Jussie Smollett apologizes to the 'Empire' cast and crew but insists that he's innocent

Posted February 22, 2019 1:02 a.m. EST

— When Jussie Smollett called the cast and crew of the television show "Empire" together Thursday night, they were expecting the actor to come clean about what really happened, a person at the meeting told CNN.

Smollett did apologize to his coworkers for any embarrassment they might have felt since the story began.

But then, to the shock and dismay of the person who attended the meeting, Smollett stuck to his story of innocence. For the most part, the source said, he paraphrased what was in the statement that his attorney put out that afternoon, blaming the legal system and the media for his woes.

The "Empire" actor was arrested Thursday morning on suspicion of filing a false report about a January 29 incident where he said he was the victim of a hate crime. Police allege Smollett paid two men to stage the attack in hopes of promoting his career, according to Chicago Superintendent Eddie Johnson. He appeared in court Thursday afternoon, paid a bond later and was released.

"Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense," Smollett's attorneys said.

When suspicions arose that Smollett's story could be fabricated, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment released a statement last week standing by him.

"The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of 'Empire' is patently ridiculous," the statement read. "He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him."

After his arrest Thursday, the studio and network released another statement.

"We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process," 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said in a statement to CNN on Thursday. "We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options."

Smollett is "on hold" for Friday's shoot, per the production schedule that was recently released to cast and crew.

The filming of the season finale episode of Empire is in progress this week and next week. 20th Century Fox Television executive VP of corporate communications and publicity, Chris Alexander, confirmed that Smollett was on set filming on Thursday.