As a star of Empire, Serayah watched the Jussie Smollett scandal unfold right in front of her.
“I think the Jussie thing impacted all of us, as it did the world that watched it on TV,” Serayah, 24, tells Yahoo Entertainment. “I felt so close but so far from the situation, because I had no idea, like anyone else.”
In January, Smollett, her former co-star on the FX show, claimed to be the victim of a hate crime on the streets of Chicago. However, he was later officially accused of having staged the incident and lying about it to police, and in February, his character was removed from the drama. Although legal charges against him were eventually dropped, Smollett faces ongoing legal fallout.
Serayah, whose full name is Serayah Ranee McNeill, explains that she was “staying positive” for Smollett and “hoping that he would get it cleared up or figured out” as it it happened.
She declined to comment on how the show handled the situation, saying only, “I wish him the best.”
The show is set to return, without Smollett, for a sixth and final season on September 24.
Serayah will continue appear as Tiana, a Beyoncé-like pop star, a role which she finds both fun and demanding.
“It’s definitely really fun. It’s hard work, though. I think I see the payoff when I see it on Wednesday on TV, but while I’m shooting 18-hour days, dancing in heels, [it’s] not that, not that great,” Serayah says with a laugh. “But it’s awesome when I see the outcome, and I get to play dress-up and be a pop star for a living.”
While the actress was directed to channel Beyoncé, she says she’s also taken inspiration from Madonna, Rihanna and Taylor Swift.
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