“You know what? It’s a sensitive issue,” McNeill, 23, told Entertainment Tonight. “But you know, I wish the best of luck to him and I’m sending prayers his way.”
McNeill also revealed that “Empire” is hitting the road.
“We are going on a tour. The ‘Empire’ artists are going on tour, so that will be really, really fun,” she said. “The scenes are just going to elevate and the character storylines are just elevating. I’m really excited.”
That news may come as a blow to Smollett, who was accused of staging his own hate crime in an effort to increase his salary on the series — an allegation Smollett and his attorneys have vehemently denied.
In January, Smollett told police that two masked men attacked him, put a rope around his neck and poured bleach on him as he was walking home from a Subway restaurant. The actor, who is black and openly gay, said the masked men beat him, made racist and homophobic comments and yelled, “This is MAGA country” before fleeing the scene.
However, the Chicago Police Department alleges that Smollett paid the two men, Abel and Ola Osundairo, by check for a “phony attack” in order to take “advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”
The brothers were allegedly caught on surveillance footage purchasing the rope used in the staged “attack” on Smollett.
Smollett pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of disorderly conduct stemming from the alleged hoax. Smollett is also being investigated for allegedly sending himself a threatening hate letter to the “Empire” set, which could potentially land him behind bars for a decade for mail fraud.
Smollett’s attorneys previously told Fox News they’ve “witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system. The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election. Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”
“I think it definitely has an effect on everyone,” she admitted. “Right now, everyone is fine and everyone is finishing up the season and being professional about it. Everyone is acting very professionally, we all love this show and we have a job to do.”
“Empire” producers and showrunners previously revealed that Smollett would be cut from the remaining episodes of season 5.
Lee Daniels, the co-creator and executive producer of “Empire,” said last week of “Empire” post-scandal, “These past couple of weeks have been, a freaking roller coaster,” he began. “Me and my cast have experienced pain and anger and sadness and frustration and really don’t know how to deal with it. Because it happened… everything has happened, which you are seeing tonight, happened prior to the incident. And this was not what the show as made for. The show was made to bring America together… to talk about the atrocities that are happening right now in the streets.”
Fox News’ Tyler McCarthy contributed to this report.