Jussie Smollett character cut from Empire after actor's arrest
Jussie Smollett’s character Jamal Lyon will be cut from Empire after the actor was accused of staging an attack on himself, producers have confirmed.
The 36-year-old American actor, who is black and openly gay, alleged that he had been the victim of a racially motivated and homophobic assault in Chicago last month.
Following a police investigation, Smollett was charged with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. He turned himself in and was arrested on Thursday.
Smollett’s character has now been cut from the final two episode of Empire, the TV show which reportedly left him “dissatisfied with his salary”, according to Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who spoke about the arrest.
The actor’s future has not been confirmed beyond the removal of his character from the two episodes.
The show’s executive producers – Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer – made a joint statement.
It said: “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.”
Smollett claimed he had been attacked by two masked men on the morning of January 29 after returning home from a Subway outlet.
He claimed he was beaten, subjected to homophobic and racial abuse, had a noose placed around his neck, and was covered in an unknown chemical substance.
These claims were later cast into doubt, and Smollett was named as a suspect in the Chicago Police investigation.
Speaking on Thursday, Supt Eddie Johnson claimed that Smollett had initially attempted to gain attention by sending a false letter that relied on racial, homophobic and political language”.
Mr Johnson said when that did not work, Smollett “paid 3,500 US dollars to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process. And why? The stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary.”
The actor “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career”, the officer said, adding that it was a “publicity stunt” that the city did not deserve.
Following the alleged attack, Smollett had been widely supported by celebrities and public figures, including Ariana Grande, Michael B Jordan, Olivia Munn and Ellen DeGeneres, as well as US president Donald Trump.
Mr Trump hit back following the actor’s arrest, tweeting to Smollett: “What about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA.”