Fox declared on Wednesday that production on Empire will be temporarily suspended due to below freezing temperatures in Chicago, where the hit show is filmed. As the temperature continues to fall below -22 degrees Fahrenheit in the Midwest, breaking records, nearly the entire city will shut down. In addition to Empire, the midseason legal drama Proven Innocent has also been halted, according to E! News.
Chicago will reportedly become colder than parts of Antarctica as the polar vortex keeps temperatures below zero, with a wind chill in the -40s, for the remainder of the week.
The frigid temperatures are only half of the reason for Empire’s shutdown in the wake of the brutal attack on star Jussie Smollett earlier this week. In the early hours of Tuesday, Smollett had been walking on the streets of Chicago when two unknown men reportedly shouted racial and homophobic slurs at the actor before physically beating him. According to a police report, the assailants poured a chemical substance onto Smollett’s face and tied a noose around his neck before fleeing the scene. They also left a threatening message with Smollett, telling him he will “die.”
Smollett rushed himself to the hospital, where he is said to be in good condition, TVLine reported.
A number of Smollett’s co-stars have since spoken out against the attackers and wished Smollett well. Terrence Howard, who plays the father of Smollett’s character on Fox’s musical drama, reacted to the news on Good Morning America on Wednesday.
“I heard he’s getting better. He’s angry, but I know Jussie. Jussie’s anger will dissipate, and he will forgive these people for what they did. But he won’t, and we cannot, forget their actions. They have to be forgiven because it was done out of ignorance,” Howard said.
Howard also revealed that Fox had previously received letters warning the network about potential attacks such as this, according to Entertainment Tonight. Fox has since increased security around Empire’s production site in Chicago.
The network released their own statement about the tragic attack this week on social media, expressing their “deep sadness and outrage.”
“We send our love to Jussie, who is resilient and strong, and we will work with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice,” Fox’s statement read. “The entire studio, network and production stands united in the face of any despicable act of violence and hate — and especially against one of our own.”
As the cast and crew of Empire cope with the news, counselors and a SAG-AFTRA representative will reportedly be on the set for the next few weeks when the series returns to production.
Smollett could potentially return to set as early as next week, Deadline reported. However, the frigid weather conditions will continue to play a role in determining the show’s production schedule.