“Empire” returned from its mid-season hiatus last night and although the show was filmed weeks before Jussie Smollett’s legal troubles began, the plot for his character seems eerily similar.
While Smollett’s character, Jamal Lyon, has always been a fan favorite, the show’s producer revealed the turmoil that has erupted behind the scenes due to his real-life legal drama sent them scrambling for a new plan. One that ultimately ended with Producers deciding to write Jamal Lyon out of the final two episodes of Season 5, all together.
Executive Producer Brett Mahoney told Entertainment Weekly, “It was a very difficult decision, but I think in terms of allowing the cast and the crew to really get the work done without a great deal of disruption in terms of the day-to-day and the stress of the day-to-day. And, in addition, allowing Jussie the time to really deal with what he’s been confronted with and allow him the time to focus and prepare his case, this seems like the logical decision to make.”
Smollett was due in court today for a hearing to select a trial judge and enter a plea in the case stemming from charges handed down last month, which allege he lied about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack by two masked men in downtown Chicago on Jan. 29.
While the ”Empire” cast and crew members where very supportive of Smollett in the beginning, with the charges and legal battle now looming over his head, show insiders have now chosen to seek ways of putting some distance between the troubled star and the show, as they wait for word on whether or not they will be renewed for season 6.
“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,” the show’s producers said in a statement following Smollett’s arrest.
Mahoney also told E! News that producers are now waiting to see how Smollett’s legal issues work out before deciding the fate of his character.
Smollett maintains his innocence.