Jussie Smollett may have been suspended from Empire, but his coworkers are still grappling with police accusations that the 36-year-old faked a racist and homophobic attack that took place on January 29. The Hollywood Reporter spoke to a number of sources both at Fox and in the industry who never would have believed Smollett was capable of these allegations.
Smollett initially claimed that two men yelled homophobic and racist comments before attacking him with rope and a chemical. However, police shifted their thinking after questioning the two suspects and reviewing texts and payments. Smollett maintains his innocence, but the whole ordeal has puzzled those who knew him.
"I'm trying to filter all this information through the experiences I've had with him and it doesn't connect," a reportedly "high-ranking show source" told THR.
THR also referenced a Billboard interview from 2018, in which Smollett may have hinted at dissatisfaction, particularly towards how certain issues like mental health are approached in the entertainment industry.
"I admit that I'm jealous, I admit that I'm insecure and that I'm not good at certain things," he said, adding, "I'm in my 30s and I'm trying my best to learn that I can't bend anymore. I'm about to break."
Other sources had different reasonings. A family friend reportedly told THR that Smollett is "a good guy, but he’s also an actor, and actors sometimes crave attention, and that comes out in weird ways."
Meanwhile, the police say they have additional evidence other than what was presented during last week's press conference. Until the case is sorted, Smollett will not appear in this season's final two episodes of Empire.
"The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us," FOX said in a statement via Twitter. "Jussie has been an important member of our Empire family for the past five years, and we care about him deeply. While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out. We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of ‘Jamal’ from the final two episodes of the season."