Jussie Smollett has been cut from the final two episodes of the current season of Empire, with rumours that the Fox network may replace him with a new actor if and when the series is renewed.
Smollett has appeared on five seasons of Empire in the role of Jamal Lyon, the gay son of hip hop mogul Lucious Lyon, played by Terrence Howard.
The actor was charged this week with making a false police report over allegations that he staged a hate crime attack last month in Chicago, and the bad press is clearly weighing on producers.
Per reports in TV Line, the team behind Empire are considering a range of options for season six, the most popular of which is replacing Jussie Smollett.
Series co-creator Lee Daniels is said to be a “strong proponent” of this option, perhaps because he is said to have loosely based the character of Jamal on himself.
While there is no official comment on this yet, Empire producers announced that Smollett will be “removed” from the final two episodes of season five, to avoid disruption on set.
“While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out,” they said in a statement on Friday.
While season six of Empire has not officially been picked up, it is one of the Fox network’s top-rated series in the US, so a cancellation would be extremely unlikely.
Jussie Smollett turned himself in to police in Chicago on Friday, and has been formally charged with disorderly conduct and filing a false police report.
It has been alleged that he hired two associates to stage an attack on him, which he claimed to be a hate crime. He has been released on a $100,000 bond, and faces potential fines or jail time.
Lawyers for the actor released a statement on Friday, slamming the “organised law enforcement spectacle” surrounding his investigation and subsequent arrest.”
“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,” they said.