One day after Jussie Smollett was arrested on multiple felony charges for the alleged racist and homophobic attack of last month, the producers of Empire have cut the actor from the rest of the show’s fifth season
“The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us,” said EPs Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer this morning.
“Jussie has been an important member of our Empire family for the past five years and we care about him deeply,” the producers added. “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.”
With just a couple of episodes left to be completed in the current season of Empire, producer and writers on the Mahoney showrun series had already cut or trimmed a number of Smollett’s remaining scenes so today’s move isn’t a seismic shift in that sense.
Facing a barrage of criticism from openly “pissed” off law enforcement officials, prosecutors and TV talking heads, Smollett was released on $100,000 bail and had his passport revoked during the downtown Chicago court appearance Thursday.
At that pretty conclusive and damning hearing on claims that Smollett’s pre-planned the January 29 attack that attracted so much outrage from the likes of Empire co-creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, the actor’s defense lawyers insisted that Smollett needed to get back to work on Empire, which was continuing production.
In fact, after a couple of hours in the Cook County detention center Smollett went straight to the nearby set of the series. That reunion of sorts was tense and “very stressful for everyone,” a well placed source tells me as the actor met with various creatives and cast members of the Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard led Empire.
Similar to a statement that was released by his legal team on Thursday evening, Smollett proclaimed his “innocence” to the Empire team, but the powers-that-be already felt the situation was untenable.