Empire has officially dropped Jussie Smollett from the cast, after the actor was arrested and charged for orchestrating his hoax assault.
According to Variety, producers of the series issued a joint statement saying, “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,” the statement added.
At this time, it is unclear if Smollett is fired from the show for good, as producers only state that he's been dropped from the last two episodes of the current season. Depending on the developments of his case, there is a chance he could return next season.
Jussie Smollett Removed From Final ‘Empire’ Season 5 Episodes Following Arrest //t.co/BxJu7b9CU6— Variety (@Variety) February 22, 2019
It was rumored earlier this week that the series may let him go, with speculation first coming up after it was reported that the show had cut some of his scenes from an upcoming episode.
However, in the wake of allegations that he had faked the hate-crime he claimed to have suffered, series executive producer Brett Mahoney still expressed support for Smollett, tweeting out, "I believe and stand by [Jussie Smollett]. Keep your head up."
"Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show," 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment added in a separate statement.
Days later, it was reported that the series was considering letting the actor go after the allegations that he faked the attack became more substantiated.
Following Smollett's arrest on Thursday, CNN reported that Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television provided a new statement, saying, "We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options."
According to police, Smollett's motive for creating the elaborate scheme was due to his Empire salary. The implication appears to be that intended to leverage his newfound notoriety over a hate-crime assault to get more money.
Scoop: A well-placed source familiar with his comp tells me @JussieSmollett was being paid $65,000 per episode for his co-starring role on Empire. Average season has 18 episodes. Police say his dissatisfaction with his salary let him to stage this hoax. //t.co/FuDas9AcN8— Yashar Ali ? (@yashar) February 21, 2019
Smollett had been vigilant in denying that he lied about the assault, with his lawyer releasing a statement saying, "As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with."0comments
"He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack," the statement added. "Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying."
NEW: Chicago police have released a mugshot of Jussie Smollett, who is in police custody. The "Empire" actor was charged with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report //t.co/U6eQrzQ7O2 pic.twitter.com/AL46Uv1Oa6— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 21, 2019
If convicted, Smollett could be facing jail time and/or be required to pay restitution to the city of Chicago for the time spent on his false assault.