“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett is speaking out for the first time to let fans know he is “OK” after he was allegedly attacked Tuesday by two men in what police are investigating as a possible hate crime.
“Let me start by saying that I’m OK,” Smollett told Fox News on Friday. “My body is strong but my soul is stronger. More importantly I want to say thank you. The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words.”
The actor’s statement comes a day after his family thanked fans for their support and said they are “hopeful” police will find the men who allegedly attacked the actor and “bring them to justice.”
Smollet also said he is working cooperating with police, adding that he has been “100% factual and consistent on every level.”
“Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served,” the actor stated.
Chicago Police told Fox News on Thursday they continue to sift through hundreds of public and private surveillance cameras in the high-end area of downtown Chicago where the alleged incident occurred on Tuesday morning but they still haven’t found video of the attack or the men who match Smollett’s description of the suspects.
“As my family stated, these types of cowardly attacks are happening to my sisters, brothers and non-gender conforming siblings daily. I am not and should not be looked upon as an isolated incident. We will talk soon and I will address all details of this horrific incident, but I need a moment to process,” the actor concluded. “Most importantly, during times of trauma, grief and pain, there is still a responsibility to lead with love. It’s all I know. And that can’t be kicked out of me.”
Smollett, who is African-American and gay and plays the openly gay character Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox television show, told police he was beaten by two men who subjected him to racist and homophobic insults, threw an “unknown chemical substance” on him and put a thin rope around his neck before fleeing. He returned to his apartment afterward and his manager called police from there about 40 minutes later. When officers arrived, the actor had cuts and scrapes on his face and the rope was draped around his neck. Smollett later went to a hospital for treatment.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said there are still many more videos for investigators to collect and go through as they try to get a complete picture of Smollett’s walk home. It is tedious work that is made more difficult because the timestamps on various cameras may not be in sync, meaning detectives have to figure out the exact times of events, he said.
“It’s like putting together a puzzle,” he explained.
This image provided by the Chicago Police Department and taken from surveillance video shows two people of interest in an attack on “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett walking along a street in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago, early Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019. (Courtesy of Chicago Police Department via AP)
Guglielmi said Smollett and his manager told detectives they were talking on the phone at the time of the attack, but that the actor and his manager declined to turn over his phone records to the detectives, who routinely ask for such information during criminal investigations.
Meanwhile, police are hoping to identify and talk to two people who were walking in the area at the time of the attack and whose images police released to the public late Wednesday. Guglielmi stressed that the people are not considered suspects and that police want to question them because they were in the vicinity and might have information that could be useful to the investigation.
Reports of the attack drew a flood of outrage and support for Smollett on social media. Some of the outrage stemmed from Smollett’s account to detectives that his attackers yelled that he was in “MAGA country,” an apparent reference to the Trump campaign’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
In addition to his acting career, Smollett has a music career and is a noted activist, particularly on LBGTQ issues. Smollett’s representative said his concert scheduled for Saturday in Los Angeles will go on as planned.
Now in its fifth season, the hourlong drama “Empire” follows an African-American family as they navigate the ups and downs of the record industry. Smollett’s character is the middle son of Empire Entertainment founder Lucious Lyon and Cookie Lyon, played by Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, respectively.
L-R: Taraji P. Henson and Jussie Smollett in the “Treasons, Stratagems, and Spoils” episode of “Empire.” (Fox via Getty)
Chicago has one of the nation’s most sophisticated and extensive video surveillance systems, including thousands of cameras on street poles, skyscrapers, buses and in train tunnels.
Police say the cameras have helped them make thousands of arrests. In one of the best-known examples of the department’s use of the cameras, investigators in 2009 were able to recreate a school board president’s 20-minute drive through the city, singling out his car on a succession of surveillance cameras to help them determine that he committed suicide and had not been followed and killed by someone else, as his friends speculated.
Matt Finn and the Associated Press contributed to this report.