The Associated Press, February 22, 2019
Actor Jussie Smollett’s character on “Empire” will be removed from the final two episodes of this season in the wake of his arrest on charges that he staged a racist, anti-gay attack on himself last month in downtown Chicago, producers of the Fox TV show announced Friday.
“While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays,” ”Empire” executive producers Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer said in a written statement. “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.”
“Empire” has nine episodes left to air in its fifth season; the last two episodes are still being worked on.
Smollett, who is black and gay, plays a gay character on the show that follows a black family as they navigate the ups and downs of the recording industry.
Smollett is earning more than $100,000 per episode, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because salary details were involved. The studio declined to comment on the actor’s salary.
As is customary with a successful TV series, regular cast members on “Empire” received a boost in pay as part of contract extensions that followed the drama’s renewal for a second season, the person said.
Smollett is counted among the series regulars.