Empire producers announced Friday that actor Jussie Smollett will be cut from the final two episodes of the season to avoid “further disruption on set”
“Jussie has been an important member of our Empire family for the past five years and we care about him deeply,” the producers, which include Lee Daniels and Brian Grazer, said in a statement. “While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out. 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.”
Smollett on Thursday evening returned to the set of Empire in Chicago after turning himself into the police for filing a false report with law enforcement regarding an alleged hate crime staged against himself last month. The actor reportedly pled with his castmates to believe that he did not stage the incident. TMZ reported: “We’re told he addressed everyone on set, saying …”I’m sorry I’ve put you all through this and not answered any calls. I wanted to say I’m sorry and, you know me, I would never do this to any of you, you are my family. I swear to God, I did not do this.””
Smollett, who is gay and African-American, told Chicago police that two masked men physically attacked him and hurled racist and homophobic insults at him as he made his way home from a sandwich shop on January 29. He also claimed that his assailants doused him with an unknown chemical substance, place a thin rope around his neck, and yelled “This is MAGA country!” before running away.
Earlier Thursday, Smollett was released from jail after posting bond at $100,000. Cook County Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr. called the allegations against the actor both “violent” and “despicable,” and expressed anger over the actor’s use of a noose in the allegedly self-orchestrated attack. Smollett lawyer Jack Prior told the judge that his client says the accusations against him are “outrageous” and denies their veracity.
According to prosecutors, Smollett provided detailed instructions to two brothers who allegedly helped him with the attack, paying them $3,500 by check.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a press briefing Thursday morning that Smollett staged the attack after a threatening letter he received on the set of Empire the week before failed to evoke a large enough reaction.
“Mr. Smollett is the one that orchestrated this crime,” Johnson told reporters, adding that “he has to be accountable for what he did.”
“He took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” he added. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”