Fox Studios Responds After ‘Empire’ Actor Jussie Smollett Gets Arrested

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
February 21, 2019Entertainment
Fox Studios Responds After ‘Empire’ Actor Jussie Smollett Gets Arrested
Jussie Smollett in a Feb. 21, 2019, mugshot. (Chicago Police Department via AP)

The company that produces “Empire” reacted to the news that actor Jussie Smollett was arrested on suspicion of faking a hate crime.

Twentieth Century Fox Television said in a statement that after the felony charge, executives are “evaluating the situation and considering our options.”

“We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options,” the company stated.

The statement came just one day after the studios issued a statement of support for Smollett.

“Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show,” Fox studios said in a statement.

That statement was in reaction to reports that Smollett’s motivation for allegedly orchestrating the attack on himself was because he was being written off the show.

Several “Empire” writers also disputed that report.

But Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said during a press conference on Feb. 21, that investigators believe, based an extensive probe, that Smollett orchestrated the fake attack because he “was dissatisfied with his salary.”

The salary for Smollett isn’t publicly available but a source told reporter Yashar Ali that Smollett was being paid $65,000 per episode for his role on “Empire,” noting that on average a season has 18 episodes.

Johnson confirmed that two brothers, Abel and Ola Osundairo, at least one of whom have been extras on “Empire,” was paid $3,500 by Smollett for planning out the bogus assault. He said authorities obtained the check that Smollett wrote the brothers.

Smollett has acknowledged knowing the brothers, saying he hired one as a personal trainer, but has denied having any involvement with the alleged attack against him.

The actor initially said that in the early hours of Jan. 29, he was attacked by two white men wearing ski masks who shouted slurs and a statement in support of President Donald Trump.

The Osundairos are black.

Abel Osundairo, left, and his brother Ola Osundairo
Abel Osundairo, left, and his brother Ola Osundairo, in a file photo. The Nigerian brothers were arrested in connection with the alleged attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett but were released after reportedly telling detectives Smollett paid them to stage the attack. (Team Abel/Instagram)
apartment searched in smollett case
This Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019 photo shows an apartment that was searched by police in connection with an investigation of an alleged attack on actor Jussie Smollett in Chicago that he said happened on Jan. 29, 2019. (Nader Issa/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Chicago police said they treated Smollett as a victim for weeks but the trajectory of the investigation shifted after the brothers gave them crucial information indicating that they attacked the actor on his orders.

Smollett is also believed to have orchestrated the sending of a letter to himself, which arrived at the “Empire” studio in Chicago earlier in January. The letter featured a crude drawing of a figure hanging from a noose and letters cut out from a magazine spelling out a threat.

“It’s just despicable. It makes you wonder what’s going on in someone’s mind to be able to do something like that,” Johnson told reporters on Friday.

“I’m left hanging my head and asking why? Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile?”

A magazine and a book of stamps were among the evidence police seized from the brothers’ apartment. The FBI and the U.S. Postal Service are investigating the letter’s origins and Johnson said he couldn’t comment on that probe.

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