attackcrimeCultureempireHomophobiaJussie SmollettRACISM

‘Empire’ Star Jussie Smollett Attacked in ‘Possible Hate Crime’

Jussie Smollett was hospitalized in Chicago on Tuesday following an assault that the police called a “possible hate crime,” TMZ and Variety have reported.

According to a statement from the Chicago Police Department, the 35-year-old star of Empire was approached by two offenders who were “yelling out racial and homophobic slurs” before they physically battered and “poured an unknown chemical substance” on him. Before fleeing the scene, the offenders “wrapped a rope” around his neck, police said. Smollett went to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and is now in “good condition,” according to the statement.

In 2015—the same year the character he portrays on Empire, Jamal Lyon, came out as gay—Smollett himself spoke publicly for the first time about his sexuality, in a one-on-one backstage conversation with Ellen DeGeneres.

“It was really important to me to make sure that it got across that there is no closet,” Smollett said in the interview, reported by ABC. “There’s never been a closet that I’ve been in. I don’t own a closet, I got a dresser, but I don’t have a closet. But I have a home and that is my responsibility to protect that home. So that’s why I choose not to talk about my personal life.”

In a statement to the Hollywood Reporter, GLAAD said it reached out to Smollett’s team to offer help, writing: “Jussie is a true champion for LGBTQ people and is beloved by the community and allies around the world.”

Other actors and advocates have been sharing messages of support on Twitter.

Smollett’s character in Empire, Jamal Lyon, came out in season one’s “The Lyon’s Roar.” He did it via performance, changing a lyric from his dad’s hit song “You’re So Beautiful” to: “This the kind of song that makes a man love a man.” The plot point echoed the way Frank Ocean came out through the lyrics on his album Channel Orange and his open letter on Tumblr, and was one of the many touches that made Empire feel so authentic. It’s one of the first widely broadcasted shows with a black, gay male lead, and remains one of the only TV series that addresses homophobia and abuse head on. In 2015, Nielsen reported that the show was watched in 33 percent of black households.

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Follow Nicole Clark on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

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