Actor-singer Jussie Smollett pled with his Empire cast mates Thursday evening to believe that he did not stage his own racist and homophobic attack last month, according to a report.
An emotional Smollett is said to have kept his co-workers waiting for at least a 30 minutes before he was able to begin acting in his first scheduled scene since his arrest.
We’re told he addressed everyone on set, saying …”I’m sorry I’ve put you all through this and not answered any calls. I wanted to say I’m sorry and, you know me, I would never do this to any of you, you are my family. I swear to God, I did not do this.”
After that, he left the set. We’re told it was obvious Jussie had been crying a lot, so producers said he would have to come back later. He did, and we’re told he is currently shooting the scene.
Hours prior, Smollett was released from police custody upon posting bond at $100,000 at a Chicago courthouse. Speaking before hearing attendees, Cook County Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr. characterized the allegations against Smollett as “violent, despicable,” and expressed disgust for the actor’s use of a noose in the allegedly staged attack. Smollet attorney Jack Prior told the judge that his client affirms the charges against him are “outrageous” and denied all allegations.
Earlier Thursday, the actor was arrest and charged with a felony count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report with Chicago police. Smollett told law enforcement that he was beaten as two masked men hurled bigoted insults at him. He also told police that the men placed a noose around his neck and shouted “This is MAGA country!” before darting from the area.
According to county prosecutors, the actor gave detailed instructions to two brothers who helped him in a staged attack and paid them $3,500 by check, which detectives are now in possession of.
Chicago’s local CBS affiliate has obtained video of the two brothers — Ola and Abel Osundairo — purchasing ski masks from a store one day prior to the purported assault. The store’s surveillance footage appears to show Abel and Ola Osundairo bring masks and a red hat to the counter for the cashier to ring up.
Following Smollett’s arrest, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment issued a statement saying, “We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”
Earlier in the week, Fox studios dismissed reports that the actor’s role on the hit television series would be slashed. “Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show,” they said.
Speaking before reporters Thursday, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Smollett staged the attack after a racist letter he sent himself on the set of Empire the week prior failed to evoke a bigger enough public response.
“Mr. Smollett is the one that orchestrated this crime,” Johnson told reporters, adding that “he has to be accountable for what he did.”
“He took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” he added. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”