two men $3,500 to help him stage the attack because he wanted a salary bump. He appeared in court last week to plead not guilty and has maintained his innocence.
“I was so in my feelings last week that I forgot to post about [his two Fox shows, ‘Empire’ and ‘Star,’]” Daniels wrote alongside his video. “I guess y’all know why,” he added.
Smollett’s character, Jamal, was cut from the final two Season 5 episodes of “Empire” to “avoid further disruption on set,” the show’s executive producers said in a statement last month. He will appear in episodes filmed earlier through the end of March, according to available episode summaries.
“Everything has happened ― what you are seeing tonight ― prior to the incident. And this is not what the show is made for,” Daniels explained. “The show is made to bring America together, to talk about the atrocities that are happening right now in the streets.”
Smollett has starred in “Empire,” which follows a hip-hop mogul and his wealthy yet dysfunctional family, since its first season in 2015.
Last week, showrunner Brett Mahoney said it was “too early” to say whether the actor would be allowed back on the show the following season ― if it doesn’t get canceled.
The show has seen a drop in ratings since the allegedly made-up hate crime.