Chicagoans rarely blink an eye anymore when they see signs posted announcing street closures for film crews.
But when notices for “Empire” — whose sixth and final season premieres Sept. 24 — appeared in a certain part of Streeterville, residents, fans of the show and anyone who’s been following the Jussie Smollett saga raised their eyebrows.
The filming location is two blocks from where the former “Empire” actor’s alleged hate crime took place. The attacked was reported to have happened in the 300 block of East North Lower Water Street, and filming is taking place on North McClurg Street and North Water Street.
Streeterville residents shared photos on Twitter of filming notices posted around the neighborhood.
Filming scenes today for the Empire show in my Chicago neighborhood. Hundreds of crew and cast standing around waiting for the director to roll. Conspicuous NYPD police car parked for the scene — a little out of his jurisdiction. pic.twitter.com/LgyY3tOswY— Jack Modzelewski (@JackKnifePR1) August 13, 2019
Some were surprised to see the popular FOX TV show filming near the alleged attack, which has been dominating headlines since it was first reported that it appeared to be staged.
...well Empire has apparently made the bizarre decision to film a scene near McClurg and New. Which is right about where....oh never mind someone else will figure it out.— Filming in Chicago (@filming_chicago) August 12, 2019
In late January, Smollett told Chicago police two men attacked him and hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him while telling him, “This is MAGA country,” referring to President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. Investigators later found evidence that Smollett may have staged the attack against himself, and he was charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct — all of which were abruptly dropped by the Cook County state’s attorney Kim Foxx and her office.
Since then, a Cook County judge has agreed to select a special prosecutor to investigate the hate-crime claims and the state’s attorney’s office handling of it. Smollett is also facing a civil lawsuit from the city to recover the cost of the weeks-long investigation.
Last June, co-creator Lee Daniels announced Smollett would not be returning for the final season, though some cast members have been supportive of the 37-year-old actor.