After Jussie Smollett claimed to be a victim of a hate crime earlier this year, "Empire" co-creator Lee Daniels strongly supported the actor.
Smollett was charged with faking the attack, but the charges were eventually dropped. The city of Chicago is suing the actor for the cost of the investigation. Meanwhile, Daniels is looking back at his initial reaction to the alleged crime and opening up about how he feels now.
"I'm beyond embarrassed. I think that when it happened, I had a flash of me running from bullies," Daniels told Vulture. "I had a flash of my whole life, of my childhood, my youth, getting beaten."
Smollett portrayed Jamal Lyon on "Empire," a character Daniels developed based on his own life. Daniels admitted it would feel like a "huge betrayal" if it turns out that Smollett "did it, was guilty, and all of [the police investigation was] accurate."
However, the Oscar-nominated director still maintains that Smollett's story may not have been a hoax.
"Of course, there's some doubt. I'm telling you that because I love him so much," Daniels said. "That's the torture that I'm in right now, because it's literally, if it were to happen to your son and your child, how would you feel? You would feel, 'Please, God, please let there be that glimmer of hope that there is some truth in this story.' That's why it's been so painful. It was a flood of pain."
Daniels acknowledged that the scandal forced him to stop communicating with Smollett.
"I had to detach myself and stop calling him," he said, "because it was taking away the time I have for my kids, the time I have for my partner."
Fox recently announced that the upcoming sixth season of Empire would be its last. Daniels tweeted earlier this month that "Jussie will NOT be returning" to the show.
Daniels said he hopes to continue the story of the Lyon family in another series.
"We're trying something out, and if it works, then 'Empire' is over and we have a great spin-off," he said.
'Empire' creator Lee Daniels on the Jussie Smollett scandal: 'I'm beyond embarrassed'
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