Art really does imitate life -- the "Empire" crew is firing up its cameras pretty much exactly where their former star, Jussie Smollett, insists he fell victim to a racist and homophobic attack.
FOX had a bunch of crew members from the show setting up a shot Tuesday in Chicago ... literally within a stone's throw from where Jussie says the Osundairo brothers gave him a clobbering, poured bleach on him and left a rope around his neck.
The set is literally in the shadow of Jussie's apartment building ... it's the high-rise with the reflective windows.
There are only stand-ins in these pics, but it's clear "Empire" is getting ready to shoot something. No word whether they're incorporating elements of Smollett's real-life drama into the show -- but this can't be a coincidence ... they've gotta know the significance of the location.
You'll recall ... Jussie said he got jumped around 2 AM on his way home from grabbing a sandwich, just near his apartment building on the 300 block of East North Water Street.
That's where the "Empire" team had set up camp. To give you a visualization ... here's a side-by-side of the block where the attack allegedly happened, and where production trucks are now parked.
Of course, Jussie was eventually accused of lying and making the whole thing up, and got indicted by a grand jury too. He was cleared of all criminal charges though in a tit for tat with Cook County State Attorney's Office -- but he's not out of the woods yet.
The City of Chicago is suing him for the cost of the investigation and then some, and Jussie's currently in the middle of trying to fight it.