Fox confirmed Wednesday that Jussie Smollett will remain on “Empire” despite recent developments casting doubt on the Chicago attack the actor said he endured last month.
“Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show,” 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said in a statement to The Times on Wednesday.
Smollett, 36, plays openly gay musician Jamal Lyon on the musical drama, which is in its fifth season.
Fox’s latest show of support comes amid reports that the actor’s scenes in forthcoming episodes were being slashed due to mounting skepticism and unconfirmed claims that the attack was a hoax.
Also on Wednesday, Cook County’s state attorney, Kim Foxx, recused herself from the ongoing investigation “based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case,” which reportedly could have led to a grand jury indictment of Smollett, the Chicago Tribune said.
Police had initially been investigating the Jan. 29 incident as a possible hate crime because the actor claimed that his attackers hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him, poured an unknown chemical on him and tied a rope around his neck.
But on Saturday, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the trajectory of the investigation had “shifted” due to information received from two brothers who were arrested and released without charges last week. He did not elaborate on what that meant.
When asked if Smollett is still being considered a victim in the case, Guglielmi told The Times in a statement on Tuesday that they “have some information that needs to be corroborated and verified with Mr. Smollett” before he could answer that question.
The brothers, one of whom was a personal trainer Smollett hired to ready him for a music video, reportedly claimed that Smollett hired them to carry out the attack. However, Smollett’s attorneys have disputed that claim and said the actor is “angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with.”
“It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity,” the statement from Smollett’s attorneys said.
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