After being arrested on charges related to him staging his own attack, Jussie Smollett has been removed from the final two episodes of Empire Season 5.
Per a statement from series executives Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo, and Dennis Hammer, the "disturbing" nature of the allegations against Smollett led them to loosen ties with his character Jamal.
"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."
This comes after news the show was uneasy about moving forward with Smollett following rumors that he staged the attack because he was upset with his salary. According to the Chicago Police Department, Smollett "choreographed this public stunt because he was dissatisfied with his salary." However, those close to Jussie (including the show's executives) claim that Smollett has never voiced an issue regarding pay. In fact, sources say his $125,000-per-episode deal is more than favorable for an actor of his notoriety.
Despite this, the confusion surrounding the motives were enough for Empire to remove Smollett from the end of Season 5. Yet, he has not been completely dropped. As a result, it is unsure what the show/network's relationship with Smollett will be moving forward.