Empire has been going strong on Fox for five seasons now, but the show has hit an unfortunate and rather surprising setback this week. Production has been postponed, but not for the reason you might be thinking. Apparently, temperatures are simply too cold in Chicago, where the music drama films, for things to continue right now.
Dangerously cold temperatures have settled in the midwest this week, and the Chicago set of Empire has not escaped the frigid winter weather. The city is seeing temperatures of only -22 degrees, with wind chills dipping to the positively glacial -40s. According to Entertainment Weekly, this means that, as of right now, Chicago is colder than recently recorded temperatures on Mars, and is actually rivaling temperatures in the Arctic and parts of Siberia, which are obviously some of the coldest places on Earth. The shifting Polar Vortex, which is a large area of low pressure and cold air that surrounds the Earth's poles, has basically forced some of the insane temps from the North Pole to enter the United States, leading to the record lows and at least seven deaths across the midwest.
While this shutdown in the production is temporary (and actually seems completely necessary), we don't know yet when the cameras will get rolling again, or what kinds of complications the stoppage might cause for the rest of the season once filming is underway.
Those with intimate knowledge of Empire's production delay are saying that this is solely related to the weather and not, in fact, a reaction to the attack on star Jussie Smollet, who was brutally attacked earlier this week while on his way to get food. According to reports, Smollett had just returned to Chicago from a trip to New York and was walking to get food at a Subway sandwich shop at 2 a.m. when he was allegedly attacked by two men, whom he told police screamed at him, doused him with an unknown substance (which some outlets have reported as being bleach) and then wrapped a noose around his neck.
Reports are also alleging that Smollet's attackers yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him, after recognizing him from Empire. Smollet, who was taken to the hospital and released after treatment, plays an openly gay character on the series, and is also openly gay in real life. Chicago police are investigating the attack as a hate crime.
While no one would blame those behind Empire for closing up shop temporarily while the cast and crew deal with the emotions that have surely sprung up over Jussie Smollet's attack, again, that's said to not be the case. Trauma counselors and a representative from SAG-AFTRA were made available to the production to help anyone who needed it, and security on set is planned to be increased. In case you were wondering, at least one other Chicago set production has also been delayed this week due to the temperatures, as Fox's upcoming drama Proven Innocent has also temporarily shut down.
Hopefully, the weather will get back to normal and production on Empire can resume before long. You can catch Empire on Fox, Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST.