“Empire” fans are eagerly awaiting the return of the Lyon family to the small screen, but off screen, Jussie Smollett, who stars on the Fox series, suffered a brutal beating that authorities believe was a homophobic attack.

Smollett plays Jamal Lyon, a talented singer whose character came out as gay to his father on the primetime drama. While fans have applauded the actor for his portrayal and openness about his own sexuality, two men reportedly attacked him over it.

According to TMZ, Smollett was heading to a Subway in Chicago on Monday night when the men, who were wearing ski masks, recognized him from “Empire” and used homophobic slurs before approaching him.

Although Smollett fought back, the men put a rope around his neck, poured bleach on him and shouted, “This is MAGA country.” The 36-year-old refused to be transported to the hospital and instead checked himself at a later time, according to The Blast. Smollett suffered a fractured rib and was discharged from Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Tuesday morning.

The Chicago Police Department released a statement about their investigation into the incident and will treat the attack as a possible hate crime. The suspects have not been caught as of Tuesday afternoon, but Smollett is said to be fully cooperating with authorities.

“Empire” Season 5 is currently on hiatus and Fox has yet to announce when the series will return.

Jussie Smollett
“Empire” star Jussie Smollett was attacked and injured. The actor is pictured attending the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s 60th Anniversary Opening Night Gala Benefit on Nov. 28, 2018 in New York City. Theo Wargo/Getty Images