Will it be a classic case of a self-fulfilling prophecy? In an uncomfirmed report last week, a Chicago ABC affiliate said sources close to the investigation believed that actor Jussie Smollett allegedly staged the attack on himself because he was getting written off of "Empire." In a new, likewise unconfirmed report, TMZ says unnamed production sources told them Smollett's role in the show is already getting "slashed," even before any potential formal charges are brought against the embattled star.
"Jussie Smollett's 'Empire' screen time is getting slashed in the wake of a growing sentiment that he staged the so-called 'attack,'" TMZ reports. Citing "production sources," TMZ reports that the actor "was supposed to have 9 scenes and a big musical number in the second to the last episode — which is being shot now — but, 5 of his scenes have been cut, and his musical number has been 86'd."
Even in the four remaining scenes, TMZ reports, he's supposedly "no longer the focus"; instead, he is set to appear in ensemble moments, where "he's flanked by a number of cast members." According to the outlet, Smollett is thus spending less time on set this week, working just Friday and possibly Thursday, with no rehearsal time scheduled.
Meanwhile, the writers are busy heavily reworking the script, TMZ's sources say, having already produced "multiple revisions."
TMZ is also reporting that its law enforcement sources say a Grand Jury will likely be convened as early as Tuesday with police currently gathering their evidence for a felony indictment for filing a false police report. The Chicago Police Department has not publicly confirmed or denied that claim either.
Last Thursday evening, Chicago's ABC7 Eyewitness News reported that "multiple sources" told them that "police are investigating whether Smollett and the two men staged the attack allegedly because Smollett was being written off of 'Empire.'"
Smollett's representatives and Twentieth Century Fox Television both quickly denied the claim about him being axed from the show. "The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of EMPIRE is patently ridiculous," Fox said in a statement responding to ABC's report. "He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him."
Smollett's "hate crime" case took a dramatic turn on Saturday when police revealed that two brothers of Nigerian descent — associates of the actor who were initially viewed as "potential suspects" — were not charged and were now "fully cooperating" with authorities. The two men reportedly told police that Smollett paid them a total of $4,000 to fake the January 29 "attack." Smollett told both the police and the public that he was attacked by two Trump supporters who screamed "n***er," "f***ot," and "This is MAGA country," beat him, poured bleach on him, and put a "noose" around his neck.
Since the bombshell reports Saturday, Smollett has refused to meet with Chicago PD for further questioning. On Monday, multiple outlets reported a potential motive for the attack, citing sources close to the investigation who said they learned that Smollett may have orchestrated the attack because he was upset that a threatening letter allegedly sent to him did not get a "bigger reaction" from the media. That claim has also yet to be either confirmed or denied by police.