getting the hook
February 19, 2019

Fox just last week denied reports that Jussie Smollett would ever be written off Empire. But a lot has changed since then.

The Fox show is reportedly in the process of cutting Smollett scenes from upcoming episodes, TMZ and Deadline are both reporting. The drama series is currently in production, but Deadline reports that Smollett will be "a rare presence" on set this week and that "upcoming episodes have seen serious rewrites" to minimize his role. TMZ similarly reports that scripts have "undergone multiple revisions" and that scenes where he's the focus are being removed. But Deadline says there aren't plans to cut Smollett out of episodes that had already been shot.

Smollett has alleged he was the victim of a hate crime and that two men attacked him in Chicago, specifically targeting him because of his role on Empire and screaming "This is MAGA country" at him while they beat him, covered him in bleach, and tied a rope around his neck. Since then, questions have emerged about his account, with two local Chicago news stations reporting last week that police now suspect that Smollett staged the attack himself, something he has strongly denied. One report suggested he may have done so because he was in danger of being written off Empire.

Fox pushed back on that report, saying that the idea that Smollett "has been, or would be, written of Empire is patently ridiculous," with the network adding, "we continue to stand behind him." But since then, police have said that the case's "trajectory" has changed, and CNN is reporting that cops believe he paid the two men to attack him and that the men are cooperating with law enforcement. Fox is now declining to comment, which The New York Times' Sopan Deb notes is a "stark contrast" to their position just days ago. Brendan Morrow

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