Jussie Smollett — who is being investigated over reports he orchestrated an alleged homophobic and racist attack on himself — will not be returning to set to shoot the final two episodes of the series.
The 36-year-old actor who plays Jamal Lyon on the show has been written out of the finale, as producers are keen to “avoid further disruption.”
Producers including Lee Daniels and Danny Strong said in a statement to The Blast: “The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us. Smollett 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.”
The statement comes not long after show chiefs admitted they were “evaluating” the situation and “considering” what to do next.
20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment previously said in a statement to CNN: “We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”
He appeared in court on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, where he was ordered to pay a $10,000 bond and surrender his passport after being arrested on felony charges of filing a false police report and disorderly conduct.
After the hearing, he headed straight to the Cinespace Studio in Chicago where he became “very emotional” as he maintained his innocence in a speech to the cast and crew of the show.
He reportedly said: “I’m sorry I’ve put you all through this and not answered any calls. I wanted to say I’m sorry and, you know me, I would never do this to any of you, you are my family. I swear to God, I did not do this.”
Smollett was later praised by his legal team as a “young man of impeccable character” in a statement that hit out at the way the investigation has been handled.
The lawyers said in a statement: “Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system.
“The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a mayoral election.
“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.”