"Empire" scenes featuring actor Jussie Smollett — in the wake of Chicago police sources indicating he orchestrated a racist, homophobic attack upon himself last month — allegedly are being cut from an upcoming episode of the show, along with a musical performance, TMZ reported.
Citing "production sources," the outlet said Smollett had been slated for nine scenes and a musical number in the second-to-last episode of the season, now being shot, but that five of those scenes as well as his spotlight performance are no more — which has sent writers into overdrive rewriting the script.
TMZ added that Smollett — who's openly gay and plays a gay character on "Empire" — is no longer the focus of his four remaining scenes and that he's merely part of an ensemble in them. In addition, the outlet said, he's not working every day this week — just Friday and possibly Thursday — and won't be rehearsing.
What did the studio say?
TheBlaze on Tuesday asked Fox — which airs "Empire" — to comment on the TMZ story, but a representative balked: "We are not commenting on this report. Our statement of last Thursday stands."
Presumably "our statement" refers to the studio's response last week amid reports Smollett was being written off the show. "The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of EMPIRE is patently ridiculous. He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him," the statement said.
"Empire" executive producer Brett Mahoney also stood behind Smollett as recently as Sunday night, a day after law enforcement sources said the Nigerian brothers arrested and later released in the alleged attack admitted Smollett paid them to do it.
In the meantime, a civil rights activist said Smollett should be arrested and prosecuted while Democratic senators like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris — so outraged over the incident when it was first reported and seemingly sure it occurred as claimed — suddenly refrained from rushing to judgment about Smollett in the last few days over hoax chatter surrounding him.
Smollett claimed he was jumped at 2 a.m. Jan. 29 on a Chicago street in near-zero temperatures by two men wearing ski masks who put a rope around his neck, poured a liquid on him that smelled like bleach, and yelled racist and homophobic slurs at him, along with saying he was in "MAGA country" — a reference to President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign slogan "Make America Great Again." No video of the alleged attack has surfaced despite Chicago boasting a high number of cameras on its streets.