Embattled actor Jussie Smollett is already back on the set of Empire — with added security — mere hours after appearing at Chicago’s Cook County criminal court. After posting $100,000 bail, the 36-year-old headed back to the set of the Fox drama on Thursday, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.
The Fox drama is currently shooting the penultimate episode of season five. As the legal process has unfolded over what local authorities are calling a hoax attack, the writers of the Lee Daniels and Danny Strong drama have multiple options they are considering for the season finale. Those options include keeping Smollett’s character, fan-favorite Jamal Lyon, in the script or writing the embattled actor out of the episode.
Empire is currently awaiting word on a potential sixth season. The series, which ranks as Fox’s No. 2 drama (behind Ryan Murphy’s 911), is owned by 20th Century Fox Television. The latter studio is poised to become a Disney-owned company as part of Fox’s $71 billion asset sale, which is an extra layer of complication to renewal talks for several series — including Empire.
After publicly backing Smollett, the network and studio on Thursday following his arrest, said in a statement that they are “evaluating” the actor’s situation and “considering our options.”
In a detailed bond proffer that outlines the case, the prosecutors allege that the actor wrote a $3,500 personal check to Nigerian, U.S.-born brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo in order to stage a Jan. 29 attack where the duo would yell “This is MAGA country” along with shouting racist slurs at Smollett.
The actor, the prosecutors claim, had met Abel Osundario on the set of Fox’s Empire, where Osundario had been working as a stand-in for the character Kai. Smollett allegedly also gave a $100 bill to the brothers in order to buy “rope, gasoline, ski masks, gloves and red baseball caps” to be used in the staged attack. (Bleach was then later swapped in for gasoline as part of the plan, prosecutors say.)
Police arrived at Smollett’s Chicago apartment around 2:42 am on Jan. 29. “Chicago Police Officers observed that Smollett had a rope draped around his neck. This was captured on police worn body camera. Seconds later, Smollett asked the Police to shut off the cameras,” the bond proffer reads. The investigation into what was described as a hate crime then became a probe into disorderly conduct over filing a false police report.
Prosecutors noted Smollett’s Feb. 13 interview on Good Morning America with anchor Robin Roberts, noting that when the actor described his attackers as white he “further misled the police and the public.”
During the nearly 17-minute GMA interview, Smollett extensively detailed the alleged attack and said he fought his assailants, adding, “We live in a society where as a gay man you are somehow considered to be weak. I am not weak, and we as a people are not weak.”
Chicago prosecutors also referenced a letter that was sent to Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, where Empire is filmed, that stated “Smollett Jessie you will die black f—” and “MAGA.” Police have alleged that Smollett faked the letter also.
In the GMA interview, Smollett expressed hope that his attackers would be held to account, saying, “I was talking to a friend and I said, ‘I just want them to find them.'”
This story was originally published on The Hollywood Reporter.