We have a significant update in what has become one of the more bizarre stories we've seen in awhile.
And that update is this:
Two men have been arrested in conjunction with Empire actor Jussie Smollett getting savagely beaten in Chicago last month.
According to TMZ, a pair of brothers from Nigeria named Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo have been taken into custody by the Chicago police department.
(UPDATE: "Due to new evidence as a result of today’s interrogations, the individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charging,” Chicago Police Department Chief Communications Officer Anthony Guglielmi said on Twitter Friday evening.)
They have been labeled "potential suspects" in this beating, as opposed to mere "persons of interests," which is a key distinction.
As previously reported on The Hollywood Gossip and via other outlets, the siblings were picked up at O'Hare Airport on Wednesday night and subsequent had their home raided.
Police reportedly found shoes, a laptop and other possible pieces of evidence there that may link them to the Smollett investigation.
But here's where it gets interesting and sort of troubling...
Smollett had previously told the cops that his attackers were white.
He claimed they screamed that he was in "MAGA Country" at the time of the incident, while also screaming racial and anti-gay epithets in his direction.
Now... is it possible that two African-Americans could have uttered these words? Sure. Anything is possible.
But the brothers had also previously worked as extras on Empire. Their attorney has confirmed to a CBS affiliate in Chicago that they knew Smollett pretty well.
Now... is it possible they therefore knew where he lived and knew his whereabouts on the night of the alleged attack? Sure.
However, there's been rather serious talk that Smollett actually staged this assault and both the skin color of these suspects - and their connection to the actor definitely gives us reason to consider this theory.
Why would Smollett do such a thing?
We really don't wish to speculate too much on such a sensitive and seemingly wild/horrible possibility, but the ABC affiliate in Chicago alleges that he was about to be written off Empire.
Presumably, turning himself into a victim of a hate crime that received national attention would have made Smollett into far too much of a sympathetic figure for producers to follow through with this plan.
20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment, however, released a statement in response to the rumor that Smollett was being fired, dismissing the rumor out of hand:
The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off EMPIRE is patently ridiculous.
He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand by him.
To review, Smollett has claimed two men verbally berated him with racist and homophobic slurs early in the morning of January 29.
He says they poured a substance, believed to be bleach all over him; and tied a rope around his neck.
Speaking to Good Morning America on Thursday after the beating, Smollett challenged his critics and insisted he's telling the truth.
"I'm pissed off," he told Robin Roberts early in their chat, citing the criticism he's received from doubters of the attack.
“They called me a f—-t, they called me a n–ga. There’s no which way you cut it,” Smollett said, adding:
"I’ve heard that it was a date gone bad, which I also resent that narrative. I’m not gonna go out and get a tuna sandwich and a salad to meet somebody. That’s ridiculous. And it’s offensive."
As for why he waited a short while before calling the police to report what happened?
He cited the idea of "pride" and explained:
"We live in a society where, as a gay man, you are considered somehow, to be weak, and I'm not weak. I am not weak. And we, as a people, are not weak."
Watch excerpts from the interview below as we try to make sense of this confusing and disturing ordeal all around.