Fox removes Jussie Smollett from final two episodes of Empire season following arrest
The day after he was officially charged with filing a false police report, Jussie Smollett has been removed from the remainder of Empire‘s fifth season.
Fox announced the news in the following statement on Friday from Empire executive producers Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer: “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. 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 decision comes after the network and studio had continued to support Smollett, until his Thursday arrest prompted them to say they were “considering our options.”
Chicago police say that Smollett grew dissatisfied with his salary on Empire, leading him to the stage the Jan. 29 attack against himself. However, a production source told EW that Smollett “never” complained about what he makes. The 36-year-old actor, who has played Jamal Lyon for all five seasons, returned to the Chicago-based Empire set on Thursday after being released on bail. Smollett apologized to the cast and crew, while also vehemently denying the criminal allegation.
“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” Smollett’s legal team said in a statement on Thursday. “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. Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”
Empire returns March 13 with nine new episodes, with all but the final two expected to still feature Smollett.