Cops questioning 'persons of interest' in 'Empire' actor Jussie Smollett's case

Detectives are interviewing two "persons of interest" who surveillance photos show were in the area of downtown Chicago where "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett said he was attacked last month, police said Thursday.

Anthony Guglielmi, the chief communications officer of the Chicago Police Department, tweeted that "detectives have identified the persons of interest in the area of the alleged attack of the Empire cast member. These individuals are not yet suspects but were in area of concern and are being questioned."

"The people of interest are alleged to be in the area where a crime was reported," Guglielmi continued.

"They are not considered suspects at this time as they are currently being questioned by detectives. We remain in communication with the alleged victim."

Smollett, who is black and gay, said two men beat him, subjected him to racist and homophobic insults, threw an "unknown chemical substance" on him and put a thin rope around his neck before fleeing on Jan. 29.

Smollett, 36, returned to his apartment after getting food and his manager called police from there about 40 minutes later, police said.

When officers arrived, the actor, who plays the gay character Jamal Lyon on FOX’s hit show “Empire,” had cuts and scrapes on his face and the "thin rope" around his neck that he said had been put there by his assailant.

Smollett later went to Northwestern Memorial Hospital after police advised him to do so.

The FBI was also investigating a threatening letter targeting Smollett that was sent the week prior to the reported attack to the Fox studio in Chicago where "Empire" is filmed, police said.

Smollett told ABC News it's "ridiculous" to think he'd lie in his explanation for being outside at 2 a.m. in frigid Chicago weather.

He says he left the rope and clothes on when police arrived "because I wanted them to see." He says accusations that the attack was a date gone bad are offensive.

No arrests have been made. Police say they've not found surveillance video that shows the attack but that the investigation is ongoing.