Friends, family, fans and famous faces rallied around the Empire star after news broke he was involved in an alleged racist and homophobic attack on Jan. 29, with the country now following the case as it's taken several twists and turns.
ET confirmed soon after the incident that Smollett had told police that he was approached by two men who yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him, and at one point wrapped a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance -- now believed to be bleach -- on him.
Multiple sources told ET that Smollett received a threatening letter on the set of Empire more than a week before the alleged attack, which was obtained by ThatGrapeJuice.Net. The note, which was sent on Jan. 21, threatens Smollett and includes a homophobic slur. ET has learned that while Fox did amp up security on the show following the letter, Smollett turned down around the clock security recently because he felt it was intrusive.
The Alleged Attack Occurs
News broke of Smollett's alleged attack in the early hours of Jan. 29, just hours after it occurred.
According to the incident details of the assault, the victim was walking when two unknown offenders approached him and gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs towards him. Police say the offenders allegedly began to attack the victim with their hands about the face and poured an unknown chemical substance onto him. The offenders then allegedly wrapped a rope around his neck before fleeing the scene. The Chicago Police Department told ET at the time that Smollett was self-transported to Northwestern Hospital.
ET Learns That Smollett Is "Emotionally Shook Up"
A source told ET that morning that Smollett was emotionally and physically shaken up over the incident. "Jussie tried to protect himself and at one point the men poured a substance on him believed to be bleach and one of the guys put a rope around his neck," the source said. "After some time the men fled the scene and Jussie went to the hospital."
"Jussie is mostly physically OK with some scrapes and bruises, but he’s more emotionally shook up," the source continued.
The Chicago Police Department Is Treating Incident as a "Possible Hate Crime"
Chicago Police Department spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi told ET in a statement that an investigation was currently underway, and they were "treating it as a possible hate crime."
"Overnight, the Chicago Police Department received a report of a possible racially-charged assault and battery involving a cast member of the television show Empire," the statement read. "Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime. Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline. The victim is fully cooperating with investigators and we ask anyone with information about this incident to contact Area Central Detectives at 312-747-8382 or report it anonymously to www.cpdtip.com."
Stars Speak Out on the Alleged Attack
John Legend, Ariana Grande, Reese Witherspoon, Demi Lovato, Ellen DeGeneres, Michael B. Jordan, Halle Berry, Zendaya and more were just some of the celebs to react to the news on social media.
In a statement to ET, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said they were "saddened and outraged" by the alleged attack.
“We are deeply saddened and outraged to learn that a member of our Empire family, Jussie Smollett, was viciously attacked last night," the statement read. "We send our love to Jussie, who is resilient and strong, and we will work with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice. The entire studio, network and production stands united in the face of any despicable act of violence and hate -- and especially against one of our own."
Empire Creator Shares Message to Smollett
"It's taken me a minute to come to social media about this, because Jussie, you are my son. You didn't deserve, nor anybody deserves to have a noose put around your neck, to have bleach thrown on you, to be called 'die fa**ot n***er', or whatever they said to you," Lee Daniels, 59, implored in a video message he posted to Instagram on Jan. 29. "You are better than that. We are better than that. America is better than that. It starts at home... It starts at home, yo."
"We have to love each other regardless of what sexual orientation we are because it shows that we are united on a united front. And no racist f**k can come in and do the things that they did to you," Daniels added. "Hold your head up, Jussie. I'm with you, I'll be there in a minute, it's just another f**king day in America."
Empire Calls a Meeting
There was an emotional meeting held the morning of Jan. 29 to inform production of what happened to Smollett, when a producer addressed production, ET learned.
Fox also provided counselors for the cast and crew of the series to talk about the incident and to answer any questions. Smollett and the Empire cast will also have armed security going forward, ET learned.
"The counselors will be there for as long as the cast and crew needs," a source told ET. "Everyone processes trauma differently and the network understands that. The pace of filming will be based on how everyone feels, and the network and people involved want to do whatever they can to make the cast and crew feel safe and supported."
Empire Halts Production
Empire was temporarily shut down on that afternoon, though the halt was not related to the alleged attack on Smollett. Instead, the show is one of several programs filmed in Chicago -- including Proven Innocent -- that had stopped production due to extreme weather conditions. ET learned that the show was planning to pick up production again on Thursday, pending the weather.
Smollett's Planned L.A. Concert Stays on the Books
As of the evening of Jan. 29, Smollett was still scheduled to perform live at the Troubadour in West Hollywood on Saturday. ET reached out to the venue, which confirmed that their calendar -- which includes the performance -- was current and updated.
Paul Kacik of the concert booking company Sean Healy Presents told The Los Angeles Times that they are "going on with the show as far as we know, until we hear anything different."
Police Try to Track Down Video Footage of Incident
On the morning of Jan. 30, a Chicago Police Department spokesperson said the department was “utilizing resources to investigate [this case] thoroughly." According to authorities, detectives continue to look at city and privately owned surveillance footage that was recorded in the area where the alleged attack happened.
Meanwhile, an eyewitness told ET that Smollett visited a Subway fast food restaurant alone in the early hours of Jan. 29 before the alleged attack, ordered a sub and a salad, and left around 2:15 a.m.
An employee at the Subway restaurant not far from where Smollett was allegedly attacked previously told ET that Chicago Police came to the fast food restaurant the afternoon of Jan. 29 looking to review surveillance footage. The Subway location is about a four to five-minute walk from the Loews Hotel where Smollett was reportedly staying.
New Case Details Emerge
A spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department told ET that Smollett still had the rope around his neck when he made contact with officers at 2:42 a.m. on Jan. 29. The spokesperson said that Smollett told detectives in a follow-up interview late that afternoon that his two alleged attackers yelled, “MAGA country” to him during the alleged attack.
ET learned that Smollett's manager, Brandon Z. Moore, told police he was on the phone with Smollett during the alleged attack. ET also learned that Moore said he told police he clearly heard the MAGA comment in addition to both racial and homophobic slurs. ET was also told that Smollett is cooperating with police and the ongoing investigation.
Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard Express Support
"@jussiesmollett is pure love to the bone AND THAT IS WHY SO MANY ARE FEELING HIS PAIN BECAUSE IT IS OUR PAIN!!! I tell you one thing HATE WILL NOT WIN!!!! My baby is resilient and love still lives in him. The devil and his minions are very busy right now but one thing is for sure and two things are for certain #GODIS and that is all I know," she wrote.
"This song needs to be downloaded until it goes triple platinum because the message is NEEDED," she continued of Smollett's political track. "#weareresilientpeople AND #weaintgoingnowhereuntillwearefinished. The love so many have him just goes to show HE IS LOVE!!!! I LOVE YOU MY BABY MY BABY!!! #LOVEWINSALWAYS."
Terrence Howard, who plays Smollett's father on Empire, also supported him during an appearance on Good Morning America on Jan. 30.
"I heard he’s getting better," Howard said of Smollett. "He’s angry, but I know Jussie. Jussie’s anger will dissipate, and he will forgive these people for what they did. But he won’t, and we cannot, forget their actions. They have to be forgiven because it was done out of ignorance.”
Persons of Interest Emerge
That afternoon, the Chicago Police shared that they had a new development in their investigation.
The police department revealed on Twitter on Jan. 30 that detectives had located a surveillance camera which shows persons of interest; hours later, photos were released to the public.
Photos of people of interest who were in area of the alleged assault & battery of Empire cast member. While video does not capture an encounter, detectives are taking this development seriously & wish to question individuals as more cameras are being reviewed pic.twitter.com/xJDDygtocr
"As of now, Jussie plans to return to work when filming for his role picks up again," a source close to the Empire actor told ET on Jan. 31, adding that the show's temporary shutdown due to weather gave Smollett "time to process everything that happened."
As of that morning Smollett was also still scheduled to perform at the Troubadour that Saturday, with ET's source sharing that he doesn't plan on canceling.
"Jussie is planning to perform a musical show this weekend in L.A. Jussie is strong. He knows that what happened to him is unfortunate, but he’s not going to let it get the best of him," the source said. "He’s a fighter and will push through this, like everything else he has fought through in his life."
The FBI Joins the Investigation
Several updates on the investigation were released on the morning of Jan. 31, when ET learned that the FBI was investigating a threatening letter sent to the Empire production offices the week before. The FBI had "no comment."
ET also learned from police that 12 detectives have been actively working on the investigation since the alleged attack happened on Jan. 29. However, a spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department told ET that detectives have not located the container that Smollett says contained a liquid substance that was thrown at him during the incident.
Chicago Police told ET that Smollett continues to fully cooperate with detectives on the investigation. A spokesperson for the department said that detectives are trying to corroborate all parts of the incident that happened early Tuesday morning and that it's an extremely time-consuming process for the 12 detectives assigned to the case to go through hours and hours of several different angles of surveillance footage.
Police also confirmed to ET that Smollett was seen entering an apartment building on closed-circuit television cameras with the rope from the alleged attack draped around his neck.
Smollett's Family Speaks Out
Smollett's family released a statement to ET on Jan. 31: “In the early hours of Tuesday morning, our beloved son and brother, Jussie, was the victim of a violent and unprovoked attack. We want to be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime. Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning. His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice."
"Our family thanks everyone for their prayers and the huge amount of love he has received. We are thankful to our village for your immense support during this trying time. We are so grateful that God saw him through this cowardly attack alive," the statement continued. "Jussie is a warrior whose light cannot be dimmed. We want people to understand these targeted hate crimes are happening to our sisters, brothers and our gender non-conforming siblings, many who reside within the intersection of multiple identities, on a monthly, weekly, and sometimes even daily basis all across our country. Oftentimes ending fatally, these are inhumane acts of domestic terrorism and they should be treated as such. They will continue to occur until we hold each other accountable."
"Make no mistake, words matter. Hateful words lead to hateful actions. Radical love is the only solution, but passivity will be our downfall. We, as a family, will continue to work for love, equity and justice until it reigns supreme in our nation and all over the world," the statement concluded. "With love & gratitude, the Smollett Family."
President Donald Trump Weighs In
President Donald Trump also weighed in on the news while speaking to reporters on Jan. 31. "That I can tell you is horrible," Trump said. "I've seen it, last night. I think that's horrible. It doesn't get worse, as far as I'm concerned."
Smollett Breaks His Silence
The actor released a statement on Feb. 1, addressing it to the "beautiful people" and revealing that he is "OK."
"Let me start by saying that I am OK. My body is strong but my soul is stronger," Smollett's statement began. "More importantly, I want to say thank you. The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words. I am working with authorities and have been 100 percent factual and consistent on every level. Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served."
"As my family stated, these types of cowardly attacks are happening to my sisters, brothers and non-gender conforming siblings daily. I am not and should not be looked upon as an isolated incident," the statement continued. "We will talk soon and I will address all details of this horrific incident, but I need a moment to process. Most importantly, during times of trauma, grief and pain, there is still a responsibility to lead with love. It’s all I know. And that can’t be kicked out of me. With Love, respect & honor…Jussie."
Actor Recovering Well Ahead of Upcoming Concert
As of Feb. 1, Smollett was still expected to go through with his concert in West Hollywood the next day. Additionally, a source close to Smollett told ET that cops informally asked Smollett if he would surrender his phone to verify he was talking to his manager on his cell phone during the alleged attack. The source said that Smollett felt uncomfortable with that and declined, and claims he was never asked about phone records. The source added that Smollett said he would provide the records and is in the process of gathering those phone records.
A source close to Smollett also wanted to clarify that Smollett never said the men who allegedly attacked him were wearing "MAGA" hats, but that they did scream "MAGA Country." The source added that reports that Smollett had the rope around his neck long after the incident when he was at the hospital are false. Smollett had the rope around his neck when cops arrived at his building 42 minutes after the incident, the source said, adding that the actor kept the rope there in order to preserve evidence. Additionally, ET has learned that Smollett was in L.A.
Police Test Smollett's Clothing for New Clues
Chicago Police confirmed to ET that detectives are in possession of the sweater that Smollett was wearing during the alleged attack. ET has also confirmed that detectives have the rope that was around Smollett’s neck. The two items are now being tested in hopes of giving detectives new clues.
The suspicious letter sent to the Empire production office last month, meanwhile, was revealed to contain a powder substance identified as aspirin, ET has learned. The FBI is handling the investigation into the letter and has declined to comment to ET about the investigation.
"There's a lot of stuff that's been said about me that is absolutely not true," Smollett said before speaking out about his injuries. "I was bruised but my ribs were not cracked. They were not broken."
"I went to the doctor immediately. Frank Gatson drove me, I was not hospitalized," he added. "Both my doctors in L.A. and Chicago cleared me to perform, but said to take care, obviously."
"And above all, I fought the f**k back," Smollett concluded, before joking, "I'm the gay Tupac."
Henson couldn't help but be thinking of Smollett as she celebrated her new movie, What Men Want. On Feb. 5, she told ET that she was missing her onscreen son on the Empire set, but expected him to be working again soon.
"He hasn’t been back [on set] yet, but he will be, absolutely,” she said. "We miss him so... You can’t let hate win.”
"At his very core is love, so that’s how he operates and that’s why the tragedy was felt by so many people because of what he represents."
Smollett Returns to Empire
ET learned on Feb. 6 that Smollett was officially back to work on the Empire set. ET has also learned that Smollett is healing well, as Fox put their support behind him at their Television Critics Association winter press tour.
"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," the network's CEO, Charlie Collier, told reporters. "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.
A spokeswoman for the Chicago Police Department told ET that Smollett turned over his cell phone records that morning, and that they "will be analyzed by detectives and we will be in contact with the victim should additional information be needed."
Chicago Police claimed they previously asked Smollett for his phone in an effort to corroborate certain details from his accounting of the incident, which included him being on the phone with talent manager, Brandon Z. Moore, when the alleged attack occurred. ET learned that phone records from Moore were sent to Chief of Staff to the Superintendent of Police Robert Boik on Feb. 5.
Phone Records are Rejected
The next day, a spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department told ET that detectives rejected the cell phone records Smollett submitted via PDF because they were heavily redacted.
According to police, a PDF is subject to manipulation, but they are not saying they have any evidence that Smollett manipulated his phone records; detectives have now asked Smollett to submit his actual phone bill or a download of his entire phone. Police also told ET that detectives had recently obtained surveillance video from stores in the area where the alleged attack happened to see if anyone bought rope around the time the incident occurred.
As the investigation continued, Smollett was still cooperating with detectives, and authorities were continuing to treat the actor as the victim of a hate crime, the spokesperson added.
A rep for Smollett, meanwhile, further insisted that the actor was "the victim here."
"Jussie has voluntarily provided his phone records from within an hour of the attack and given multiple statements to police. Chicago PD has repeatedly informed us that they find Jussie's account of what happened that night consistent and credible," the rep said. "Superintendent Johnson has been clear from day one that Jussie is a victim. We are continuing to work closely with the Chicago PD and remain confident that they will find Jussie's attackers and bring them to justice. Any redacted information was intended to protect the privacy of personal contacts or high-profile individuals not relevant to the attack."
Smollett Gives First TV Interview on Alleged Attack
During the sit-down, Smollett revealed the reason he initially hesitated to call the police. "There’s a level of pride there. We live in a society where, as a gay man, you are considered somehow to be weak, and I’m not weak and we as a people are not weak,” he said, looking visibly upset.
Smollett also offered an explanation to his unwillingness to release his full phone records to police. "I’m sorry, but I’m not going to do that because I have private pictures and videos and numbers, my partner’s number, my family’s number, my castmates' numbers, my friend’s numbers, my private emails, my private songs, my private voice memos. I don’t know what that’s going to be to hand over my phone. And honestly, by then, inaccurate false statements had been put out there," he said.
Of the actual incident, Smollet said: "I heard as I was crossing the intersection, I heard, ‘Empire!’ I don’t answer to Empire,” he recalls. "My name ain’t Empire. And I didn’t answer. I kept walking and then I heard ‘f****t Empire n****r’ so I turned around and said, ‘The f**k did you just say to me?’”
Smollett said that at first, he was just dealing with one person. "I see the attacker, masked. He said, ‘This MAGA country n****r,’ punches me right in the face. So I punched his a** back. And then we started tussling. It was very icy and we ended up tussling by the stairs. Fighting, fighting, fighting, there was a second person involved who was kicking me in my back. Then it just stopped and they ran off, and I saw where they ran," he told Roberts, adding that he didn't "have any doubt in my mind" that the people in the photos Chicago Police released as persons of interest were his two alleged attackers.
Persons of Interest are Identified
Later that day, Chicago Police Department spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said they have identified the two people in question pictured in the surveillance camera footage they released to the public.
"Through meticulous investigation, #ChicagoPolice detectives have identified the persons of interest in the area of the alleged attack of the Empire cast member," Guglielmi tweeted. "These individuals are not yet suspects but were in area of concern and are being questioned. Investigation continues."
"The people of interest are alleged to be in the area where a crime was reported. They are not considered suspects at this time as they are currently being questioned by detectives," Guglielmi added. "We remain in communication with the alleged victim."
Persons of Interest's Homes are Raided
CBS News' Chicago affiliates reported on Feb. 14 that police had raided the homes of the two persons of interest. The people -- then still unidentified to the public -- allegedly had connections to the Empire production.
According to reporter Charlie De Mar, who took to Twitter to share the report, "Police raided the home of two persons of interest in Jussie Smollett case last night. Both men are of Nigerian decent [sic] and have appeared as extras on the show. Police took bleach, shoes electronics and more. Officers asked family if they knew Jussie Smollett."
"This information is according to family who says home was ransacked. I asked family why they think police picked the two brothers up for questioning and they replied by saying the men left for Nigeria the day of the attack," the second tweet read.
Fox Slams Reports Smollett Was Being Written Off Empire
“The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of Empire is patently ridiculous," the joint statement read. "He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.”
A source close to Empire also told ET that the theory that Smollett was being written off the show is absurd, as he is one of the leads on the hit program and is under contract. A second source also said rumors that he was being written off are “not true.”
Police Confirm Arrests of Persons of Interest
Chicago Police confirmed to ET on Feb. 15 that the two men who had been questioned by police (and were seen on the surveillance footage) were arrested on Feb. 13.
"Interrogations will resume today with the two individuals and their attorney. While we haven't found any video documenting the alleged attack, there is no evidence to say that this is a hoax. The alleged victim [Smollett] is being cooperative at this time and continues to be treated as a victim, not a suspect," Guglielmi told ET earlier on Feb. 15. "For clarification, the two individuals interviewed are classified as potential suspects. Detectives have probable cause that they may have been involved in an alleged crime and we are working to corroborate the allegations and investigative timeline as our investigation continues."
Police Reveal Persons of Interest Have Been Released
Hours later, ET learned that the two men who were arrested had been released without charges. Guglielmi, Chief Communications Officer for Chicago Police, shared the update on Twitter.
“Due to new evidence as a result of today's interrogations, the individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charging and detectives have additional investigative work to complete,” the statement read.
Case Update: Due to new evidence as a result of today's interrogations, the individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charging and detectives have additional investigative work to complete. pic.twitter.com/Hswn1Qjgcy
Guglielmi told ET on Feb. 16 that the investigation into Smollett's case had shifted following the Chicago Police Department's meeting with the two former persons of interest. "We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation. We've reached out to the Empire cast member's attorney to request a follow-up interview."
CBS News, meanwhile, reported that they have sources who claimed Smollett orchestrated the alleged attack with the two men who were arrested in connection with the case on Wednesday and released on Friday without charges.
Smollett Hits Back Against Claims He's 'Familiar' With Alleged Attackers
The Empire star's attorneys, Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson, issued a statement to ET on behalf of their client on the night of Feb. 16, saying Smollett was "angered and devastated" by the claims he knew his alleged attackers.
"He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying," the statement read, in part.
“One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video," the statement claimed. "It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity."
“Jussie and his attorneys anticipate being further updated by the Chicago Police Department on the status of the investigation and will continue to cooperate. At the present time, Jussie and his attorneys have no inclination to respond to 'unnamed' sources inside of the investigation, but will continue discussions through official channels,” the statement concluded.
“There are no plans for Jussie Smollett to meet with Chicago police today,” the 36-year-old Empire star's lawyers, Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson, told ET in a statement on Feb. 18. “Any news reports suggesting otherwise are inaccurate.”
“Smollett's attorneys will keep an active dialogue going with Chicago police on his behalf,” the statement continued. "We have no further comment today."
Fox Insists Smollett Isn't Being Written Off Empire
Amid speculation surrounding the case, rumors sparked that Smollett's character would now be written off Empire, or that scenes he had previously filmed for upcoming episodes of the series would be cut. Fox denied the reports in a statement to ET the morning of Feb. 20.
"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," the statement read.
Smollett Becomes a Suspect
Guglielmi revealed on Twitter on Feb. 20 that Smollett had officially been classified as a suspect in his own alleged attack. Smollett had maintained he was a victim and did not orchestrate the Jan. 29 alleged attack.
"Jussie Smollett is now officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation by #ChicagoPolice for filing a false police report (Class 4 felony). Detectives are currently presenting evidence before a Cook County Grand Jury," Guglielmi tweeted.
Actor Is Officially Charged With Felony Disorderly Conduct
Anthony Guglielmi, Chief Communications Officer for the Chicago Police Department, revealed on Twitter on Wednesday evening that Smollett has been charged with felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report when he reported that he was attacked by two masked men.
"Felony criminal charges have been approved by @CookCountySAO against Jussie Smollett for Disorderly Conduct / Filing a False Police Report. Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest," Guglielmi wrote.
The Cook County State's Attorney's Office confirmed to ET that Smollett has been charged with felony disorderly conduct. A bond court hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Smollett's attorneys, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, meanwhile, tell ET: "Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense."
The actor was taken into custody on Feb. 21, ET confirmed with a Chicago Police spokesperson. He faces up to three years in prison.
Tom Ahern, the Deputy Director of News Affairs and Communications for the Chicago Police Department, tweeted the news on Thursday morning.
"UPDATE: Chicago Police Detectives take #Empire actor #JussieSmollett into custody to face Class 4 Felony charge (punishable for up to 3yrs in prison) for Disorderly Conduct in Falsifying Police report. Bond Hearing scheduled for 1:30 pm [CT] in Cook Country Criminal Court. #ChicagoPolice," the message read.
UPDATE: Chicago Police Detectives take #Empire actor #JussieSmollett into custody to face Class 4 Felony charge (punishable for up to 3yrs in prison) for Disorderly Conduct in Falsifying Police report. Bond Hearing scheduled for 1:30p in Cook County Criminal Court.#ChicagoPolice
Johnson addressed reporters in Chicago and alleged the actor paid $3,500 to stage an attack because he was "dissatisfied" with his Empire salary. Johnson also alleged that Smollett concocted the threatening letter he received prior to the alleged attack that contained homophobic and racist language, and when that "didn't work," went ahead with the alleged attack.
A source close to Empire production told ET that Smollett's salary is significantly higher than initial reports of $65,000 an episode and that the actors all got significant raises early in the show’s life when it became a big hit. If Smollett was unhappy with his salary, it was not commonly known, the source shared, and to the source's knowledge, he did not voice any complaints about his salary on Empire.
The source also noted that there is still a lot of support and love for Smollett on the show. “People are wondering what happened to presumed innocence,” the source said.
Meanwhile, in a statement to ET, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said they were "evaluating the situation."
“We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process," the statement read. "We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”
Robin Roberts Speaks Out
Roberts, who interviewed Smollett for Good Morning America in his first and only TV interview about the incident, called it a "setback for race relations" while reacting to Smollett's arrest on Thursday's GMA. Smollett, meanwhile, has maintained he was a victim and did not orchestrate the alleged attack.
"This touches all the buttons," Roberts said. "It’s a setback for race relations, homophobia, MAGA supporters. I cannot think of another case where there is this anger on so many sides and you can understand why there would be."