Empire co-creator Lee Daniels took to Instagram on Wednesday to briefly discuss how the ongoing Jussie Smollett case has impacted himself, the cast, and the hit Fox TV series as a whole. "These past couple of weeks have been a freakin' rollercoaster," Daniels said. "We have, me and my cast have experienced pain and anger and sadness and frustration and really don't know how to deal with it."
While Daniels doesn't mention Smollett by name in the above video, it's no secret that the feelings of "pain and anger and sadness and frustration" are in response to his arrest and the ripple effect that it has created.
Two days after Smollett was arrested and charged with felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report, Empire exectives Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Francie Calfo, Sanaa Hamri, Brian Grazer, and Dennis Hammer released a joint statement announcing that Jussie's character Jamal was being removed from Season 5's final two episodes. Shortly after the statement was released, TVLine reported Daniels might recast Smollett's character.
The Chicago Police's accusation that Smollett staged the attack hit particularly close to home for Daniels, who revealed in January that his cousin was the victim of a hate crime. TMZ reports some Empire cast members fear those real events may have inspired Jussie's story.