“He’s a strong person and we’re strong,” Empire showrunner Brett Mahoney said Wednesday of Jussie Smollett, a week after the actor was attacked in what the Chicago police are calling a “potential hate crime.”
“Jussie is a proud, gay black man, and I’m not sure if the cowards were trying to beat the pride, gay or black out of him but he’s strong and we’re happy he’s back at work,” Mahoney said onstage during part of Fox’s TCA presentation today.
“He’s been back at work since Monday — he wanted to get back to work and he just wanted to get things back to normal,” Mahoney told Deadline before the panel about the actor, who plays the openly gay Jamal Lyon on the Fox series created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong.
“He’s the heart of the show in many ways and everyone welcomed him back,” Mahoney noted of Smollett, who five days after the seemingly racist- and homophobic-fueled assault in Chicago played a gig at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. “We let him know we’re all family, we’re all supporting him and we all have his back. I think that helped him ease back to getting back to work.”
Now in production on the remaining episodes of its fifth season and former Code Black EP Mahoney’s first as solo showrunner, the so far un-renewed Empire only shut down for one day last week but because of the polar vortex that hit the Windy City, not the assault on Smollett.
Assisted by the FBI and others, Chicago police are still investigating the attack that occurred in the early hours of the morning of January 29. On that day, Mahoney joined Fox, Daniels and Strong in condemning the assault and backing his friend and colleague:
An attack on my friend and colleague @JussieSmollett is an attack on everything that is great about America. Keep your head up Jussie. We stand with you. Love will always conquer hate. @EmpireWriters @leedanielsent @EmpireFOX
— Brett Mahoney (@TheBrettMahoney) January 30, 2019
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