Empire star Jussie Smollett was hospitalized early Tuesday, the result of an apparent racial and homophobic attack.
The incident took place in Chicago, where the hit Fox series films. On Empire, Smollett plays Jamal Lyon, the middle son of the music family dynasty. Both the character and Smollett are gay.
The Chicago Police Department doesn’t identify Smollett directly, but said in a statement obtained by EW that a 36-year-old cast member of Empire was walking when two unknown offenders approached him, yelling out racial and homophobic slurs. They then attacked the victim, pouring an unknown chemical substance on him and even wrapping a rope around his neck. The offenders fled the scene, while Smollett transported himself to Northwestern Hospital and is said to be in good condition. TMZ, which first reported the news, also said that he has since been discharged.
Chicago PD says they are treating this as a hate crime and are currently gathering video and identifying possible witnesses.
Representatives for Smollett have not yet responded to EW’s request for comment
In a statement, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said: “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. 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 co-creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong both reacted to the incident on social media. Daniels shared an emotional video to “his son,” while Strong tweeted praise for Smollett and called out the perpetrators. “I’m deeply horrified and saddened by the racist and homophobic attacks against @JussieSmollett,” he wrote. “He is a kind and profoundly talented soul whom I respect with all my heart. The terror of racism and homophobia has no place in our society, it is the most indecent way to live…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.”
In their own statement Tuesday, GLAAD says it has “reached out to FOX and Jussie’s team today to offer assistance as well as support for him. Jussie is a true champion for LGBTQ people and is beloved by the community and allies around the world.”
Smollett’s portrayal of a black gay man on Empire was considered very noteworthy upon the series debut, and when talking to EW last year, the actor was excited about an upcoming “groundbreaking” storyline: “You’ve never seen two black men in this way,” he said. The plot turned out to be Jamal dealing with his partner, Kai, being HIV positive.
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