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During an interview with Good Morning America, the actor said the show’s cast and crew learned about the attack while they were on the set.
“Jaws dropped to the ground,” he said. “And then when we learned that there had been letters that had been sent to Fox as threats about the potential of something like this, then we became much more frightened.”
The Lucious Lyon star said he heard Smollett was “getting better.” And even though Howard said Smollett was “angry,” he said he will forgive his attackers.
“Jussie’s anger will dissipate, and he will forgive these people for what they did,” Howard said. “But he won’t, and we cannot, forget their actions. They have to be forgiven because it was done out of ignorance.”
He also spoke highly of his co-star.
“Jussie’s the one that starts singing when everybody’s in a bad mood,” he added. “He’s the one that cheers everybody up. He’s the one that does all the Instagrams if he catches you sleeping….Today, no one was caught sleeping. No one even took time to close their eyes and nap. They were all in shock that our family—you know, the Fox family, the Empire family, the Lyon family—you know, were attacked by a bunch of hyenas today.”
Chicago Police Department Chief Spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told E! News that it was a “possible racially-charged assault and battery.” Guglielmi added, “Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime. Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline.”
20th Century FOX Television and FOX Entertainment, who makes Empire, spoke out about the attack, too. “We are deeply saddened and outraged to learn that a member of our EMPIRE family, Jussie Smollett, was viciously attacked last night,” they said in a statement sent to E! News. “We send our love to Jussie, who is resilient and strong, and we will work with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice. The entire studio, network and production stands united in the face of any despicable act of violence and hate — and especially against one of our own.”
Daniels then told him to “keep your head up.”
Empire writer Danny Strong said he was “deeply horrified and saddened by the racist and homophobic attacks.”