Empire co-creator and director Lee Daniels recently opened up about the recent Jussie Smollett scandal.
In an interview with New York magazine’s Vulture, Daniels discussed Smollett’s downfall following allegations that he lied about an alleged hate crime committed against him in January. Daniels initially expressed support for Smollett and issued a statement in support of the actor when the news first broke. However, since then, police uncovered evidence — including two brothers that testified Smollett paid them to attack him — that the story could be a hoax.
When asked if he was embarrassed about originally supporting Smollett, Daniels admitted he was.
“I’m beyond embarrassed,” he said. “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.”
When questioned if he would have suspected something like that from Smollett, Daniels said that it came out of the blue. He also said that if it turned out that the actor faked the so-called hate crime, it would feel like nothing but a huge betrayal.
Daniels did say that there was still some doubt in his mind that the Smollett made up the story.
“Of course, there’s some doubt. I’m telling you that because I love him so much. That’s the torture that I’m in right now, because it’s literally if it were to happen to your son and your child, how would you feel? … That’s why it’s been so painful. It was a flood of pain.”
He went on to say that he would not judge Smollet, adding that he would leave judgment to the man or woman in the black robe and God. But still, he had trouble coming to terms with the whole situation, saying that he had to “detach” himself from the actor because it was taking time away from his family life.
“It was affecting my spirit and other shows, everything,” he admitted.
Empire creator Lee Daniels 'beyond embarrassed' by Jussie Smollett scandal https://t.co/2JLAc8OQ8S
— Entertainment Weekly (@EW) June 11, 2019
When asked if he thought the Smollett scandal had anything to do with the cancellation of Empire, Daniels said that it played a “major part.” He also said that while Empire in its “current iteration” may be over, it is far from over. He did not elaborate on what that meant exactly, except to say that the show may or may not move to another network or perhaps there could be an Empire spinoff.
Smollett has maintained his innocence, and all the charges against him were dropped in March.