Feb. 22 (UPI) — A day after he was arrested and charged with filing a false police report in Chicago, actor Jussie Smollett’s character has been cut from this season’s final episodes of the Fox television drama “Empire,” producers said Friday.
Smollett plays Jamal Lyon in the show, which is wrapping up its fifth season. In it, he’s the son of music mogul Lucious Lyon, portrayed by Terrance Howard.
“To avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of Jamal from the final two episodes of the season,” the show’s executive producers said Friday in a statement to UPI. “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.”
Smollett appeared at the Chicago set of the show Thursday and apologized to cast members, while insisting he didn’t fake an assault for which he is facing the felony charges. There, he filmed at least one scene.
Fox had previously said it was “considering options” about how to handle the actor’s status on the show.
The charges stem from a Jan. 29 report in which Smollett, 36, said two attackers poured bleach on him and made racial and homophobic slurs. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said investigators believe he staged the attack because he was unhappy with his pay on “Empire.”
Smollett recently received a salary raise to $125,000 per episode in a deal that also allowed him to make extra money off the show’s music.
Smollett posted a $100,000 bond after being charged with felony disorderly conduct and filing a false police report. After his release, Smollett’s legal team said he feels “betrayed” by the legal system.
“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” said a statement from Smollett’s lawyers Thursday. “The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a mayoral election.
“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.”