Jussie Smollett and Lee Daniels no longer speak — and it’s not just because of Smollett’s alleged hate-crime hoax.
Smollett starred on Daniels’ Fox hit “Empire” for five seasons. But we’re told that the pair butted heads over, among other things, R. Kelly’s involvement in Smollett’s career.
Smollett and Daniels’ “relationship is nonexistent, and it was tense even before Jussie’s attack incident,” an insider told Page Six.
One point of contention, we’re told, was that Daniels wanted now-disgraced musician Kelly to write songs for Smollett’s “Empire” character — and even suggested that Kelly work on the actor’s own album.
But we’re told Smollett wanted nothing to do with Kelly, who already had a bad reputation in the music industry. Smollett “put his foot down,” the source said. (A Fox rep denied Kelly ever wrote for the show or that Daniels asked him to do so.)
Meanwhile, we’re told that Smollett would often complain to Fox execs about Daniels.
“It was things like that that did not sit well with Lee,” said the insider. “He [was frustrated by] Jussie because he was constantly going over his head to Fox about their creative differences.”
In 2019, Smollett was charged with filing a false police report after it was claimed he hired brothers, Abel and Ola Osundairo, to supposedly stage a racist and homophobic assault on him in Chicago. Charges were dropped, but a special prosecutor re-examined the case, and fresh charges were filed against Smollett in February.
“Jussie’s [upset] to finally make it [on a hit show] and then have this happen,” the source said. “There was no reason for him to self-sabotage his career. He didn’t stage anything at all.”
Reps for Smollett did not comment. A lawyer for the Osundairos did not get back to us.
Daniels said in a statement: “The information regarding my relationship with Jussie prior to his departure from ‘Empire’ is false.” And “I have no personal or professional relationship with R. Kelly. I never have.”
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