As the saga surrounding Empire star Jussie Smollett continues to show no signs of coming to a close anytime soon, his boss, Lee Daniels, is standing by his side.
In New York to produce an Off-Broadway play while Empire is on hiatus, the uber producer spoke with Extra about the woes plaguing Smollett — and the Empire cast as a result.
“The cast is upset, it is a sad time, and we are slowly healing,” Daniels said of the impact the drama surrounding Smollett — and accusations that he paid two brothers to stage a racist and homophobic attack on him — has had on the Empire family.
However, Smollett has maintained his innocence, and Daniels, telling Extra that the actor is like a son to him, says he can only be supportive.
“What I am learning right now is I can’t judge [...] that judgement is for that man wearing that black coat with gavel, and God,” Daniels said. “I can only support him because he is like my son; he is my son. So I am with him; I can only support him and give him compassion.”
Lee is in New York producing the play Ain’t No Mo’, by 23-year-old playwright Jordan E. Cooper, whom Daniels discovered.
Playing at the Public Theater through May 5, the production was described thusly by Daniels:
“It’s about the last African Americans that leave to go to Africa, a drag queen is your flight attendant, Obama is your pilot and you laugh and you cry and I have never seen anything like it in my life.”
Lee is hoping to bring it to Broadway and make a film that he would direct in the future.