The Empire cast have been struggling to deal with the “pain and anger” they feel over the Jussie Smollett case, according to co-creator Lee Daniels.
The 36-year-old actor, who plays Jamal Lyon in the hip-hop drama, was recently charged with 16 felony counts for allegedly lying to police about being attacked by two men while they yelled racist and homophobic slurs at him outside his apartment in Chicago, Illinois in January.
Co-creator Daniels avoided mentioning Jussie and Jamal when he live-tweeted the show’s midseason premiere last week, but finally referenced the legal drama in an Instagram video shortly before the next episode aired on Wednesday night, although he stopped short of mentioning Jussie by name.
“These past couple of weeks have been a freakin’ roller coaster. Me and my cast have experienced pain, anger and sadness and frustration. And (we) really don’t know how to deal with it, ya know?” he said.
He made it clear to viewers that scenes involving Jamal were shot “prior to the incident”, which is “not what the show was made for. The show was made to bring America together. To talk about the atrocities that are happening right now in the streets.”
In the caption, he wrote, “I was so in my feelings last week that I forgot to post about @empirefox & @staronfox …. I guess y’all know why (eye emojis)… anyway I’m back and I’m finally ok!!!!”
Jussie was written out of the last two episodes of Empire’s current season five, and showrunner Brett Mahoney recently told Entertainment Weekly that it was too soon to decide if he would be axed from the show.
“It’s a matter of trusting the process and allowing the legal process to play out and see where it goes from there. And it’s too early to think about what we would have to do if we didn’t have Jussie,” he said. “We have such a strong ensemble and we have so many stories to tell for all of these fascinating characters that it’s bigger than one character, but it’s too early to think about the show without him.”
Jussie pleaded not guilty to the charges last week, and he will be back in court on 17 April.