Jussie Smollett’s role on ‘Empire’ has been cut after he was arrested for filing a false police report. ‘Empire’ producers announced on Feb. 22 that Jussie has been removed from the final two episodes of the season.
UPDATE: HollywoodLife‘s sister site TVLine is now reporting that Empire may recast Jamal in the wake of Jussie’s Season 5 exit. A show insider told the site, “Series co-creator Lee Daniels is said to be a strong proponent of the recast option.” An Empire rep, however, declined to comment on their story when they reached out. And a spokesperson for Daniels could not be reached for comment.
ORIGINAL STORY: “The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us. Jussie [Smollett] 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,” Empire executive producers Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer said in a statement. Jussie plays Jamal Lyon, the talented son of Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson’s Lucious and Cookie Lyon. Jussie has appeared on nearly every episode of the hit FOX series since it premiered in 2015.
The shocking news of the actor being cut from the show’s final season 5 episodes comes just one day after he was placed under arrest on charges of disorderly conduct and filing a false police report. He was released by Chicago police on a $100,000 bond after posting bail and surrendering his passport. This stems from Jussie claiming that he was attacked on Jan. 29 in Chicago, saying that two men beat him, poured bleach on him, put a rope around his neck, and hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him.
During a press conference on Feb. 21, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, Eddie Johnson, said that police now believe Jussie staged the attack: “First, [Jussie] attempted to gain attention by sending a false letter [addressed to himself to the Empire studio on January 22] that relied on racial and political language. When that didn’t work, he paid $3500 [to brothers Olabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo] to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process. The stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary [on FOX’s Empire]. He concocted a story about being attacked.”
Following his release on Feb. 21, he went straight to the Empire set in Chicago to film scenes. He reportedly apologized to the cast and maintained his innocence. “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,” according to a TMZ source. Empire is set to return with new episodes on March 13. The show still has 9 episodes left of season 5. While Jussie has been removed from the final 2 episodes, the producers have not yet stated whether Jussie’s scenes from the other 7 episodes haven been cut as well.