Empire executive producers Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer announced in a statement on Thursday that they have collectively decided to nix Smollett's character, Jamal Lyon, from the final two episodes of Empire's fifth season as a result of the charges against him.
"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," the statement reads. "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."
Smollett reportedly returned to set on Thursday after being released on $100,000 bond.
The actor was arrested earlier on Thursday after being charged with disorderly conduct and filing a false police report. The Chicago Police Department's investigation into his reported hate crime incident in late January gathered evidence that the encounter may have been staged by Smollett himself. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a press conference that the authorities believe the actor paid $3,500 to two men to orchestrate the attack, allegedly out of frustration with his salary on the show.
"Bogus police reports do real harm," Johnson said. "They do harm to every real victim who is in need of police assistance."
The actor's legal team slammed the superintendent's remarks in a statement released to the press. "Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system," the statement read. "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. 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."
In a statement released Thursday, representatives for Twentieth Century Fox Television, which had previously stood behind the actor, said the company was considering its options. "We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options."
Smollett's attorneys previously released the following statement regarding the charges: "Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense."
Empire airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on Fox.