Jussie Smollett’s episode of TNT’s Drop the Mic, which had already been filmed for an upcoming installment, has officially been dropped after the Empire actor was arrested Thursday on a charge of filing a false police report.
“We are pulling the episode in the interest of not being exploitative of an incredibly sensitive situation,” a TNT spokesperson said in a statement to EW. “We are holding on airing his episode for now and we are replacing it with the Raven Simon vs Ron Funches and Joey McIntyre vs Joey Fatone episode.”
According to Jensen Karp, an executive producer on the show, the episode would’ve seen Smollett go up against Clay Aiken, “who was a very good rapper,” per a tweet from the American Idol alum, who lost to Ruben Studdard on the second season of the singing competition.
“FINALLY, I win a competition on TV and dumb #JussieSmollett screws it up so no one will ever know!!” Aiken tweeted in response. “Just look at all the damage he’s caused!! Ya know what, @DropTheMicTNT? I think he was just afraid for America to see me spit my rhymes so well. #threatened #sabotage.”
This marks one of the first big moves from a television network in light of the events surrounding Smollett, who appeared in court on Thursday.
Through “hours of video evidence combined with old-fashioned police work,” Chicago police investigated a claim by the actor, who alleged in late January that he was physically assaulted by two masked men in an apparent racist and homophobic attack, according to a press briefing Thursday morning from Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson.
As the investigation progressed, authorities determined Smollett had been unhappy with his salary on Fox’s Empire so he apparently staged the attack by paying $3,500 to two men.
“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked,” Smollett’s lawyers said in a statement. “Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
Regarding Smollett’s future on Empire, Fox, which at first stood by the actor publicly, issued a new statement Thursday that read, “We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”