In the midst of the continuously-evolving investigation into the alleged attack on Empire star Jussie Smollett, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment released a statement on February 20 stating that they are standing behind Smollett and confirming that he is not being written out off the show, Billboard reports.
“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,” the statement reads.
This release of this statement comes on the heels of an investigation where the details are changing constantly. Smollett claimed he was approached at 2:00 a.m. near his apartment in Chicago by two men yelling racial and homophobic slurs, who allegedly beat him, poured an unidentified substance on him, and placed a noose around his neck. The actor also said the men yelled “This is MAGA country!” referring to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make American Great Again.”
The police eventually arrested two Nigerian brothers, Ola and Abel Osundairo, who were initially labeled as suspects. This was dropped after Chicago police revealed that information received from the two individuals had changed the trajectory of the investigation.
Despite repeated requests from the police, there have been no indications that Smollet will meet with them for a second interview.
No charges have been filed against the actor yet, and his case is set to go before a grand jury as early as this week.
Meanwhile, Smollett has lawyered up, reportedly hiring defense attorney Mark Geragos, who’s apparent defense will be that Smollett is being framed by the Chicago Police Department.
Fox’s statement comes after reports that Smollett’s character in Empire, Jamal Lyon, was being written out of the Fox drama, or was having his screen time slashed following the emergence of questions and doubts concerning the alleged attack.
Empire’s ratings have been declining over the past two seasons, leading some to believe the Smollett scandal could contribute to the cancellation of the show.
The producers would logically wait until the completion of the police investigation to make a final decision about Smollett’s future, but some are confused over the sudden show of support in the middle of the case.
Concerning his future with the show, there are reports that in Empire’s second-to-last episode of the season, Smollett’s role has been reduced from nine scenes to four.
A song he was scheduled to perform has also been cut, which lead to rumors that producers were gradually writing him out of the series.