Shortly after news surfaced of Jussie Smollett facing charges of disorderly conduct and lying to police officials about a hate crime, the actor will not appear in Empire’s last two episodes, The Hollywood Reporter states. The announcement was made public by the FOX series’ executive producers on Friday morning (Feb. 22).
In a statement, the show’s gatekeepers described the past weeks’ instances as “incredibly emotional.” To keep a neutral working environment, the executive producers decided this decision would be best to sidestep any obstacles on set.
“While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out,” the statement reads. “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.”
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) February 22, 2019
Smollett, 36, stated he was attacked by two men who hurled homophobic and racial slurs at him. The incident, which occurred in mid-January in the early hours of the morning in Chicago, was immediately investigated by local authorities. Recently, officials arrived at the conclusion that Smollett reportedly falsified information. Two men who were questioned, brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, told law enforcement officials that Smollett contracted them to carry out the assault. They also claimed Smollett paid them $3,500.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson alleges Smollett planned the occurrence “to promote his career.” Johnson also addressed Smollett’s recollection that a noose was placed around his neck. “Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?” Johnson said during a press conference on Thursday (Feb. 21). “How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile? How can an individual who’s been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?”
As Smollett expressed his innocence to those at Empire, his attorney issued a statement backing his guiltlessness. “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.”
If Smollett is found guilty, he faces one to three years in prison.