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"Empire" Co-Creator Lee Daniels Says The Cast Has Experienced "Pain And Anger" After The Jussie Smollett Case

"These past couple of weeks have been a freakin' roller coaster."

Posted on March 20, 2019, at 9:06 p.m. ET

Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

(Left to right) Actors Trai Byers, Bryshere "Yazz" Gray, co-creator Lee Daniels, and actor Jussie Smollett on March 11, 2016.

Empire co-creator Lee Daniels on Wednesday said the cast has experienced "pain and anger and sadness and frustration" after actor Jussie Smollett was charged with staging a hate crime in Chicago and lying to police.

Smollett pleaded not guilty last week after a grand jury in Cook County, Illinois, indicted the actor on 16 felony counts, finding there was enough evidence of him lying to multiple police officials and filing the false report. Smollett, who black and openly gay, told police he was attacked in early morning hours of Jan. 29 by two men who yelled anti-gay slurs, threw a bleachlike chemical on him, put a rope around his neck, and referenced President Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan.

When the alleged attack was initially reported, the case made national headlines and people, including those in Hollywood, came out in support of the actor. However, when police said Smollett had staged the entire thing, many of his early supporters were left grappling with how to handle the case, especially as the actor insisted that he was attacked.

Speaking in an Instagram post Wednesday, Lee said the last couple weeks had been a roller coaster.

"These past couple of weeks have been a freakin' roller coaster," he said. "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?"

Mark Geragos, a lawyer for Smollett, has said the charges are β€œnothing more than a desperate attempt to make headlines" in order to distract from the internal investigation launched to investigate the leaks to the press and invasion of privacy allegations.

Geragos also called the number of charges overkill, and said the indictment was "redundant and vindictive."

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