Police in the US city of Chicago are investigating after the actor Jussie Smollett, one of the stars of the television series Empire, was attacked in a "possible hate crime" in the early hours of Tuesday morning. He is reported to be recovering in hospital.

In a statement, the Chicago Police Department said one of the stars of the music business drama series was the victim of a "possible racially-charged assault and battery" but did not name the 36-year-old actor. Other news websites identified Smollett, with the story first reported by celebrity website TMZ.

The police statement continued: "A 36-year-old man was walking… when two unknown offenders approached him and gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs towards him. 

"The offenders began to batter the victim with their hands about the face and poured an unknown chemical substance on the victim. At some point during the incident, one of the offenders wrapped a rope around the victim's neck. The offenders fled the scene."

The statement added that the victim is in a "good condition" in hospital after presenting himself for treatment.

"Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime," Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

"Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline."

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Smollett, who plays Jamal Lyon in Empire, came out as gay during an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2015. 

In a statement, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment, which make Empire, said they were "deeply saddened and outraged" to learn of the attack.

"We send our love to Jussie, who is resilient and strong, and we will work with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice," the statement continued.

 "The entire studio, network and production stands united in the face of any despicable act of violence and hate - and especially against one of our own".

There have been many messages of support for the actor on social media, including from Empire's co-creator, Danny Strong: