Jussie Smollett won’t be seen on Empire again this season. And, at this point, it’s a toss up as to whether the character of Jamal will make it back at all.
Series executives said they removed Smollett from the final episodes of the show’s fifth season following his arrest Thursday morning, as Variety reports. Chicago police say the actor staged an assault on himself in an effort to increase his salary on the hit show.
“The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us” said series executives in a statement released Friday. “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.”
Fox has not addressed whether Smollett will return to the series, assuming it is picked up for another season. That decision likely rests on how the charges against him play out.
Chicago authorities say Smollett was “dissatisfied with his salary” and “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career”. Police officials say he paid $3,500 to two Nigerian brothers to stage the attack. The two brothers are cooperating in the investigation. Smollett reportedly earned $125,000 per episode.
Smollett has denied the charges and maintains his innocence. On Thursday, after being released on bail, the actor returned to the Empire set and apologized to the cast and crew.