Fox is cutting Jussie Smollett’s character from its popular hip-hop drama “Empire” after the actor was arrested and accused of staging a hoax hate crime attack on himself, show officials said on Friday.
The move came a day after the 36-year-old was charged with lying to Chicago police about the allegedly staged incident, in which he said two masked men beat him and slung a noose around his neck while yelling racist and homophobic abuse.
Smollett’s character, Jamal Lyon, will be removed from the final two episodes of the current season of Empire, according to 20th Century Fox Television, which said it wanted to avoid “further disruption” on the set of the show.
Smollett faces up to three years in prison if convicted in the case, which has become fodder for the culture wars that have roiled the United States since Donald Trump’s 2016 election.
“The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us,” Empire’s co-creators and producers said in a statement. “While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out.”
Lawyers for Smollett did not respond to a request for comment on Friday. On Wednesday, they said they were conducting a thorough investigation to form an aggressive defense.
According to court documents, the black and openly gay actor wrote a personal check for $3,500 to two brother and gave them $100 to buy the rope, ski masks, gloves and red baseball caps that were used in the supposed attack on Jan. 29.
Police said Smollett hoped the incident would advance his career and secure him a higher salary.
Detectives interviewed more than 100 people, reviewed footage from more than 55 surveillance cameras, and executed more than 50 search warrants during the investigation. Officials did not spell out how Smollett had hoped to boost his salary by staging such a hoax.