Following the arrest of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett in connection with what was first reported as an apparent hate crime Jan. 29 in Chicago, Smollett has been dropped from the episodes of the Fox drama’s fifth season that remain in production, Deadline reports.
Smollett’s character, Jamal Lyon, has been written out of the season’s final two episodes. Previous episodes have already been completed, and it remains unclear whether any editing is being done to them as a result of the Smollett situation. The show has already aired the first nine episodes of season five and is currently on its midseason hiatus.
The move represents a turnaround for Fox and the show’s producers, who previously stood steadfastly behind Smollett. As recently as Wednesday, “Empire” producer 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment released a statement saying: “Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show.”
In a new joint statement released today, executive producers Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer state: “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.”
Today’s statement adds: “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.”
As we reported previously, the show’s prospects for a season six renewal remain up in the air.