The past couple months have been full of twists and turns for the cast and crew of the drama series Empire, due to of the controversy surrounding one of their actors. When Jussie Smollett was first accused of staging his own hate crime, many of his co-stars stood by him, not knowing what to believe. Nevertheless, the evidence continued to pile up against him and Smollett was formally indicted on 16 counts of disorderly conduct. In the wake of the scandal, Empire is taking quite the hit, according to Entertainment Cheat Sheet.
Since Smollett’s arrest, two Empire episodes have aired. The ratings for the show were at an all time low. Its midseason premiere aired on March 13 with plenty of hype leading up to it. It received a 1.3 overall rating among viewers between the ages of 18- and 49-years-old and a total of 4.4 million viewers. While it may seem like a large number, this is actually a 17 percent ratings drop from the last episode that aired prior to Smollett’s scandal. In addition, this is a 13 percent drop in viewership overall.
While Smollett did appear in the March 13 and March 20 episodes of Empire, he’s been cut from the duration of the season. However, even with his character gone, it might be too late to save the show’s ratings after such a drastic drop.
Lee Daniels, the co-creator of Empire, posted a video message to fans through Instagram prior to the airing of the most recent episode. Though he didn’t mention Smollett by name, it was perfectly clear who he was talking about. He spoke of the variety of emotions the cast and team has dealt with since the scandal occurred and the distraction it has been from what Empire is supposed to be all about.
“These past couple of weeks have been a freaking rollercoaster. Me and my cast have experienced pain, anger, sadness, frustration and really don’t know how to deal with it. This is not what the show is made for. The show is made to bring America together, to talk about the atrocities that are happening right now in the streets.”
Daniels was among those of the Empire team that originally stood by Smollett when he claimed he had been involved in a hate crime fueled by racism and homophobia. The actor said that two men had assaulted him while he was walking in downtown Chicago at night. As the investigation continued, it quickly became clear that nothing was as it seemed.