While tonight marks the midseason premiere of one of Fox’s most successful dramas, most of the attention focused on Empire is due to one of its main cast members: Jussie Smollett.
Back in February, Smollett was charged with 16 felony indictments, including filing a false police report, after allegedly staging a fake hate crime.
On Tuesday, January 29, Smollett reported to the Chicago Police Department that he was attacked by two men in the 300 block of East Lower North Water Street in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood.
Additionally, Smollett — who is openly gay — claimed that his attackers put a rope around his neck, poured bleach on him, and yelled “this is MAGA country” as they fled the scene, prompting police to initially investigate the incident as a hate crime.
However, following an extensive investigation, the Chicago Police Department would eventually determine that Smollett himself orchestrated the attack, allegedly paying two American-Nigerian brothers to stage the assault.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said to reporters that Smollett’s intent was to further promote and advance his career as he was reportedly unhappy with his salary.
“Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Johnson said.
As a result of his charges, Smollett’s character was removed from the final two episodes of Empire‘s fifth 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,” co-creators Lee Daniels and Brett Mahoney said in a statement to Fox News.
“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,” the statement continued.
However, because tonight’s episode — “My Fault is Past” — was shot before the controversy, Smollett’s character is likely to appear, as he has appeared in every single episode of the show so far.
The midseason premiere of Empire will air on Fox on Wednesday, March 13, at 8 p.m. EST.