Empire actor Jussie Smollett’s alleged attack in Chicago in January drew outrage across the entertainment world and beyond. But the attack which was first investigated as a hate crime may have a new angle.
ABC 7 Chicago reporter Rob Elgas tweeted on Thursday that a source said the attack may have been a setup in order to get Smollett attention after his Empire role was being written off.
Smollett claims he was brutally attacked, with racial and homophobic slurs directed toward him by unknown assailants. But according to Elgas, those attackers may have been plotting with Smollett himself to stage the incident.
As The Hollywood Reporter noted on Thursday, this report came after police apparently singled out persons of interest in the attack.
This news also comes after a report by CBS Chicago said the police raided the home of two persons of interest in the attack on Wednesday night. The local news outlet reports that both men are of Nigerian descent and have appeared as extras on the show.
CBS Chicago reporter Charles De Mar tweeted on Thursday that he “asked family why they think police picked the two brothers up for questioning and they replied by saying the men left for #Nigeria the day of the attack.”
The report also claims that police took bleach, shoes, electronics and other items from the home and that Smollett was questioned on Thursday as well.
This comes after Smollett rebuffed skepticism about the attack following his appearance on Good Morning America, his first public appearance after the alleged attack. Smollett said he was “pissed off” that people doubted his story, but on Thursday that list apparently included the police.
UPDATE: Chicago Police Department chief communications officer tweeted on Thursday night, denying that it was investigating the incident as a “staged” event.
Meanwhile, The Wrap reported on Thursday that Smollett was not being written off the show:
20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment added: “The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of EMPIRE is patently ridiculous. He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.”
And Smollet’s rep, Pamela Sharp, told TheWrap: “Jussie is NOT being written off Empire.
Today Jussie did answer routine followup questions for Chicago Police Department and continues to cooperate.”
That was one of the reasons floated as to why Smollett may have staged the attack. But according to the Chicago police, that apparent shift in investigation hasn’t happened.