CHICAGO (CBS) — A day after he was arrested for allegedly faking a hate crime because he was upset with his salary on “Empire,” actor Jussie Smollett appears to be losing his role on the hit TV show.
The shows producers announced Friday morning that Smollett’s character, Jamal Lyon, will be removed from the final two episodes of the current season.
“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.”
CBS News reports Smollett makes more than $100,000 per episode.
Fox executives had stood behind Smollett throughout the investigation of his allegations that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in Streeterville, but that support appears to be vanishing now that Smollett has been charged with orchestrating a hoax in an attempt to further his career.
Meantime, TNT has pulled an episode of “Drop The Mic” featuring Smollett. The show features celebrities facing off in rap roast battles.
Smollett was released from custody Thursday night, after posting 10 percent of his $100,000 bond, on a felony charge of disorderly conduct. Right after leaving jail Smollett went to Cinespace, the studio where “Empire” and other TV shows are shot.
Chicago police have said Smollett concocted the alleged attack near his Streeterville, because he was upset about his salary.
“Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn, and certainly didn’t deserve.”
Smollett’s attorneys have maintained he is innocent, and have accused police of putting on an “organized law enforcement spectacle” when they announced the charges against the actor:
“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.”
Smollett turned himself in to Chicago police early Thursday morning, hours after he was charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to police when he claimed he was attacked in Streeterville on Jan. 29.
Smollett, who is black and openly gay, had told police he was attacked as he was walking home around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29. He claimed two masked men – one of them also wearing a red hat – shouted racist and homophobic slurs as they beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured a chemical on him.
Police said, in reality, Smollett had paid those two men, Ola and Abel Osundairo, $3,500 by check to stage the attack. CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar has reported Smollett also directed the brothers to buy the noose at a hardware store and the hat and masks at a store in Uptown.
The two brothers allegedly told police Smollett also was behind creating a racist letter sent to the show days before the staged attack. Johnson said Smollett was upset when the letter didn’t get the reaction he wanted, and enlisted Ola and Abel Osundairo to help him fabricate a hate crime against himself.
“I’m left hanging my head and asking why. Why would anyone, especially an African American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile?” Johnson said. “How can an individual who’s been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?”
Ola and Abel Osundairo, were arrested last week, but later released without charges, and are now cooperating with the investigation. They left for Nigeria hours after the attack, and were arrested days later when they returned to Chicago.
On Wednesday, they testified to a grand jury. Smollett was later charged with disorderly conduct.
Police said the check Smollett allegedly wrote to the brothers is now in the hands of investigators as evidence in the scheme.
Smollett is due back in court on March 14.