Jussie Smollett Suspended From Empire As He Maintains His Innocence

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Update: Jussie Smollett has been suspended from the FOX TV show Empire following his Thursday arrest by Chicago authorities. Representation for the show's producers released the following statement via Twitter:
"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."
Smollett visited the set of the show Thursday, where he apologized to his castmates. At the time, he reportedly maintained his innocence. According to TMZ, Smollett apparently also filmed a scene.
This story was originally published on February 21 at 3:30 p.m.
The entertainment industry rallied around Jussie Smollett in January after the Empire star claimed he was the victim of a racist and homophobic hate crime in Chicago. Now, after weeks of investigation by the Chicago Police Department, the story about this alleged crime has shifted — as has the attitude of Hollywood.
On Wednesday, Smollett was arrested for disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, suggesting that the actor staged the alleged attack. Should Smollett be found guilty of the crime, he could face up to one to three years in prison or as little as a fine.
20th Century Fox and Fox Entertainment stood by Smollett after word of his alleged attack. The company insisted that Smollett was not being written off Empire, as some claimed was his reasoning for allegedly faking the incident.
Now, the company behind Empire said in a statement, per Deadline, "We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options." On Thursday, Smollett reportedly met with the Empire cast on the show's set to apologize for his actions — a source present at the meeting told CNN that Smollett told his castmates that he was innocent. TMZ reported that Smollett, in tears, told his cast: "You know me, I would never do this to any of you, you are my family. I swear to God, I did not do this." He later returned to film a scene for the show that had already been scheduled.
It's unclear what these options are, but Variety reports that producers are considering suspending Smollett from the show.
While his future on Empire hangs in the balance, Smollett's upcoming episode of Drop the Mic was already pulled from TNT.
Public perception of Smollett has changed. Several celebrities, including Jordan Peele, Michael B. Jordan, and Nancy Pelosi, deleted their supportive messages. Many are concerned that Smollett allegedly faking his attack will call into question the real hate crimes that occur in our world.

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