metro: Doubts have been cast over Jussie Smollett’s future on Empire amid the ongoing investigation into his attack in Chicago, but show bosses have insisted it’s ‘too early’ for the series to rule out his return.

Jussie was attacked at the end of January by two masked men in an incident that was initially treated as a hate crime by authorities, as the actor claimed he endured racial and homophobic abuse throughout the ordeal. Two men were questioned and released over the attack and Jussie is now facing 16 charges for filing a false police report in relation to the incident. He has been accused of ‘orchestrating’ the attack – claims he has continuously denied.

There’s been speculation that as a result of the investigation, Jussie’s character, Jamal Lyons, in Empire could now be ‘recast or killed off’, but Empire boss Brett Mahoney has said it’s ‘too early’ for any decisions to be made.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Mahoney said: ‘It’s a matter of trusting the process and allowing the legal process to play out and see where it goes from there. ‘It’s too early to think about what we would have to do if we didn’t have Jussie… it’s too early to think about the show without him.’

Fox have confirmed that Jussie will not appear in the final two episodes of season five of Empire – a decision Mahoney says was a ‘very difficult’ one to make. ‘I think in terms of allowing the cast and crew to really get the work done without a great deal of disruption in terms of the day-to-day and the stress of the day-to-day, in addition, allowing Jussie the time to really deal with what he’s been confronted with and allow him the time to focus and prepare his case – this seems like the logical decision to make,’ he explained. Mahoney added that the last few weeks have been an ’emotional rollercoaster’ on set and seemed to debunk any reports of tension among the cast, crew and Jussie.

TMZ reported that the Empire cast were ‘concerned’ over the show’s future as it is yet to be renewed for a sixth season and many have ‘serious reservations’ about Jussie returning. Mahoney, however, insisted the furore around Jussie’s case has ‘brought everyone together’. He said: ‘I don’t really see it as something that is dividing people, more like bringing people together, bringing the cast and crew together in terms of let’s get this done.’

Jussie was was originally charged with one Class 4 Felony charge for disorderly conduct for filing a false report, but that charge has now been applied 15 times over by Cook County grand jury, meaning he now faces 16 felony counts.

Source: Published by metro

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