Taraji P. Henson Says 'Empire' Cast Is Staying 'Strong' amid Jussie Smollett Scandal

Jussie Smollett stands accused of filing a false report claiming two men attacked him in an apparent hate crime

It’s a difficult time for the cast of Empire.

Speaking to Extra in New York City on Sunday at the premiere of her new movie, The Best of Enemies, Taraji P. Henson briefly touched on the scandal engulfing her costar Jussie Smollett, who has been indicted with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report claiming two men attacked him in an apparent hate crime in January.

“You have to stay strong, stay positive, full of hope,” said Henson, 48, adding that her costars on the Fox show are “strong.”

2015 FOX Programming Presentation
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Smollett, who pleaded not guilty to all charges last week, has maintained his innocence.

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.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, showrunner Brett Mahoney admitted the scandal has been an “emotional roller coaster” for the cast and crew.

“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, which are also just heightened emotionally,” 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.”

Mahoney also said they haven’t made any decisions regarding Smollett’s future on the show as they wait for the legal process to play out.

“It’s too early to think about what we would have to do if we didn’t have Jussie,” he said. “We have such a strong ensemble and we have so many stories to tell for all of these fascinating characters that it’s bigger than one character, but it’s too early to think about the show without him.”

Empire airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on Fox.

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