Fox has cut gay actor Jussie Smollett from the final two episodes of their TV series Empire. This decision follows Chicago police arresting and charging him with filing a false report.
Executive producers Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo, and Dennis Hammer released a statement on Friday (22 February).
‘The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us,’ it reads.
‘Jussie has been an important member of our Empire family for the past five years and we care about him deeply.’
The statement continues: ‘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 has played Jamal Lyon on the show since 2015, when it first premiered.
Let’s catch up
Smollett reported to Chicago police he was the victim of a hate crime in the early hours of 29 January. He alleged his attackers wore MAGA hats, put a noose around his neck, and poured a chemical substance on him.
While Smollett continues to maintain his innocence as a victim, the trajectory of the investigation shifted when police arrested two brothers. The brothers claimed Smollett paid them to help him stage the attack.
Police ultimately arrested Smollett and charged him with filing a false report on Wednesday (20 February) after he turned himself in.
He is out on bail at $100,000 and faces a possible prison sentence.
‘Disappointed and frustrated’
Numerous LGBTI groups have released statements expressing their disappointment with this case. They also stated, however, this should not detract from the hate crimes that exist against marginalized people.
Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris, who initially sent messages of support to Smollett, said the same thing in a Thursday tweet.
‘Part of the tragedy of this situation is that is distracts from that truth, and has been seized by some who would like to dismiss and downplay the very real problems that we must address,’ she wrote.
Like most of you, I've seen the reports about Jussie Smollett, and I'm sad, frustrated, and disappointed. pic.twitter.com/91OHOymShi
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 21, 2019
Director and actor Tyler Perry also released a statement on Facebook.
How I wish that the disappearance of Terrance Williams and Felipe Santos could get half as much attention as this Jussie…
Smollett’s lawyers released a statement saying the system is ‘betraying’ their client.
‘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.’