Jussie Smollett’s character has been taken out of the final two episodes of the upcoming season of Fox’s “Empire,” the show’s executives announced Friday.
“The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us. Jussie has been an important member of our EMPIRE family for the past five years and we care about him deeply. While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out,” co-creators Lee Daniels and Brett Mahoney and executive producers Danny Strong, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer told Fox News.
“We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of ‘Jamal’ from the final two episodes of the season,” the statement continued.
The second half of Season 5 of “Empire” returns to Fox on March 13.
Smollett plays Jamal Lyon, a gay singer, songwriter, who is the estranged son of one of the program’s main characters, music mogul Lucious Lyon.
Twentieth Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment, which produces “Empire,” have been supportive of the 36-year-old actor throughout the weeks-long investigation.
However, in a statement to The Wall Street Journal, the studio said Thursday, “We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”
“Empire” coworkers and several cast members want Smollett written off the show entirely, TMZ reported.
“We’re told many of the ‘Empire’ actors are ‘f—ing furious’ and feel if FOX honchos don’t fire Jussie, he should quit on his own … because he doesn’t deserve a spot on the hit show,” according to TMZ.
Some cast members still believe Smollett’s story, the news outlet added. “We’re told arguments have erupted over how best to handle the situation.”
The actor posted $100,000 bail on Thursday after being charged with one class 4 felony court of disorderly conduct in filing a false police report.
It carries a penalty of 1 to 3 years in prison, and a fine of up to $25,000.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said during a news conference Thursday that Smollett staged the racist and anti-gay attack against him in late January because he wanted to raise his public profile in hopes of getting paid more for his “Empire” role.
“I’m offended by what’s happened, and I’m also angry,” Johnson said. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”
“Why?” the police superintendent asked. “This stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary, so he concocted a story about being attacked.”
“When we discovered the actual motive, quite frankly it pissed everybody off,” Johnson said. “Those are resources and time spent that we will never get back.”
Smollett, who has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, told police he was attacked by two white men early in the morning on Jan. 29. He claimed the men hurled homophobic and racial slurs at him. He said one of the attackers yelled, “This is MAGA country.”
He further alleged his assailants “poured an unknown chemical substance” on him and put a noose around his neck.
According to police, the attackers were, in fact, two African-American men, Smollett paid $3,500 to assault him.
Johnson said the “Empire” star dreamt up the fake attack after mailing a threatening letter to himself at Fox studio that “relied on racial, homophobic and political language.”
Smollett’s legal counsel chastised the Chicago police chief and others in law enforcement for rushing to judgment regarding their client.
The attorneys said in a statement to Fox News, the country “witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system.”
“The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election,” his team continued.
“Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”