“Jussie is a proud gay black man… and if the attackers thought they could beat the gay, the black, or the pride out of him, it’s impossible,” said “Empire” showrunner Brett Mahoney at the Television Critics Association press tour Wednesday.
Smollett, who is openly gay and plays gay singer-songwriter Jamal Lyon on “Empire,” was hospitalized in late January in Chicago after an assault by two men. According to a statement released by the Chicago Police Department, Smollett was approached by two “unknown offenders,” who “yelled racial and homophobic” slurs at the actor. The attackers then began to “batter the victim with their hands about the face and poured an unknown chemical substance on him.” Later, one of the assailants “wrapped a rope around the victim’s neck.”
His family released a statement condemning the attack as a “racial and homophobic hate crime,” which the police are investigating. The actor appeared several days later to perform at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. Holding back tears, he told the crowd that he was still healing and that he will “always stand for love.”
“Empire” co-creator Danny Strong said that Smollet is happy to be back at work, following a brief hiatus to accommodate the cold weather in Chicago.
“He is truly a very special person,” Strong said. “That is [why] we cast him as Jamal… We’re not surprised by his class and poise.”
Meanwhile, newly minted Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier wouldn’t confirm whether or not “Empire” would be renewed for another season: “We’re not announcing pick-ups today.”
Collier, who was previously AMC’s president and general manager, also pointed out that he couldn’t comment too much on the attack itself since it’s an “ongoing criminal investigation.”
But, he added, “My heart goes out to Jussie and everyone involved. It’s a tragic thing. He’s an important and so talented member of the Fox family. It’s been gratifying to watch the creative community rally around him.”