CHICAGO — When Jussie Smollett called the cast and crew of the television show “Empire” together Thursday night, they were expecting the actor to come clean about what really happened, a person at the meeting told CNN.
Smollett did apologize to his coworkers for any embarrassment they might have felt since the story began.
But then, to the shock and dismay of the person who attended the meeting, Smollett stuck to his story of innocence. For the most part, the source said, he paraphrased what was in the statement that his attorney put out that afternoon, blaming the legal system and the media for his woes.
The “Empire” actor was arrested Thursday morning on suspicion of filing a false report about a January 29 incident where he said he was the victim of a hate crime. Police allege Smollett paid two men to stage the attack in hopes of promoting his career, according to Chicago Superintendent Eddie Johnson.
Smollett appeared in court Thursday afternoon and spoke only to confirm his name to the judge. His defense team told the court that Smollett was not a flight risk and cited his philanthropic work in making his case for bail. The judge granted a $100,000 bail, and Smollett paid a $10,000 bond. He was ordered to give up his passport and will remain under supervision until his case is adjudicated.
“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense,” Smollett’s attorneys said.
When suspicions arose that Smollett’s story could be fabricated, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment released a statement last week standing by him.
“The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of ‘Empire’ is patently ridiculous,” the statement read. “He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.”
After his arrest Thursday, the studio and network released another statement.
“We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process,” 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said in a statement to CNN on Thursday. “We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”
Smollett is “on hold” for Friday’s shoot, per the production schedule that was recently released to cast and crew.
According to TMZ, the cast and crew of “Empire” are “furious” at Smollett. Several cast members want him written off the show immediately, sources told TMZ. They said if the network doesn’t fire him, they feel he should quit on his own.
Others on set, according to TMZ, believe Smollett is telling the truth.
The filming of the season finale episode of Empire is in progress this week and next week. 20th Century Fox Television executive VP of corporate communications and publicity, Chris Alexander, confirmed that Smollett was on set filming on Thursday.