'Empire' Actor Jussie Smollett Returns to Stage Following Attack

Empire star Jussie Smollett took the stage on Saturday night for the first time since he was brutally attacked in Chicago on Tuesday.

Smollett, best known for playing Jamal Lyon on FOX's hit drama Empire, told police he was attacked by two men outside of a fast food restaurant in Chicago, Illinois on Tuesday. The alleged assailant shouted racist and homophobic slurs at Smollett, beat him, wrapped a rope around his neck and even doused him with an unknown chemical, believed to be bleach. In a show of strength and resilience, Smollett showed up for a live performance in West Hollywood on Saturday, addressing the attack with the crowd.

Smollett clarified some details about the attack. According to a report by CNN, he told the audience that he was badly bruised, but his ribs were neither cracked or broken. He added that he was not technically hospitalized, he just went straight to the doctor after his attackers fled. He assured fans he was fully cleared for that night's performance.

"I'm not fully healed yet," he said. "But I'm going to [be], and I'm gonna stand strong with y'all."

Smollett did not diminish the racist and homophobic implications of the attack, nor did he disagree with the Chicago Police Department and the FBI investigating it as a hate crime. However, Smollett's main message was to focus as much energy as possible on love in order to move forward.

"I don't even care to name any names," he said. "The hateful rhetoric that gets passed around, it has to stop. But guess what, it stops with the people that believe in love."

Later, Smollett told the crowd that now is the time to be "blacker and gayer" in the face of hate-fueled attacks. He praised other performers for helping to strengthen his resolve, particularly My So-Called Life star Wilson Cruz, who was at the show.

"I'm unbelievably proud of him. If I was able to inspire him as a young person to be able to be his fullest self, that is a point of pride for me for the rest of my life," Cruz told reporters.

Smollett has emphasized the importance of LGBTQ representation in his own personal journey before. In 2015, he first came out publicly on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where he praised the comedian as an icon he looked up to when he was young.

"It was very, very important to me that, as my first performance and talk show that it was with you." he said at the time. "You've been such an inspiration to so many, but also to me. What you've done with, in the LGBT community is very much in my opinion kind of like what Michael Jackson did with the black community just that you are who you are."


The investigation into the attack on Smollett is ongoing.