BREAKING …Chicago police continue to seek another sit-down with Jussie Smollett in their evolving investigation into the alleged attack on the Empire actor last month and what part he may have played, but Fox is still standing by their man.
“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,” said 20th Century Fox TV and Fox Entertainment today, just one day past the three week anniversary of the allegedly racist and homophobic assault in the early hours of January 29
Yesterday, after Cook County state’s attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the case due to a past campaign donation from one of Smollett’s attorneys, the Osundairos and their lawyer Gloria Schmidt met again with police and other law enforcement officials. A scheduled grilling of the siblings in front of a Grand Jury was scrapped at the last minute after a call from Smollett’s lawyers.
Over the past 24 hours, attorneys for the actor are now more actively negotiating with Chicago police and prosecutors for their client to come in, I hear. Smollett could be looking at up to three years behind bars if found guilty of filing a false police report for what authorities initially called a “potential hate crime.”
As measured as it is, the latest pronouncement of support from Fox also comes as Smollett’s participation in this week’s production of the final episodes of Empire’s fifth season is being decreased literally scene by scene.
His possibly expanding legal team has spoken out against the idea that Smollett orchestrated the assault for his own purposes, but the actor himself hasn’t said a word publicly since his tearful Good Morning America appearance on Valentine’s Day.
As speculation intensifies around Smollett’s role in the attack and former “persons of interest” Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo are now cooperating with police, Empire showrunner Brett Mahoney spoke out once again recently for the openly gay actor who plays the openly gay Jamal Lyon on the Fox series.
“I believe and stand by Jussie Smollett,” said Mahoney in a February 17 tweet that was retweeted quickly by the official Empire Writers feed. “Keep your head up,” added the executive producer on the Lee Daniels and Danny Strong co-created hip hop drama to Smollett.
Mere hours after news of the attack on Smollett first became known in the last days of last month, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment declared in a statement they were “deeply saddened and outraged” by the incident. The attack on Smollett garnered wide outrage, with even frequent Smollett target Donald Trump calling it “horrible” on January 31.
When some Windy City media postulated that Smollett may have pre-planned the attack as a way to deflect being dropped from Empire, Fox emphatically said on February 14 that the actor “remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.”
Yet, even with all that, as Smollett remains cloistered and scandal swirls, cops and prosecutors want more than statements – they want answers from the actor himself.