‘Empire’ Cast And Crew Fear Smollett Scandal Could Mean End Of Show

Jussie Smollett arriving for a court appearance.
Nuccio DiNuzzo / Getty Images

The Jussie Smollett hate crime brouhaha, which has led to criminal charges against the actor for what prosecutors say was a faked hate crime, could lead to the end of Empire, per a new report.

According to TMZ, the series has not yet been renewed by Fox and “anxiety is high” among the cast and crew of the series that the show could end up canceled. Beyond the question of whether Smollett will be fired from the show, and what might happen to his character in the event of such a firing, there’s a chance the series might not return at all.

Empire, most years, has been renewed for the following season in January, although last year’s renewal by Fox came later. Some on the Empire set “feel like Jussie and his case will be a big factor in how things shake out,” TMZ said.

A Page Six report earlier this week said that the Empire team is “divided” on Smollett. While most of the cast continues to back the actor, the crew remains much less supportive. This came to a head, according to that report, when a well-wishes card for Smollett was circulated, and some crew members, including the hair and makeup department, neglected to sign it.

Smollett, as was announced last month, will not appear on the last two episodes of this season of Empire, with the explanation that his character is traveling out of the country.

Reports surfaced at the end of January that Smollett had been attacked in a racist and homophobic hate crime near his apartment in Chicago, where the series films. The attack made national news, but near-immediate doubts were raised in some quarters as to whether the attack had really happened the way Smollett said it had.

As media outlets, including several Chicago TV stations, began receiving leaks from the Chicago Police Department that undermined Smollett’s narrative, the actor continued to insist that he really had been attacked when he appeared in a pair of national television interviews, including one with Robin Roberts. Later, two men who had been declared persons of interest told police that they had helped Smollett to stage the attack, and Smollett was arrested on February 20.

Smollett was originally charged with a single count of filing a false police report, but was later charged with 16 more felony counts of “false report of offense.” He may face further charges down the road.