“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett reportedly auditioned for a role in a play which mirrored the purported hate crime attack against him late last month.
According to the Daily Mail, Smollett, 35, participated in two readings of Tony-winning play “Take Me Out” in New York City on January 28, a day before the reported attack in Chicago. In the play, the lead, a biracial baseball player, is attacked by a new pitcher—who calls him a “f****t” and “n****r”—after coming out as gay. The tabloid noted that the men play on a team called the New York Empires.
Afterward, Smollett reportedly traveled to La Guardia Airport to fly to Chicago, where he was to film the final episodes of Empire’s fourth season. A source told the Daily Mail that Smollett used his Instagram stories to alert brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo of a delay while en route.
One of the Instagram posts reportedly read, “Guess who is still on this motherf**king runway after two hours?”
“Hey it’s me again…think i took off yet? Naaaaah…,” the actor purportedly wrote in a post two hours later. It is unclear why the source believes that Smollett posted Instagram stories about his flight delay as a way of alerting the brothers.
Smollett reportedly updated his Instagram story when he finally took off and when he arrived in Chicago around midnight. He’s believed to have walked to a local Subway at 2 a.m. and reported that two men attacked as he exited the restaurant.
The play draws a noteworthy comparison to what Smollett reportedly claimed the masked assailants said to him during the January 29 assault. According to reports, the black, openly gay actor told police that the suspects asked him, “Aren’t you that f**** ‘Empire’ n****r?” moments before the assault. He allegedly said the suspects then tied a noose around his neck and dumped a liquid on him before fleeing the scene.
The Osundairos, who are reportedly extras on the hit show, were arrested as persons of interest last week before they were were released from custody without charges. WBBM reported that the pair are cooperating with authorities, with sources telling the news station that Smollett paid them $3,500 to orchestrate the attack.
The actor’s lawyers denied that the apparent hate crime was staged in the following statement to WBBM:
“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”
[Featured image: Jussie Smollett/Raymond Hagans, MediaPunch, IPX via AP]