Jussie Smollett has been cut from the final two episodes of Empire Season 5 following his arrest for disorderly conduct and filing a false police report, the show's producers announced Friday.
"The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us. Jussie has been an important member of our Empire family for the past five years and we care about him deeply," read the statement, signed by executive producers Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer. "While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out. We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of 'Jamal' from the final two episodes of the season."
Smollett was arrested Thursday and later returned to the set of Empire, reported PEOPLE, shortly after being released on $100,000 bond.
Smollett's fate on the series as it moves forward remains unclear. In a statement released Thursday, reps for Twentieth Century Fox 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."
Smollett was arrested and charged Thursday after Chicago police revealed the alleged assault he had reported last month was a purported hoax. According to police, Smollett, who stars as Jamal Lyon on Empire, was reportedly unhappy with his salary on the Fox series. At the time, Smollett claimed he was attacked by two men who wore masks and shouted "MAGA country" — a reference to President Donald Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again." The attackers, per Smollett, shouted racial and homophobic slurs at the actor and put a noose around his neck.
"Why would anyone — especially an African-American man — use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?" Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said on Thursday during a press conference. "How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile?"
Smollett and his attorneys have remained steadfast in claiming the star did nothing wrong. "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," Smollett's lawyers said late Wednesday. "Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense."
In a statement released Thursday, following his arrest, Smollett's legal representation blasted law enforcement officials. "Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system," said Smollett's lawyers in a statement released to press. "The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election. Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing."
Police allege Smollett paid two brothers $3,500 to stage the attack.
Fox, for its part, has stood by Smollett throughout the investigation. "We are deeply saddened and outraged to learn that a member of our Empire family, Jussie Smollett, was viciously attacked last night. We send our love to Jussie, who is resilient and strong, and we will work with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice. The entire studio, network and production stands united in the face of any despicable act of violence and hate — and especially against one of our own," the company said the day Smollett's alleged assault was revealed.
As the investigation moved forward, it was rumored Smollett potentially orchestrated the attack because he was being written off the show, another claim Fox swiftly debunked. "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 company said.
This week, after it was revealed Fox had cut Smollett's scenes down in an upcoming Empire episode, the network again stood by its star. "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."
If convicted of the felony, Smollett faces up to three years in prison.
While Smollett's Empire future remains unclear, at least one show parted ways with the actor in the wake of his arrest. Jensen Karp, an executive producer on TNT's Drop the Mic, tweeted that a planned episode with Smollett and Clay Aiken will no longer air.
This post has been updated throughout as new developments in Smollett's case occurred. Refresh for the latest.