The producers behind Fox’s “Empire” have decided to remove actor Jussie Smollett’s character from the final two episodes of the current season following his arrest this week.
The decision, producers said, was made to “avoid further disruption on set.”
“The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us,” the statement said. “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.”
The statement was signed by seven “Empire” producers, including Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, and showrunner Brett Mahoney.
“Empire” is in the midst of filming its fifth season finale in Chicago.
Chicago police allege Smollett paid two men $3,500 to stage an attack on him last month.
Smollett had told police that on January 29 he was attacked by two people who yelled racist and homophobic slurs at him, tied a rope around his neck, and poured an unknown substance on him.
The incident prompted a flood of support for Smollett from all corners of Hollywood, including his “Empire” co-stars and producers.
Smollett has starred on Fox’s “Empire” since 2015. He plays Jamal, a successful singer in the musical Lyon family. Like his character, Smollett is gay.
Smollett faces a felony charge of disorderly conduct over falsely claiming he was attacked, police say.
Under Illinois law, filing a false police report is disorderly conduct and punishable by one to three years in prison.
Smollett has maintained that he did not make the story up. His attorneys promised an “aggressive defense” in a statement issued after Cook County state’s attorney’s office approved a felony disorderly conduct charge against Smollett.
“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked,” his attorneys said.
After Smollett was arrested Thursday, the studio and network behind “Empire” said, “We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”
Investigators believe Smollett orchestrated the attack in part, “because he was dissatisfied with his salary,” Chicago police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson said Thursday.
Smollett was released on $100,000 bond Thursday and ordered to give up his passport.
After his release, Smollett reported to the set of “Empire,” where he apologized to the cast and crew for any embarrassment the allegations may have caused, a person at the meeting told CNN.
But he maintained his innocence in his speech to his co-workers, the person added.
Early Wednesday, before official charges had been made against Smollett, Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox TV stood by the actor, saying he continued “to be a consummate professional on set” and assuring that “he is not being written out of the show.”