Largely gone is the “I believe him” stance that some of the principal staff for “Empire” put up in the wake of Chicago police determining that actor Jussie Smollett staged a hate-crime against himself. Now, the show’s co-creator and executive producer Lee Daniels is blaming Smollett’s antics for the show’s cancelation on FOX.
Speaking with Vulture, Daniels admitted to being “beyond embarrassed” over the fact he initially supported Smollett’s claim of being attacked by two Trump supporters, who eventually turned out to be two black men that Smollett allegedly paid to stage an attack on him.
“I’m beyond embarrassed,” Daniels told Vulture. “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.”
Daniels admitted that his love for Smollett makes him feel “some doubt” at times that the actor indeed staged a fake hate crime against himself.
“Of course, there’s some doubt,” Daniels admitted. “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.”
“We weren’t there. I can’t judge him,” he continued. “That’s only for the f***ing lady or man with that black robe and God. I had to detach myself and stop calling him, because it was taking away the time I have for my kids, the time I have for my partner. It was affecting my spirit and other shows, everything.”
When Vulture asked if Daniels believed the Smollett scandal played a part in the show being canceled, he answered without hesitation: “Certainly, that played a major part.”
Of course, Smollett’s eventual expulsion from “Empire” did not come easy and undoubtedly caused stark division among the show’s creative talent. For instance, even as the Chicago police presented overwhelming evidence that Smollett staged a hate crime against himself, the show’s stars, including Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, supported him.
“Together, as a united front, we stand with Jussie Smollett and ask that our co-star, brother and friend be brought back for our sixth season of ‘Empire,'” the actors said in a statement.
What made the letter especially stinging was the fact Smollett walked away from the charges scot-free when the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx inexplicably dropped all charges against the actor, angering the Chicago Police Department.
“Throughout Empire’s five seasons working with Jussie and watching how he has conducted himself throughout this traumatic event, we have come to know not just the character Jussie portrays, but also truly come to know Jussie’s personal character,” the letter continued. “He is kind. He is compassionate. He is honest and above all he is filled with integrity.”
“He is also innocent and no longer subject to legal uncertainty with the criminal charges against him having been dropped,” it continued. “We are confident in his lawyer’s assurance that the case was dismissed because it would not have prevailed.”