One of the brothers who police said helped Jussie Smollett stage a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago allegedly made homophobic remarks toward another gay actor on the set of “Empire” in 2015, two men who worked on the show said Friday.
Lawrence Johnson said he was working as an extra on the set of “Empire” when he witnessed Abimbola Osundairo, who was also an extra at the time, using homophobic language.
“When he used the word ‘f****t’ I was like wow,” Johnson said. “That just threw me for a loop.”
North Carolina-based actor Ticarus Bunch, another background actor at the time, said the alleged comments from Osundairo followed an altercation with openly gay actor Alex McDaniel in a holding area for extras on the show.
“Abel said, ‘Hell no, I don’t want to be friends with no f***ing f****t’,” Bunch said.
McDaniel, who is from Chicago, confirmed the incident to NBC 5 by phone but declined to discuss it further on camera for fear of his safety.
“Once Alex walked away, that’s when [Osundairo] said ‘I would never have a gay friend. I would never have a f****t as a friend,” Johnson said. “That type of thing. It was kind of shocking.”
Chicago police said Abimbola Osundairo and his brother Olabinjo told authorities “Empire” star Smollet, who is also openly gay, directed them to beat him up in a hoax hate crime attack in January.
Police said the attack was staged because Smollett was unhappy with his salary, but Smollett maintained his innocence in the case. The brothers were arrested and released without charges after police say they named Smollett as the mastermind behind the fake attack.
In addition to the alleged altercation on the “Empire” set, homophobic tweets from several years ago have also surfaced, purportedly from Olabinjo Osundairo’s account. The tweets appear to have deleted earlier this week.
When asked for comment, the brothers’ attorney would not specifically respond to allegations her clients harboured homophobic sentiments, referring to a statement released Thursday evening that said they have “tremendous regret over their involvement in this situation.”
“They understand how it has impacted people across the nation, particularly minority communities and especially those who have been victims of hate crimes themselves.”
Police said they stand by their investigation, which they say includes video evidence, text messages and testimony from the brothers.
“As far as the evidence goes, we laid everything out in the bond proffer- the highlights of it- but there’s additional evidence out there that we haven’t released yet, but it’ll help support that the alleged incident didn’t occur the way that [Smollett] claimed,” Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson told NBC 5 Friday.