Empire aired its first episode following the latest revelations in Jussie Smollett’s criminal case and the results were not pretty, reports Page Six.
Only a dismal 3.97 million viewers watched the drama on Wednesday night, a series-low for the once unstoppable show, according to TVLine. Smollett recently told reporters that he was prepared to start working again after Chicago prosecutors dropped all 16 charges filed against him for allegedly fabricating and reporting a hate crime.
While Fox has not indicated whether Empire will be returning for a sixth season, the cast and crew have been reeling from the drama surrounding the scandal and Smollett’s involvement in the show. The program’s producers and showrunners had previously announced that the actor would be cut from the current slate of remaining episodes.
Serayah McNeill, who portrays the character Tiana Brown, talked to Us Weekly about how the scandal affected all involved.
“I think it definitely has an effect on everyone,” she said. “Right now, everyone is fine and everyone is finishing up the season and being professional about it. Everyone is acting very professionally, we all love this show and we have a job to do.”
In a report from Page Six, Empire’s co-creator and executive producer Lee Daniels called the experience “a freakin’ rollercoaster” on the set. Earlier in the month, Daniels shared an Instagram video before the airing of a new episode, in which he described the chaotic atmosphere that persisted for those working on the show.
“Me and my cast have experienced pain and anger and sadness and frustration and really don’t know how to deal with it,” Daniels said.
He continued, saying that what had transpired on the drama was filmed prior to the scandal.
“This is not what the show was made for. The show was made to bring America together to talk about the atrocities that are happening right now in the streets,” he added.
Daniels initially backed Smollett when the actor originally declared himself as a victim of a racist and homophobic attack but was noticeably more discreet after the actor was indicted on felony charges.
The writers of the show expressed their support after news of the dropped charges broke, tweeting “See y’all Wednesday,” underneath a screenshot of a newscast about the case.
Shortly after information was released regarding the dropped charges, Smollett’s attorneys, Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes, released a statement, maintaining that as a victim he was “vilified” and made to appear as a criminal due to false allegations being spread about him. They also blamed the public’s rush to judgment for causing the actor “hurt” by needless and unjust actions, proving that a case should never be tried in “the court of public opinion.”
The statement concluded with the affirmation, “Jussie is relieved to have this situation behind him and is very much looking forward to getting back to focusing on his family, friends, and career.”