Jussie Smollett’s character has been axed from the final episodes of the current season of “Empire.”
The Fox series, which is in its fifth season, is currently filming scenes for its March 13 return. In the wake of the alleged hoax assault, executive producers for the show have decided to remove Smollett’s character Jamal Lyon “to avoid further disruption on set.”
Executive producers, including Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo, and Dennis Hammer, made the announcement on 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,” reads the 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.”
The decision comes a day after Smollett was arrested in Chicago and charged with allegedly filing a false police report. He posted $100,000 bail and returned to the “Empire” set following his court appearance where he reportedly apologized to his castmates and denied any wrongdoing.
Chicago police say Smollett orchestrated a “publicity stunt” by hiring two brothers, Ola and Abel Osundairo, to stage the Jan. 29 assault because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on “Empire.” “Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said during a news conference Thursday.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Smollett makes over $125,000 per episode and had not previously expressed any dissatisfaction with his salary.
TMZ claims that some of the “Empire” actors are “f**king furious” and feel that Fox should fire Smollett or he should quit on his own. In light of the new evidence, several cast members want him written off the show, but there are some in the cast and crew who believe Jussie is telling the truth because they can’t believe he would do this.
Smollett was released from jail on Thursday after posting $10,000 of his $100,000 bond. He maintains his innocence. “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,” his attorneys said in a statement.