The co-creator of “Empire” television series said he’s “beyond embarrassed” by the Jussie Smollett scandal, and had to cut off communication with the actor after he allegedly staged a hate crime.
In an interview with Vulture published Tuesday, Lee Daniels was asked about Smollett claiming he was the victim of a hate crime that Chicago police said he allegedly staged.
Smollett was written out of the final episodes of the show’s fifth season following allegations he faked a hate crime against himself in January. Daniels said he views Smollett like a son, and was “beyond embarrassed” after he initially supported him.
“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,” he told Vulture.
He said he was “too busy putting out fires” to keep up with coverage on the case, and had to stop communicating with the actor.
“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,” he said.
Last week, Daniels also shot down a media report that implied Smollett would return for the sixth season of the show.
“This is not factual. Jussie will NOT be returning to Empire,” Daniels said in a tweet to Variety after it reported an “exclusive” saying Smollett would return in Season 6.
The drama starring Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard will end after the sixth season.
Controversy after charges are dropped
Smollett was charged with multiple felony counts after allegedly duping the Chicago police into believing he had been the target of a hate crime in January.
Prosecutors later dropped the charges against him, a decision that outraged the city’s then mayor and the police chief. The city demanded that he pay back the more than $130,000 to cover the cost of the investigation.
An Illinois judge also ordered authorities to unseal his criminal case file last month, with some of the documents released shortly after.
Smollett denied the allegations and his attorneys have said the actor will not be intimidated into paying the city.