Sources told the Daily Mail that his casting was to be announced last month, but "everything shifted" after evidence emerged that the alleged hate crime against him appeared to be staged.
Smollett was reportedly slated to play main character Darren Lemming, a mixed-race baseball player who comes out as gay at the peak of his career and ultimately suffers an attack by a teammate hurling racial and homophobic slurs.
He read for the role alongside his intended co-star Zachary Quinto on the day before the alleged hate crime against him in Chicago, according to a previous Daily Mail report.
The report comes amid Smollett's ongoing legal battle with the city of Chicago, which sued the actor to demand reimbursement for investigative costs. Smollett denied staging the altercation. Charges against him for filing a false police report were dropped last month in a shocking development.
The city's police department still felt that Smollett owed for the report he made, and alleged that 1,836 overtime hours were used in investigating the case, with costs reaching as high as $130,106.15.
The city is reportedly allowed to seek penalties and damages up to three times the figure provided, Variety reports, meaning the suit could result in a ruling of $390,000 if Smollett is found liable.
Representatives for the actor stated that Smollett would not be "intimidated" by Chicago's demands for the costs of the investigation.
"We are in receipt of your March 28. 2019 letter, sent two days after all criminal charges against Mr. Smollett were dismissed, demanding that Mr. Smollett pay to the City of Chicago $130,106.15 for 'repayment of investigation costs' within seven (7) days," the response to Chicago's initial push for the repayment said. "Your letter constitutes part of a course of conduct intended to harass and irreparably injure Mr. Smollett.
While the case was ongoing, Smollett did not appear in the final two episodes of Empire's fifth season.0comments
Smollett could also face federal charges stemming from the allegations of a false police report.
"Jussie is being scrutinized because he is unwilling to testify against the brothers in the state’s case because he just wants to put this behind him,” a source told the Hot Hollywood podcast, adding that Smollett's lawyers don't want the actor to "be questioned by the feds."