One day after being charged with filing a false police report, Empire star Jussie Smollett has been fired from the duration of the show’s fifth season.
In a statement released Friday morning, Empire’s executive producers said they made the decision to cut Jussie Smollett, 36, for the rest of the season to avoid “further disruption on set.”
The statement reads:
“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.”
Before Thursday’s bombshell news that police believed Smollett faked his own assault because he was unhappy with his salary on the show, the network and studio had been standing behind Smollett.
But shortly after he was charged and released on bond, the network issued a statement that they were “exploring their options.”
According to Entertainment Weekly, sources say Smollett “never” complained about his salary. On Thursday afternoon, he returned to the set of the show and apologized to cast and crew for the events of the last few weeks. Smollett also reportedly maintained his innocence, standing by his account of the alleged January 29 attack where he claimed two masked men attacked him in a hate-motivated crime.
Smollett’s lawyers say that Chicago’s Police’s press conference about Smollett was an “organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system.”
“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,” the statement said.
Smollett is due back in court next month. He is facing up to three years in prison.