‘Empire’ Producer Says Cutting Jussie Smollett From Final Season 5 Episodes Was ‘A Very Difficult Decision’

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Smollett's character handled scurrilous weblog rumors on Wednesday night time's (March 13) sequence return.

Fox music drama Empire returned on Wednesday night time (March 13) from a mid-season hiatus with the same old praise of plot twists, heated arguments, snitches dangled from home windows and palace intrigue swirling across the Lyon household. Unexpectedly on the middle of the drama, regardless of modest display screen time, was center son Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollett), who was coping with some eerily acquainted issues within the episode entitled "My Fault is Past." 

Though the present was filmed weeks earlier than Smollett turned embroiled in some severe off-screen points as a result of what Chicago police say was a faked hate crime assault in downtown Chicago on Jan. 29, eagle-eyed viewers probably may parse unintended, hidden meanings in the event that they appeared onerous sufficient. In truth, Jamal's first scene included a lecture from mom Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson), who snapped, "The Lyons are Empire, you're Empire, so it doesn't matter what you suppose or how you are feeling about it, if it's tainted, we're all tainted," after Jamal demurred when requested to assist his dad and mom win again their imperiled musical kingdom. 

Even more odd, when youngest brother Hakeem proposed roughing up the sibling's newly found stepbrother from one other mom, Smollett's Jamal says, "We ain't gonna beat no person's ass," one other odd parallel contemplating Smollett is accused of paying two males -- one in every of whom he's labored with on Empire -- to beat him up within the alleged Chicago assault.

The sequence' return comes amid the cloud of damaging headlines about Smollett's case -- the actor was due in court docket on Thursday (March 14) for a listening to -- with government producer Brett Mahoney telling E! News that the choice to drop him from the ultimate two episodes of the fifth season was not a simple one. "It was a really troublesome choice, however I believe when it comes to permitting the solid and the crew to essentially get the work achieved with out an excessive amount of disruption when it comes to the day-to-day and the stress of the day-to-day, and, as well as, permitting Jussie the time to essentially cope with what he's been confronted with and permit him the time to focus and put together his case, this looks like the logical choice to make," Mahoney mentioned.

After initially voicing their full help for Smollett, who claimed the 2 then-identified males hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him earlier than an assault wherein they allegedly poured bleach on him, put a bit of rope on his neck and roughed him up, the producers modified their minds after the actor was arrested and charged with submitting a false police report. 

"The occasions of the previous few weeks have been extremely emotional for all of us. Jussie has been an essential member of our Empire household for the previous 5 years and we care about him deeply," the present's producers mentioned in an announcement following Smollett's arrest. "While these allegations are very disturbing, we're putting our belief within the authorized system as the method performs out. We are additionally conscious of the results of this course of on the solid and crew members who work on our present and to keep away from additional disruption on set, we have now determined to take away the position of 'Jamal' from the ultimate two episodes of the season."

Mahoney instructed E! that producers are actually ready to see how Smollett's authorized points work out earlier than deciding the destiny of his character. "It's a matter of trusting the method and permitting the authorized course of to play out and see the place it goes from there," he mentioned. "And it's too early to consider what we must do if we didn't have Jussie. We have such a powerful ensemble and we have now so many tales to inform for all of those fascinating characters that it's greater than one character, nevertheless it's too early to consider the present with out him."

Though Empire has has not but formally been renewed for a sixth season, Mahoney mentioned he's assured that Fox stands behind the sequence. "I do know that the community and studio is absolutely proud of what we've achieved creatively this season," he mentioned. "I'm not shocked that we don't essentially have a decide up at this level as I believe final season we waited till May. All the indications I've are that we'll be. And we do have so many of those tales to inform, so I can't think about we gained't be capable to inform them."

Not to place too tremendous a degree on it, however on Wednesday night time's episode Jamal returns to the stage to carry out a high-energy monitor for some highschool college students and addresses his household's very public drama in his first present for the reason that household's soiled laundry was aired; Smollett carried out an emotional present simply days after the alleged assault. "I don't know if ya'll been studying the blogs and all that foolishness," Jamal Lyon says. "But it's form of been a troublesome week, so I needed to come dwelling to my very own highschool...stick collectively!"