Allegations that Jussie Smollett’s motivation for purportedly staging a racist attack on himself was a pay rise on Empire have caught production sources by surprise—they say they never heard Smollett complain about his remuneration package, believed to be some $125,000 per episode.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the actor staged the attack to look like a hate crime, to take “advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career... because he was dissatisfied with his salary.”
Smollett has insisted he is innocent, and appears to have some support from fellow cast members, although he has been written out of the rest of the current series, with his lawyers saying the presumption of innocence has been “trampled upon” in his case. They added that Smollett, who has been on the Empire cast since 2015, “is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”
TMZ now reports that execs are doubting the motive given by police, saying Smollett never complained about his salary, and that no producers “heard even a whisper from Jussie grousing he was underpaid.”
Smollett was in the middle of a long-term contract and was pulling in a reported $125,000 per episode.
TMZ adds that Smollett’s “main focus” recently had been music, saying he was “upset his first album didn’t do well and was stressed out over the debuts of his new songs and music videos.”
Smollett is facing a felony charge of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. He was released from custody after posting a $10,000 bond last week.
Smollett, who is gay, told investigators he was beaten by two masked men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs, wrapped a rope around his neck, and poured bleach on him.
He also told investigators that the men who attacked yelled, “This is MAGA country!”
It has been reported that he wrote a $3,500 check to Abel Osundairo, a close friend who is accused, with his brother, of having carried out the phony attack.