Jussie Smollett has been dropped from the final Empire Season 5 episodes following his arrest for allegedly falsifying a police report and staging an apparent hate crime. This all started in the early hours of January 29 when Smollett was attacked by two men who, at the time, he claims shouted "MAGA country" at him and attacked him, putting a rope around his neck and pouring bleach on him. Now, Chicago Police believe the actor orchestrated this himself and, if convicted, he faces very serious penalties. As a result, he's been let go, at least for now, from the popular Fox drama.
Throughout this process, Fox has largely supported Jussie Smollett. However, in light of more recent events, they've chosen to remove Jussie Smollett from the final two episodes of Empire's current season entirely. Smollett's role had already been reduced prior to this. The latest statement from the show's production team reads as follows.
"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 new statement was signed by the show's creator Lee Daniels, as well as executive producers Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer. Jussie Smollett has maintained his innocence. The actor recently posted his $100,000 bail after a hearing and returned to the set of Empire briefly. While on set, he said the following to everyone, apologizing for that drama that has come as a result of the incident.
"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."
Jussie Smollett, who plays a gay character on the series and also personally identifies as gay, had his passport revoked during his recent court appearance. Prior to the attack, Smollett had also received a letter, with racist and anti-LGBTQ content, that Chicago Police believe the actor sent to himself. When that failed to get the attention he was looking for, Smollett staged the attack. It is believed that the actor may have done this to get a raise. Smollett's attorneys have pushed back against the accusations.
"Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system. 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 is set to return from its break on March 13. Assuming Fox orders another season, it isn't clear what could happen with the character of Jamal moving forward. That will largely depend on the outcome of the legal proceedings. The recent statement from the show's producers was originally shared via the 20th Century Fox TV Twitter account, which we've included below.