Entertainment

Lee Daniels opens up on 'Empire' team's 'pain' and 'sadness'

Producer speaks about Jussie Smollett controversy

(CNN) - Lee Daniels is speaking out about what life has been like on "Empire" during the Jussie Smollett controversy.

Smollett, who stars as Jamal Lyon on the show, has pleaded not guilty to charges related to allegations that he staged a hate crime in Chicago and filed a false police report.

The actor has been indicted on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct by a Cook County grand jury. Smollett has denied he was involved in orchestrating the attack, and is currently free on bail.

Mark Geragos, one of Smollett's attorneys and a CNN legal analyst, said the actor maintains his innocence and called the indictment "prosecutorial overkill."

"This redundant and vindictive indictment is nothing more than a desperate attempt to make headlines," Geragos said.

In January, Smollett reported to police that he had been attacked in an incident that included a noose being placed around his neck. Police initially investigated it as a possible hate crime.

Daniels posted a video on Instagram Wednesday prior to the airing of "Empire" and the other Fox series he also created, "Star."

While he didn't mention Smollett by name in the video, Daniels wrote in the caption "I was so in my feelings last week that I forgot to post about @empirefox & @staronfox .... I guess y'all know why...anyway I'm back and I'm finally ok!!!!

"These past couple of weeks have been a freakin' roller coaster," Daniels said in the video. "We have, me and my cast, have experienced pain and anger and sadness and frustration and really don't know how to deal with it."

"Everything has happened, what you are seeing tonight, prior to the incident," he added. "This was not what the show is made for. The show was made to bring America together...to talk about the atrocities that are happening right now in the streets."

Daniels was one of the first in Hollywood to support Smollett after the incident, posting a video on Instagram in which he said "It's taken me a minute to come to social media about this because, Jussie, you are my son."

"You didn't deserve -- nor anybody deserves -- to have a noose put around your neck, to have bleach thrown on you," Daniels said at the time. "To be called 'die f****t,' 'n****r' or whatever they said to you. You are better than that. We are better than that. America is better than that."

Daniels was one of the producers who released a statement last month that Smollett had been cut from the final two episodes of the current season.

"The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us," the statement said. "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."


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