(CHICAGO) — Ahead of the midseason return of Empire tonight, the show’s executive producer Brett Mahoney is opening up for the the first time on what the shocking allegations against Jussie Smollett means for his character and the show.
Smollett was charged with 16 felony counts related to his claim that he was the victim of a brutal hate crime at the hands of “racist” supporters of President Trump in Chicago early in the morning of January 29.
After a thorough investigation, police declared it a hoax, and that Smollett hired two brothers of Nigerian descent, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, to carry out the fake attack.
Smollett denied the claims.
Mahoney tells Entertainment Weekly that the last two months have been “an emotional rollercoaster.“
“You have someone in your family who’s going through this, while at the same time, we’re shooting the final episodes of the season…” he said. “So it was a lot to deal with and a lot to go through, but we’re really just focused on finishing strong.”
In regards to Smollett being written out of the final two episodes of the series, Mahoney says it was a “difficult decision,” but one they were able to make work because of the “strong ensemble” and available stories to tell.
“Allowing Jussie the time to really deal with what he’s been confronted with and allow him the time to focus and prepare his case, this seems like the logical decision to make,” he added.
Mahoney says it’s still “too early” for anyone to think about the show without Smollett, so for now, he’s “trusting the process and allowing the legal process to play out.”
However, in response to the rumors that Empire will be cancelled because of the controversy, the Emprie exec says he’s “confident” there will be another season.
Empire returns Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.