Embattled Empire star Jussie Smollett appeared on set, imploring castmates and crew to trust in his innocence and to apologize for the recent turmoil surrounding the young actor, TMZ reports.
“I’m sorry I’ve put you all through this and not answered any calls. I wanted to say I’m sorry and, you know me, I would never do this to any of you, you are my family. I swear to God, I did not do this,” Smollett allegedly told the gathered crowd.
According to the report of Smollett’s remarks, which briefly delayed shooting of the planned scene, filming continued later after the actor collected himself following what was called a tearful and emotional outpouring.
Smollett has been embroiled in what increasingly appears to be a self-made controversy after claiming that two men had attacked him while shouting “Make America Great Again,” which is the signature campaign slogan for President Donald Trump and general rallying cry for Trump supporters. Smollett claimed at the time that the individuals beat him and put a noose around his neck in what was characterized as a bigoted attack aimed at Smollett’s race and sexual orientation.
Smollett was charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly contriving the attack through what was later revealed to be direct payment to those involved for the purposes of ginning up controversy around a perceived hate crime. Smollett turned himself in on Sunday. He surrendered his passport and bail was set at $100,000.
According to police, Smollett orchestrated the incident to garner attention to further his career, specifically with respect to the amount of money he was earning compared to other cast members on Empire.
Jussie Smollett Apologizes to 'Empire' Cast and Crew, Maintains Innocence https://t.co/EmMVJz2APD
— TMZ (@TMZ) February 22, 2019
That career, unfortunately for Smollett, now appears to be in jeopardy, with Fox, the show’s network, now releasing a statement indicating that they are evaluating the situation and considering options with respect to Smollett’s future with the cast.
Acting work aside, Smollett’s legal problems could just be beginning, with ongoing investigations continuing to expose additional elements of the story, which could potentially carry additional accusations and charges. A threatening letter that arrived days prior to the attack is now being reviewed by federal investigators, who are presumably exploring whether Smollett sent it himself. Mail fraud would be a new charge, not to mention a felony.
The president has also called Smollett out on his alleged deception.
“@JussieSmollett – what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?
#MAGA,” Trump tweeted on Thursday.