Jussie Smollett’s role on the current fifth season of “Empire” has been cut down, a person with knowledge of the production tells TheWrap.
The reduced workload means Smollett, who plays Jamal Lyon on the Fox hip-hop soap, won’t have to be on set as much as new details in his reported Chicago assault continue to emerge. Scenes that Smollett had already shot will not be edited out of episodes that have wrapped production, however.
This latest development follows CNN’s report earlier this week that Chicago police now believe Smollett might have paid two brothers to stage an attack on him that he reported last month.
According to TMZ, which first reported the news of changes to Jamal’s remaining arc this year, Smollett had nine scenes and a “big musical number” in this season’s second-to-last episode. Five of those scenes have now been cut, along with the musical number. And for those other four scenes that remain, they have been rewritten to focus more on an ensemble than just Smollett.
“Multiple revisions” have been made to the episode’s script in just the last 24 hours, per TMZ.
“Empire” returns from its winter hiatus on March 13. Production started up again on Tuesday in Chicago.
Representatives for Fox and studio 20th Century Fox declined TheWrap’s request for comment on TMZ’s report. Representatives for “Empire” co-creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, as well as showrunner Brett Mahoney, did not return our request for comment, and neither did Smollett’s team.
Police are still investigating the reported attack on Smollett. Two brothers, Olabinjo (“Ola”) and Abimbola (“Abel”) Osundairo, were detained and released from custody without charges last Friday after the cops said “new evidence” emerged and the investigation’s “trajectory” changed course.
Authorities said this week they hope to re-question Smollett about the case, but his attorneys said Monday the star had “no plans” to meet with them.
Questions have swirled ever since Smollett said on Jan. 29 that he was attacked by two men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs and referenced “MAGA,” which stands for “Make America Great Again” and was Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign slogan.