If alleged "hate crime" hoaxer Jussie Smollett ever gets a second chance at a showbiz career in Hollywood, it won't be on the show "Empire."
The creators of "Empire" confirmed on Friday that Jussie Smollett, who plays the character Jamal Lyon, has been cut entirely from the final two episodes of the season. The drastic move is a reversal from the show's previous stance to simply slash some of the actor's scenes, diminishing his overall contribution to the season finales.
"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," executive producers Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer 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.
Earlier on Thursday, Fox Entertainment said that all options were being considered on how best to move forward in light of the felony charges against the actor. "We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options," said Fox.
The decision to remove Smollett comes shortly after he returned to the "Empire" set on Thursday, where tensions were reportedly high between the cast and crew over his presence.
"We're told many of the 'Empire' actors are 'f**king furious' and feel if FOX honchos don't fire Jussie, he should quit on his own ... because he doesn't deserve a spot on the hit show," TMZ reports. "The feelings of animosity stem from the fact everyone on set had Jussie's back after the 'attack,' but in light of the new evidence police have laid out ... many of them feel hurt and embarrassed."
Cast and crew are ultimately worried that Smollett's continued presence on the show will drastically diminish its reputation, and it has also caused some division, with some cast members still expressing belief in him. The actor has continued to maintain his innocence.
"I’m sorry I’ve put you all through this and not answered any calls," Smollett reportedly told people on set Thursday night. "I wanted to say I’m sorry and, 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."
Smollett's legal team has vowed to launch an "aggressive defense" in his favor, which, given the mountain of evidence against him, will be quite a challenge.