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Lee Daniels Describes ‘Empire’ Cast’s ‘Pain and Anger’ Amid Jussie Scandal

Lee Daniels is still reeling from the news that Jussie Smollett allegedly staged an attack on himself. The Empire co-creator shared his thoughts on the scandal in an Instagram Opens a New Window. video on Wednesday, March 20.

“Hi, guys! I’m back. Oh, my God, these past couple of weeks have been a freakin’ roller coaster,” Daniels, 59, said. “Me and my cast experienced pain and anger and sadness and frustration and really don’t know how to deal with it.”

Referencing the episode that aired later on Wednesday, the director continued, “Everything has happened, what you are seeing tonight, prior to the incident. And 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.”

Daniels had been among the first to show support for Smollett, 36, after the actor, who is openly gay, reported to Chicago police in January that he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. The TV writer did not explicitly refer to Smollett by name in Wednesday’s video.

The singer, who has played Jamal Lyon on Empire since 2015, pleaded not guilty on March 14 to 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct. He had been arrested on February 21 for filing a false police report.

Prosecutors have accused Smollett of paying $3,500 by personal check to his friends Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo to help stage the attack on him because he was unhappy with his Empire salary and wanted more publicity around his career. Smollett reportedly received $65,000 per episode during season 5 of the Fox musical drama.

Empire producers announced in a February 22 statement that they “decided to remove the role of Jamal from the final two episodes of the season” in the wake of the controversy.

The Mighty Ducks star has maintained his innocence throughout the case. He is due back in court on April 17.

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