Following Jussie Smollett’s arrest for allegedly staging a hate crime against himself, the producers of Empire announced Friday that the actor’s character has been removed from the series’ remaining episodes this season.
“The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us,” the producers, including Lee Daniels and Brian Grazer, said in a statement.
“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.”
Smollett was formally arrested Thursday on charges of filing a false police report, a felony punishable by one to three years in prison.
The decision to remove Smollett from upcoming episodes is an about-face from 20th Century Fox, which tweeted just two days ago, “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.”
However, after Smollett’s arrest, the studio tweeted, “We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”
The producers’ statement comes after a pair of TMZ reports that provided insight into the state of the Empire set: First, that Smollett apologized to cast and crew and maintained his innocence on set Thursday after he was released on bail, and second, that many on the Empire set wanted Smollett fired for allegedly orchestrating the January 29th attack on himself in a reported effort to increase his Empire salary.