“Empire” star Jussie Smollett was hospitalized early Tuesday following an assault in Chicago in what is described as a possible hate crime, Variety has confirmed.
According to a statement released by the Chicago Police Department, Smollett was beaten by two men who approached him by yelling out “racial and homophobic slurs” at approximately 2 a.m. Tuesday morning in the 300 block of E. North Water Street. They proceeded to assault Smollett and “poured an unknown chemical substance” on him.
The two men are also said to have put a rope around Smollett’s neck before fleeing on foot. Smollett then transported himself to an area hospital and is described as being in “good condition.”
Chicago PD’s chief communications officer Anthony Gugliemi announced on Twitter Tuesday evening that detectives had “expanded the search area for cameras to be able to provide photos of the alleged assailants in this attack.” He added that no video of the alleged assailants or their vehicle had yet been found.
Smollett had posted on Instagram late Monday night saying he had arrived in the city “after spending 7 hours on a plane for a 2 hour flight.” According to TMZ, Smollett had gone out for food after landing when the assault occurred.
“We are deeply saddened and outraged to learn that a member of our ‘Empire’ family, Jussie Smollett, was viciously attacked last night,” 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said in a statement. “We send our love to Jussie, who is resilient and strong, and we will work with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice. The entire studio, network and production stands united in the face of any despicable act of violence and hate — and especially against one of our own.”
GLAAD also released a statement on the incident, saying, “GLAAD reached out to Fox and Jussie’s team today to offer assistance as well as support for him. Jussie is a true champion for LGBTQ people and is beloved by the community and allies around the world.”
SAG-AFTRA called the attack “a vicious and violent crime that cannot be tolerated.”
“We have spoken with Mr. Smollett’s representatives and FOX executives to offer our support and have sent a SAG-AFTRA representative to the ‘Empire’ set to assist any of our members who may be in distress,” the union said in a statement. “We urge the Chicago authorities to move swiftly to identify, arrest and prosecute Mr. Smollett’s attackers and if applicable, to refer the case for prosecution under federal hate crime laws. We stand with Jussie Smollett, LGBTQ people and all marginalized communities in rejecting intolerance and brutality. An attack on one is an attack on all.”
Smollett received rave reviews for his breakout role as Jamal Lyon on “Empire.” The character publicly came out as gay during the show’s record-breaking first season. Smollett himself came out during an interview with Ellen DeGeneres in 2015.
“I am disgusted and saddened by the attack on Jussie, one of the nicest and most genuine people I have worked with,” “Empire” executive producer Brian Grazer said in a statement. “I send him much love on his recovery. Hate and bigotry have no place in our society.”
ABC News reported Tuesday that an earlier threat had been made in letter form to Smollett. Investigation of the incident has now been handed over to the FBI.