Last week, a report claimed that Fox and the Empire writers were working to find a way they could bring Jussie Smollett back for the show’s final season, a reversal of prior claims that Smollett would not be returning to the show after he got cut from the end of the fifth season in the midst of the scandal surrounding his claim that he was the victim of racist and homophobic attackers in Chicago—an attack that the Chicago police say was staged, even though all charges against Smollett were dropped. However, Empire co-creator Lee Daniels quickly shot down the story, saying, “Jussie will NOT be returning to Empire.”
Now, in an interview with Vulture, Daniels has offered some more details on how he feels about Jussie Smollett, and it sounds like he’s very conflicted about the whole thing. He told Vulture that he had “a flash” of “running from bullies” in his youth when he heard Smollett’s story, and now he’s “beyond embarrassed” that he leapt to Smollett’s defense so quickly because of that. Still, there’s a part of him that wants to believe Smollett was telling the truth, saying, “that’s the torture that I’m in right now” because he loves Smollett like a son and can’t shake the fact that “there’s some doubt” about what happened, which just makes it harder for him. “That’s why it’s been so painful. It was a flood of pain.”
Daniels notes that that’s why he had to essentially cut off communication with Smollett, because it was impacting his “spirit,” his family, and his other shows.