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‘Empire’ showrunner Lee Daniels talks ‘pain and anger’ of Jussie Smollett case

‘Empire’ showrunner Lee Daniels talks ‘pain and anger’ of Jussie Smollett case
"Empire” co-creator Lee Daniels spoke up about the Jussie Smollett case. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

“Empire” co-creator Lee Daniels said Wednesday that he has felt pain, anger, sadness and frustration due to the ever-evolving Jussie Smollett “incident.”

The showrunner, who immediately defended Smollet when the actor alleged being the victim of a possible hate crime in January, has kept relatively mum about the case’s shocking developments.

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“These past couple of weeks have been a freakin’ roller coaster,” Daniels said in an Instagram video ahead of Wednesday’s episode of his Fox musical drama. “Me and my cast have experienced pain and anger and sadness and frustration and really don’t know how to deal with it. You know?”

“Empire” returned from its midseason hiatus last week. On Wednesday, Daniels reminded viewers that the episodes, which still feature Smollett, were shot “prior to the incident.”

“This is not what the show was made for,” Daniels said. “The show was made to bring America together, to talk about the atrocities that are happening right now in the streets.”

Smollett, 36, who is black and gay, pleaded not guilty last week in Chicago to 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to investigators about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack.

The actor-musician has maintained his innocence as Chicago police accuse him of orchestrating the attack because he was dissatisfied with his pay on the Fox series and to advance his career.

Fox vehemently defended the actor early on, but as skepticism about his story mounted, the network announced that Smollett would be written off of the final two episodes of “Empire’s” Season 5. The second of the season’s nine remaining episodes aired Wednesday.

Smollett is due back in court on April 17.

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