Jussie Smollett has been all over the news in the last few weeks, but he’ll be getting less screen time on ‘Empire’ following the purported hate crime against him.
TMZ reports that ‘Empire’ producers have cut several of Smollett’s scenes from an episode filming this week –– the second-to-last of the season. According to the report, producers have cut five of nine scenes featuring Smollett’s character Jamal Lyon and reduced his role in the remaining four. Smollett was supposed to perform a musical number in a scene but that has also been cut.
Smollett claimed that he was accosted by two men in the early morning hours of January 29 who hurled racial and homophobic slurs at the actor, allegedly tying a rope around his neck and throwing a chemical, possibly bleach, on him.
Smollett’s account has come under scrutiny after authorities arrested two men last week who were seen on surveillance camera footage near the scene of the alleged attack, which was not recorded. Detectives reportedly interviewed and released the two men, who are cooperating with investigators.
Although Chicago police have not said that Smollett is suspected of orchestrating the attack and/or filing a false police report, unidentified law enforcement sources who have spoken to the media say that Smollett paid the two men $3,500 each to participate in the attack, and offered them an additional $500 when they returned to the U.S. from a trip to Nigeria. It is unclear why the two men, who were reportedly born in Chicago, left the country that day after the alleged assault.
Law enforcement sources reportedly told TMZ that a grand jury is expected to meet over the allegations of a possible hoax, and that Smollett could be facing felony charges if it turns out the attack was orchestrated. Authorities have not said publicly that Smollett is a suspect; only that investigators wish to speak to him again. It is not clear if Smollett has yet arranged to meet with the police.
[Feature image: Raymond Hagans/MediaPunch /IPX via AP]