Smollett, who has played Jamal on the Fox drama since its debut, was arrested early Thursday in Chicago and faces a felony criminal charge of disorderly conduct/filing a false police report in connection with his alleged attack in January.
In a statement, series producers 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said: “We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”
In late January, Smollett reported to Chicago police that he was the victim of an early morning attack in which two men taunted the actor/singer with racist and homophobic slurs, then beat him, poured a liquid on him and placed a noose around his neck. Per Smollett, the men also referenced “MAGA,” or President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again”slogan, during the incident. The actor elaborated on the attack in a February Good Morning America interview, telling Robin Roberts that he’d been “forever changed” by what happened to him.
When later developments seemed to contradict Smollett’s account, his lawyers insisted that he played no role in the attack, and the show’s producers denied that his part on the series would be reduced as a reaction to the controversy. “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 production company said in a statement at the time.
In a press conference Thursday, Chicago police alleged that Smollett hired two men to fake the attack because he was dissatisfied with his Empire salary. On Wednesday, the actor’s legal team released a statement saying, “Like any other citizen,Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”