In an interview with Vulture, filmmaker and television showrunner Lee Daniels said that he is “beyond embarrassed” by his public support of former “Empire” star Jussie Smollett.
The “Empire” creator was one of Smollett’s biggest supporters when the story broke about him being the victim of an alleged homophobic and racist attack in Chicago in January. Daniels admitted during the interview that he regrets being so vocal with his support after his friend was accused of faking the attack for publicity in order to get a pay rise.
“I’m beyond embarrassed,” Daniels told Vulture. “I think that when it happened, I had a flash of me running from bullies. I had a flash of my whole life, of my childhood, my youth, getting beaten.”
Daniels admitted he does have some doubts that his account of the attack was true.
“Of course, there’s some doubt. I’m telling you that because I love him so much,” Daniels told Vulture. “That’s the torture that I’m in right now, because it’s literally, ‘If it were to happen to your son and your child, how would you feel?’ You would feel, ‘please, God, please let there be that glimmer of hope that there is some truth in this story.’ That’s why it’s been so painful. It was a flood of pain.”
And the director admitted he pulled away from Smollett – who maintains that the attack was not a hoax – in the wake of the scandal, because it was having too much of an impact on his own life.
“I had to detach myself and stop calling him, because it was taking away the time I have for my kids, the time I have for my partner,” Daniels said. “It was affecting my spirit and other shows, everything.”
He recently refuted reports that Smollett would return for the final season of “Empire.”