Production sources who worked with Jussie Smollett on the “Empire” have said they don’t believe he staged a fake hate crime to get leverage for a bigger per-episode salary — and that he never indicated he was unhappy with his earnings.
Sources told TMZ that Smollet, who plays Jamal Lyon on the Fox series, earns a generous $125,000 per episode, the same as his on-screen brother. For comparison, the show’s co-leads — Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard — reportedly make $250,000 per episode.
The production sources told TMZ that no one in a decision-making position regarding Smollett’s salary had heard that he was interested in negotiating for a higher rate, adding that he was in the middle of a long-term contract.
In a press conference last week, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson accused Smollett of orchestrating a fraudulent hate crime to “promote his career,” indicating that Smollett wasn’t happy with his salary.
According to the TMZ report, Smollett was more concerned about his solo music career, and was frustrated that his first album didn’t sell well. As CrimeOnline previously reported, Smollett was preparing to film a music video in late February. The two brothers who have been questioned for their possible involvement in the alleged hate attack are heavily involved in physical fitness, and Smollett had written in the memo on a check made out to one of the brothers that the $3,500 amount was for a nutrition and fitness program. Authorities reportedly believe the check was payment for the brothers’ role in the hoax hate crime.
In an appearance on Good Morning America, Johnson said the information about the payments came straight from the two brothers who testified before a grand jury.
“They [the brothers] said that he paid them $3,500 with a check … to carry out this incident,” Johnson said, adding, “there’s a lot more evidence that hasn’t been presented yet, that does not support the version he gave.”
Smollett was arrested last week and charged with disorderly conduct on suspicion that he filed a false police report. The actor is currently free on bail an due back in court on March 14.
[Feature image: Vince Bucci/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images]