The actor returned to the Empire set just days after his alleged attack
On Wednesday, the two opened up about the incident at Fox’s Television Critics Association winter press tour, while appearing on the “Voices of Drama” panel. Their words came days after Smollett, 35, returned to the Empire set.
“The attack on Jussie, because he is such a beloved member of our family, hurt us all very hard,” Mahoney said. “But Jussie is a proud gay black man, and I don’t know whether the cowards who attacked him were trying to beat the gay, the black or the pride out of him, but that’s impossible because he’s strong.”
“We’re happy that he is back at work, and he’s happy to be back at work,” Mahoney continued.
Smollett made his first public appearance since the attack on Saturday, addressing the terrifying incident while performing at the Troubadour in Los Angeles.
“There are so many words on my heart that I want to say,” he said. “The most important thing that I can say, to keep it simple, thank you so much. I’m okay … I’m not fully healed yet, but I’m going to. I’m going to stand strong with y’all.”
“I had to be here tonight,” he added. “I couldn’t let those motherf—ers win. So I will always stand for love, I will never stand for anything other than that. Regardless of what anyone else says, I will only stand for love. I hope that you all stand with me.”
He also clarified reports about the apparent hate crime.
“Just because there has been a lot of stuff that has been said about me that is absolutely not true, there are just a couple of points that I wanted to make really quick,” he said. “I was bruised, but my ribs were not cracked. I went to the doctor immediately — I was not hospitalized. Both my doctors in L.A. and Chicago cleared me to perform but said to take it easy, obviously. And, above all, I fought the f— back.”
At the TCAs, Strong praised Smollett’s statement.
“I think everything you want to know about Jussie, you could see from his statement when he performed on Saturday night, which was a statement of defiance for what happened to him and then a statement of love,” Strong said. “He’s truly a very special person, which is how he got cast as Jamal, because we needed someone truly special to play that part, and it was him. So I’m not surprised at all by the class and the poise of his response to what has happened.”
Asked if the attack could inspire a storyline on the drama, Mahoney said, “I think a story like this could happen in Empire, just because it is such a timely story. But not as a result of this.”
“We’re really concerned about security for the cast and the crew. That’s the priority,” Strong said. “I don’t know [if it will be a storyline] yet. We’re just worried about him right now, so as far as where it goes, it’s not being discussed.”
At around 2 a.m. in Chicago on Jan. 29, Smollett transported himself to a doctor after he was the victim of an apparent hate crime.
The Chicago Police Department previously confirmed in a statement that a member of the hit Fox show was involved in a “racially-charged assault and battery.”
“Two unknown offenders approached him and gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs towards him,” the statement continued. “The offenders began to batter the victim with their hands about the face and poured an unknown chemical substance on the victim. At some point during the incident, one of the offenders wrapped a rope around the victim’s neck. The offenders fled the scene.”
On Thursday, Smollett’s family released a statement about the attack.
“We want to be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime. Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning. His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice,” they said. “Our family thanks everyone for their prayers and the huge amount of love he has received. We are thankful to our village for your immense support during this trying time. We are so grateful that God saw him through this cowardly attack alive. Jussie is a warrior whose light cannot be dimmed.”