Fox’s Empire is cutting back on Jussie Smollett‘s scenes and shooting schedule this week, as the investigation into an alleged attack of the actor — including the possibility that it may have been staged by Smollett himself — intensifies.
Per our sister site Deadline, Smollett will be “a rare presence” on the set this week as upcoming episodes undergo “serious rewrites” to reduce his scenes, while episodes already filmed will remain unchanged. (A Fox spokesperson had no comment for TVLine on the production changes.)
Smollett currently is facing further questioning by the Chicago Police Department after two persons of interest (brothers from Nigeria, one of whom worked as a personal trainer on a music video of Smollett’s) were released on Friday after additional interviews, and without being charged.
Chicago PD communications director Anthony Guglielmi said on Saturday, “We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police … has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation.” Deadline in turn quoted a source as saying “the new direction of the investigation is now based on the premise that Mr. Smollett was an active participant in the incident.”
Smollett’s lawyers issued a statement late Saturday, saying, “As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”
As for reports that Smollett knew one or both of the Nigerian brothers, his lawyers said, “It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity.”
Smollett sought treatment at a hospital in Chicago, where Empire is filmed, following his alleged late-January attack, in which two men supposedly approached the actor/singer and began hurling racist and homophobic slurs at him. He performed at an L.A. concert days after the attack, and appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America last week to give his account of the incident, saying that he’s been “forever changed” by it.