The co-creator and executive producer of “Empire,” Lee Daniels, hasn’t said much since the scandal involving actor Jussie Smollett became one of the hottest topics in America. However, he took to social media before the latest episode of the series to update fans on how everything has been on set.
Daniels never mentioned Smollett by name, but was clearly talking about him when highlighting the “pain and anger and sadness and frustration” he, the cast and all the minds behind the show have faced in recent weeks.
He captioned a video posted to Instagram that bizarrely starts with the 59-year-old executive producer brushing his teeth, with a note about why he’s been so absent lately.
“I was so in my feelings last week that I forgot to post about @empirefox & @staronfox .... I guess y’all know why 👀👀... anyway I’m back and I’m finally ok!!!! 👊🏿🇺🇸👊🏿.”
After rinsing out his mouth and putting his toothbrush away, Daniels gets into the heart of what he and the cast have been feeling.
“These past couple of weeks have been, a freaking roller coaster,” he began. “Me and my cast have experienced pain and anger and sadness and frustration and really don’t know how to deal with it. Because it happened… everything has happened, which you are seeing tonight, happened prior to the incident. And this was not what the show as made for. The show was made to bring America together… to talk about the atrocities that are happening right now in the streets.”
Daniels and many of the cast were caught up in the unflattering spotlight, which saw Smollett first claim he was beaten in an alleged hate crime in which his assailants poured bleach on his head, placed a rope around his neck and yelled: “this is MAGA country.” However, Chicago Police launched an investigation in which they determined that Smollett and two brothers who worked on “Empire” orchestrated the attack.
As previously reported, the 36-year-old actor plead not guilty to 16 counts of disorderly conduct stemming from the alleged hoax.
Daniels has remained mostly quiet about what he called the “incident,” with the exception of a joint statement with “Empire” co-creator Brett Mahoney and executive producers Danny Strong, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer in which they revealed Smollett’s role will be cut from the remainder of the latest season.
“The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us. Jussie has been an important member of our EMPIRE family for the past five years and we care about him deeply. While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out,” the statement obtained by Fox News read.
It continued: “We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of ‘Jamal’ from the final two episodes of the season.”