Jussie Smollett returned to the Chicago set of “Empire” today following his release from police custody and after being charged with a felony in connection with his alleged false police report that he was a victim of an apparent hate crime on Jan. 29. The actor has been accused of staging the attack to drum up publicity and potentially attain a larger salary.
His future on “Empire,” meanwhile, remains in limbo, with some media reports suggesting producers are considering either suspending him or cutting him from the show.
“He was originally intended to film throughout this week on the Fox series, but his role was dramatically reduced in light of his ongoing legal troubles,” Variety reports. “Fox has stood behind the actor for the most part, issuing multiple statements backing him as evidence grew that he had staged his own assault. Earlier on Thursday though, the network released a new statement that said in part, ‘We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.’”
The Variety report adds: “Even with his mounting legal troubles, Smollett has big pockets of support within Fox and there was hope as late as Wednesday that he would be able to finish out his work on the series. ‘Empire’ has about an episode and a half of filming to finish in its fifth season, or a little more than a week’s worth of work.”
The Hollywood Reporter notes that Smollett’s return to the set was accompanied by added security.
THR also reports that with the penultimate episode of season five currently being shot, the “Empire” writers “have multiple options they are considering for the season finale. Those options include keeping Smollett’s character, fan-favorite Jamal Lyon, in the script or writing the embattled actor out of the episode.”
The report notes that the prospects of a sixth season remain up in the air, with the show “currently awaiting word.”
“The series, which ranks as Fox’s No. 2 drama (behind Ryan Murphy’s 911), is owned by 20th Century Fox Television,” THR notes. “The latter studio is poised to become a Disney-owned company as part of Fox’s $71.3 billion asset sale, which is an extra layer of complication to renewal talks for several series — including ‘Empire.'”