Fox Broadcasting Company, the network that airs the hit drama Empire, will keep actor Jussie Smollett on as a series regular in wake of reports he staged an attack on himself in Chicago last month, according to a TMZ report.
Production sources tell TMZ … Jussie was supposed to have 9 scenes and a big musical number in the second to the last episode — which is being shot now — but, 5 of his scenes have been cut, and his musical number has been 86’d.
As for the remaining 4 scenes … we’re told he’s no longer the focus. The scene features an ensemble, meaning he’s flanked by a number of cast members.
With his duties pared down, Jussie will be spending way less time on set. Instead of working every day this week, we’re told Jussie’s working Friday and possibly Thursday, and he won’t be rehearsing.
The report comes amid reports that Smollett “concocted” a “staged attacked” against himself after receiving a racist letter addressed to him failed to evoke a “bigger reaction.”
“When the letter didn’t get enough attention, he concocted the staged attack,” a source told CBS 2’s Brad Edwards, who reported “other sources corroborated that information.”
A letter with “white powder” was sent January 22 to a Chicago set where Empire was filming in the days leading up to the alleged staged attack. Chicago police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi confirmed to CNN that a HAZMAT team was called to Cinespace Studios, where the program was being shot, after the letter was discovered.
The FBI is reportedly investigating the letter.
A press representative of Smollett’s crisis management firm said Monday that the actor had no plans to meet with Chicago police after detectives obtained “new evidence” while interrogating two Nigerian brothers — Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo — said to have helped stage the attack.
On Saturday evening, CBS Chicago’s Charlie De Mar reported at least one of the brothers bought up the rope at Craft Beaver hardware store the weekend of January 25th. It was picked up at the direction of Smollett, said De Mar. The brothers reportedly were paid $3,500 and promised an additional $500.
Smollett, who is gay and African-American, told police that two masked individuals spewed racist and anti-gay slurs at him and poured an unknown chemical substance as he walked home from a sandwich shop at around 2:00 a.m. local time. The actor claimed his attackers looped a rope around his neck and screamed “This is MAGA country!” before fleeing the scene.
In a statement to ABC News, attorneys for the Smollett said the actor was “angered” and “further victimized” by claims that staged his own attack.
“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with,” Smollett’s lawyers, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, said. “He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”
“One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video,” the pair continued. “It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity.
On Sunday, Empire executive producer Brett Mahoney reiterated his support for Smollett.
— Brett Mahoney (@TheBrettMahoney) February 18, 2019
Smollett, under Illinois State law, could receive up to three years in jail if he is found to have filed a false report with police.