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'Empire' suspends Jussie Smollett
The executive producers of Fox's "Empire" say they're cutting Jussie Smollett from the last two episodes of the season in the awake of his arrest for allegedly faking a hate crime against himself.
"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," said a Friday statement from "Empire's" producing team, including Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer.
"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 said.
A day earlier, Chicago police said in a news conference that Smollett had, in an effort to boost his "Empire" salary, falsely claimed he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack.
Smollett had claimed to Chicago police last month that two men beat him, tied a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him. But Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Thursday Smollett orchestrated the attack by paying the men $3,500. The 36-year-old actor was arrested and faces a felony disorderly conduct charge for filing a false police report. Smollett, through his lawyers, has denied any wrongdoing.
Before the news conference in Chicago, the studio behind "Empire" - which is currently airing its fifth season - had issued what it called a "statement of support" for Smollett and denied a report that he was being written off the Fox series. Shortly after police announced the case against the performer, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment told ITK in a statement, "We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options."