Jussie Smollett Scandal 'Embarrassed' 'Empire' Creator Lee Daniels

Lee Daniels is looking back on the difficult times for Empire surrounding Jussie Smollett's legal issues.

In a new interview, the Fox drama's co-creator admitted he feels "beyond embarrassed" by the controversy surrounding the actor's claims he was the victim of an alleged hate crime, which police later accused him of staging before the state dropped all the charges.

"If it turned out that [Smollett] did it, was guilty, and all of it's accurate," Daniels told Vulture he would feel betrayed.

However, PEOPLE writes, Daniels said "there's some doubt" about whether Smollett staged the January attack.

"If it were to happen to your son and your child, how would you feel?" he said. "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."

"We weren't there," he added. "I can't judge him."

The new comments come just a week after Daniels confirmed that Smollett would not be returning for the final season of Empire, despite his contract being pushed for a potential return. He admitted during the interview that the decision to wrap up the musical drama with Season 6 came partly because of Smollett's scandal.

Despite the show coming to an end on Fox, Daniels hinted it may not be the total end for the show's universe.

"Empire in its current iteration may be over, but Empire is far from over," Daniels told the outlet.

"We're trying something out, and if it works, then Empire is over, and we have a great spinoff," he added. "And if it doesn't, then Empire may not very well be over. But the intent is to have our last season with a great spinoff."

Smollett was indicted in March with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report claiming two men attacked him in an alleged homophobic and racist hate crime in Chicago. He pleaded not guilty to the allegations and all charges against him were dropped suddenly in March.

While Smollett has not responded Daniel's confirmation of his exit, his rep spoke on his behalf when the show was first renewed for Season 6.

"We've been told that Jussie will not be on Empire in the beginning of the season but he appreciates they have extended his contract to keep Jamal's future open. Most importantly he is grateful to Fox and Empire leadership, cast, crew and fans for their unwavering support," the rep said in a statement.


Empire will return for its final season in fall 2019.