Lee Daniels Speaks Out About the Empire Cast's 'Pain and Anger' After Jussie Smollett Scandal
"Me and my cast have experienced pain and anger and sadness and frustration and really don't know how to deal with it," said Empire creator Lee Daniels
In an Instagram post on Wednesday, Daniels, 59, told fans in a video that he was “back and I’m finally ok” in the wake of the incident at the end of January, when Smollett — who stars as main character Jamal Lyon on the Fox drama — claimed two masked men attacked him and used racist and homophobic slurs.
“I’m back. Oh my God, these past couple of weeks have been a freakin’ roller coaster,” began the show’s creator, who first spoke out about the alleged incident shortly after the news broke nearly two months ago.
“Me and my cast have experienced pain and anger and sadness and frustration and really don’t know how to deal with it. You know?” Daniels said in the video.
“‘Cause it happened, everything has happened, what you are seeing tonight, prior to the incident,” he said, noting the upcoming episode. “And this is not what the show was made for.”
Daniels concluded, “The show was made to bring America together, to talk about the atrocities that are happening right now in the streets.”
Last week, the Empire actor, facing a judge in a Chicago courtroom on Thursday, pleaded not guilty to the allegation that he lied to police when he said he was attacked on the street in January by two men in what authorities say was a staged incident to draw attention to himself, according to WGN, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Associated Press.
Smollett, 36, was arrested Feb. 20, about three weeks after the alleged incident initially portrayed by the gay and black actor as a hate crime. He later was indicted on 16 counts of disorderly conduct for making false reports.
“Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence even if law enforcement has robbed him of that presumption,” his attorney, Mark Geragos, said in a statement released to PEOPLE after those indictments were announced.
Representatives for Smollett did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment at the time.
Smollett and his legal team previously said they are gearing up to launch an “aggressive defense,” according to his attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson.
“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked,” Pugh and Henderson said in a statement given to PEOPLE. “Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
If Smollett is found guilty, falsifying a police report is a Class 4 felony which carries a potential sentence of up to three years in prison.
WATCH: The Brothers Who Allegedly Helped Stage the Attack on Jussie Smollett Issue Apology
After being arrested and quickly posting a bond that allowed his release from jail last month, Smollett returned to the Chicago set of Empire. His character on the show, however, has been removed from the final two episodes of season 5 to “avoid further disruption on set,” the Fox show’s executive producers previously said in a statement.
“You have to stay strong, stay positive, full of hope,” Henson, 48, told Extra in New York City on Sunday, adding that her costars on the Fox show are “strong.”
Empire airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on Fox.