He’s off the show. Actor Jussie Smollett has been removed from the last two episodes of Empire this season after he was charged with filing a false police report for claiming he was harmed in a homophobic and racially charged attack. He was only just arrested on February 21 for his alleged false claims, but the backlash has been swift.
In a statement to In Touch, Empire Executive Producers Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer said: “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.”
According to the Chicago Police Department, the 36-year-old initially said he was approached by two unknown offenders who “gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs towards him.” When the alleged crime was first reported, the department said Jussie was allegedly “battered” around his face and that “an unknown chemical substance” was poured on him. However, an Illinois grand jury found probable cause the actor staged the assault he reported to Chicago police in January.
Jussie was charged with felony disorderly conduct, which could land him one to three years in prison. Just days before the charges were brought against him, the actor’s attorneys Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson wrote in a statement, “As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”
Although it sounds like Jussie will get to have his say in court, the team behind Empire has apparently already decided it’s best to have him off the show. Whether he will return to the series in the future remains to be seen.