The executive producers of Empire have announced that Jussie Smollett’s charcter, Jamal Lyon, will not appear in the final two episodes of the current season. The announcement comes shortly after Chicago police charged Smollett with disorderly conduct and filing a false police report alleging that he was attacked in a racist, homophobic hate crime. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a press conference that Smollett paid two men to attack him because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on the Fox show.
Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo, and Dennis Hammer released a statement on Friday:
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.
TNT has also pulled an episode of Drop the Mic featuring Smollett “in the interest of not being exploitative of an incredibly sensitive situation.”
CNN reports that Smollett was on set filming Thursday and apologized to the Empire cast and crew “for any embarrassment the recent allegations may have caused,” but still maintained his innocence. His legal team put out a statement: “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.”
Empire is currently halfway through its fifth season and has been on a midseason hiatus since December. Though Smollett will not appear in the final two episodes, it is unclear whether that means any other upcoming episodes will be altered to explain the character’s disappearance.