Jussie Smollett will not appear in the final two episodes of Empire, the show’s executive producers have said. In a statement, they said the past few weeks had been “incredibly emotional” for the team.They called allegations that Smollett had falsely claimed he was the victim of a hate crime “disturbing”.
The 36-year-old African-American actor is accused of filing a fake police report claiming he was the victim of a homophobic and racist assault. Police say he staged the attack because he was “dissatisfied” with his salary.
In the statement, the Fox production team 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.”
It is not clear whether Smollett will return to the show in future seasons.
Smollett is accused of paying two brothers to stage the attack. Chicago officials also believe that he sent a racist and homophobic letter to himself at a Fox studio beforehand.
At an earlier hearing, a judge set the actor’s bail at $100,000 (£76,000). Smollett, who was pictured outside the courthouse after posting bail, denies the charge of felony disorderly conduct.
His lawyers have said they will “mount an aggressive defence” of Mr Smollett, who they described as “a young man of impeccable character”.
Smollett said two white men hurled racist and homophobic insults at him when he went out late at night to buy food from a Subway sandwich shop in Chicago on 29 January.
He said they then punched him, poured a potentially chemical substance over him and put a rope around his neck – a reference to racist lynchings of African-Americans.
He also claimed the men said “this is Maga country” during the assault, a reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”.
Officers began to grow suspicious when they were unable to find any footage of the incident, despite reviewing more than 50 surveillance cameras. There were also no witnesses.
But investigators say they managed to use a ride-sharing app to track and identify two brothers who were filmed near the scene.
The men, Ola and Abel Osundairo, flew to Nigeria after the alleged attack. On their return last week, they were held for almost 48 hours.
Officials said they were released without charge after providing information that “shifted the trajectory of the investigation”.
One of the brothers is Smollett’s personal trainer, and both had worked as extras on Empire.