Empire creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, along with the studio behind the TV series, are expressing outrage over an attack against cast member Jussie Smollett in Chicago overnight.
“We are deeply saddened and outraged to learn that a member of our Empire family, Jussie Smollett, was viciously attacked last night. We send our love to Jussie, who is resilient and strong, and we will work with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice,” 20th Century Fox said in a statement issued Tuesday.
“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.”
Chicago police, who haven’t identified Smollett by name, opened a hate crime investigation into the incident.
Police had noted that a 36-year-old male cast member of Empire alleged he was attacked by men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs at him and physically attacked him as he walked downtown early Tuesday morning.
Statement on <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ChicagoPolice?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ChicagoPolice</a> hate crime investigation. We are taking these allegations very seriously and encourage anyone with information to report anonymously to <a href=”https://t.co/yYAqzcVIfu”>https://t.co/yYAqzcVIfu</a> <a href=”https://t.co/DxipALHXaz”>pic.twitter.com/DxipALHXaz</a>
Police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said the complainant reported that two men approached him and began shouting at him. He says they then struck him in the face and poured an unknown chemical substance on him before one of them wrapped a rope around his neck.
He subsequently travelled to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where Guglielmi says he was treated and is in good condition.
Police said detectives are gathering security video from nearby businesses.
Daniels and Strong, who co-created the popular family drama Empire, addressed the incident via social media in separate posts.
“You didn’t deserve [the attack],” Daniels, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind Precious, The Paperboy and The Butler, said in an emotional Instagram message he directed to Smollett.
“Hold your head up, Jussie.”
Strong hailed the actor as a “profoundly talented soul” and praised his “talent and activism.”
…whoever did this, do not forget that you are nothing but hate filled cowards while Jussie’s talent and activism will continue to shine a bright light on to the world for decades to come.