With so much intrigue around the Jussie Smollett scandal, not many people realize how it affected those who are still tied to Empire, the hit FOX series that Smollett starred in from the show’s inception.
As the show enters its last season without Smollett, former co-star Serayah told Yahoo! Entertainment how his very public situation resonated with her.
“I think the Jussie thing impacted all of us, as it did the world that watched it on TV,” said Serayah, who plays “Tiana,” a mega watt pop star similar to Queen Bey. “I felt so close but so far from the situation, because I had no idea, like anyone else.”
In January, Smollett claimed to have been the victim of a hate crime after grabbing something to eat in Chicago. He alleged that two men attacked him, called him homophobic slurs, placed a noose around his neck and poured an unknown substance on him before they ran off.
After an investigation by the Chicago Police Department, Smollett was accused a staging the attack after two Nigerian brothers, one of whom worked as an extra on Empire, came forward to confess to being paid by Smollett to attack him. Legal charges were eventually dropped against the actor, who continues to deny the claims, but his character was still removed from the show last season.
According to Yahoo! Entertainment, Serayah said she was “staying positive” for Smollett and “hoping that he would get it cleared up or figured out.” She, however, declined to comment about the show’s handling of the situation.
Despite the controversy, she did express how much fun it has been to play her character and noted the effort that goes into her role as well.
“It’s definitely really fun. It’s hard work, though. I think I see the payoff when I see it on Wednesday on TV, but while I’m shooting 18-hour days, dancing in heels, [it’s] not that, not that great,” the actress said with a laugh. “But it’s awesome when I see the outcome, and I get to play dress-up and be a pop star for a living.”
Empire will return in the fall without Smillette for it’s sixth and final season.