Empire co-creator and director Lee Daniels is "beyond embarrassed" by the Jussie Smollett assault scandal and its effect on the show. Smollett filed a police report in late January of this year, claiming he had been the victim of a racially motivated attack. The Empire actor alleges that two men attacked him while he was walking home late at night. They reportedly shouted racial slurs and quoted Donald Trump while trying to tie a noose around his neck and attempting to dump bleach on his skin. However, Smollett was later charged by a grand jury with a class 4 felony for filing a false police report.
In a new interview, Lee Daniels was asked about the Jussie Smollett situation. When the news of the attack began to spread, the world was stunned, only to learn as the days went on, that things weren't adding up. Daniels still defended Smollett at the time, but now, he's not so sure. When asked about initially defending Smollett, Lee Daniels had this to say.
"I'm beyond embarrassed. I think that when it happened, I had a flash of me running from bullies. I had a flash of my whole life, of my childhood, my youth, getting beaten."
Empire was dragged through the mud over the whole ordeal and Jussie Smollett was written out of the final episodes of last season. After being charged for the false police report, the case was suddenly dropped and the record was mysteriously sealed. The FBI is now conducting their own investigation as to why the case was closed, which has fueled even more doubt into the whole situation. When asked if there was any doubt in his mind over the attack, Daniels said there was. He explains.
"Of course, there's some doubt. I'm telling you that because I love him so much. That's the torture that I'm in right now, because it's literally if it were to happen to your son and your child, how would you feel? You would feel, Please, God, please let there be that glimmer of hope that there is some truth in this story. That's why it's been so painful. It was a flood of pain."
Jussie Smollett will not be returning for Empire's sixth and final season. Lee Daniels previously confirmed that information, but what does this mean for the show? "We're in the writers' room right now, discussing (Empire's final) fantastic, bombastic season, which is going to shake you by your roots," Daniels promised. He didn't go into details about how Smollett's exit will be tackled.
It has been speculated that Jussie Smollett faked the attack in order to get a pay raise and for job security on Empire. However, this has not been officially confirmed, as Smollett is sticking to his original story, even though there is plenty of evidence to suggest he made everything up. In the end, we might not ever find out what truly happened until the FBI finishes their investigation into how the case was dropped. You can head over to Vulture to read the rest of the interview with Lee Daniels.