'Empire' Producers on If Jussie Smollett Attack Will Become a Storyline on the Show

Jussie Smollett Attack: Chicago Police Release Photos of Persons of Interest

The homophobic and racist attack against Jussie Smollett has had a huge effect on his Empirefamily. 

Empire executive producers Brett Mahoney and Danny Strong opened up about the incident at Fox's Television Critics Association winter press tour on Wednesday, and revealed to reporters that it's a possibility that the attack could inspire a storyline on the drama. 

"I think a story like this could happen in Empire, just because it is such a timely story," Mahoney said. "But not as a result of this." 

"We're really concerned about security for the cast and the crew. That's the priority," Strong added. "I don't know [if it will be a storyline] yet. We're just worried about him right now, so as far as where it goes, it's not being discussed."

Mahoney and Strong spoke more about Smollett during Fox's "Voices of Drama" panel on Wednesday. 

"The attack on Jussie, because he is such a beloved member of our family, hurt us all very hard. But Jussie is a proud gay black man, and I don’t know wether the cowards who attacked him were trying to beat the gay, the black or the pride out of him, but that's impossible, because he's strong," Mahoney said. "So we're happy that he's back at work and he's happy to be back at work."

"Anything you want to know about Jussie you can see from his statement, when he performed on Saturday night, which was a statement of defiance about what happened to him, and a statement of love," Strong added. "He is truly a special person, which is how he got cast as Jamal, because we needed someone who is special to play that part, and it was him. So I’m not surprised at all by the class and the poise of his response to what’s happened."

ET learned on Wednesday that Smollett was back to work on the Empire set this week. Security has been present and is of importance to everyone. ET has also learned that Smollett is healing well following the attack. 

Additionally, in the redacted police report obtained by ET through a FOIA request on Wednesday, it states that Smollett was initially hesitant to report the attack. It also includes details of the actor's description of the alleged attacker's clothing, and that he allegedly received hate mail at his place of work on Jan. 22.

Fox CEO Charlie Collier told reporters at the winter press tour that Smollett had the network's support behind him. 

"First of all, on any situation like that, the first thing I’ll say is that my heart goes out to Jussie and everyone involved. It really is a tragic thing," Collier said. "He’s an important and so talented member of the Fox family, and our heart goes out to him."

"There is an ongoing criminal investigation, so I won't go deeper than that, except to say it’s been really gratifying to watch the creative community rally around him," he continued, adding that at this time, Fox is not announcing whether Empire has been renewed for another season. 

As previously reported, a source told ET that Smollett was walking around Chicago early last Tuesday morning when two men started yelling racial and homophobic slurs at him, before repeatedly hitting him. The men then poured a substance on him (believed to be bleach), according to the source, and one of the attackers put a rope around his neck. Smollett was then taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. 

Police tweeted photos of two persons of interest in the attack last week, asking for the public's help in identifying them. See more in the video below. 

Empire returns this spring on Fox. 


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