Empire star Jussie Smollett is currently at the center of a disturbing controversy that almost feels as if it was taken from one of the show's episodes. The latest rumors and allegations are making a connection between the potential hate crime attack and Smollett's day job, as the actor may have had some of his planned scenes cut from an upcoming Empire episode.
According to TMZ, Empire is currently in production on its penultimate installment, and the show's staff has reportedly been busier than normal due to rewrites that would eliminate several scenes featuring and/or focusing on Jussie Smollett's Jamal Lyon. Sources have stated that Smollett was set up for nine different scenes in the episode, along with a big musical performance of some kind, but fans might only get to see less than half of that in the actual ep.
It's alleged that this episode, which immediately precedes the big Season 5 finale, will now only feature four of the nine scenes that Jussie Smollett was set to film this week. Five of those initial scenes were said to be excised as rumors continue to swirl concerning what actually went down in the early morning hours on January 29.
What's more, this latest report states that Jussie Smollet's character will no longer be a featured player in the four scenes that weren't cut. Now, those scenes are said to be set up more as ensemble-driven sequences where Jamal will blend in with the rest of the characters.
Possibly to be expected, Jussie Smollett's musical number has also reportedly been cut out of the episode. No word on whether it would be replaced by another Lyon family member's performance, or if another dialogue-centric scene would get written up instead. Considering Empire is as much about the hip-hop and R&B as it is about its heightened plot twists and doom-laden flash-forwards, losing a performance in the second-to-last episode would probably be a huge deal for all involved, especially if it was for a new single.
As far as how much time Jussie Smollett is reportedly expected to be on the set this week, TMZ says that he's only set to be filming on Friday, and possibly Thursday. (He was supposed to be in front of the camera every day this week.) As well, Smollett is apparently not even meant to attend rehearsals for whatever revisions were made.
Due to these alleged change-ups, Empire's writers and producers are said to be scrambling to make all the proper edits and revisions to the episode's script. That would be totally understandable, since this season has featured one of Empire's most talked-about plotlines, the big flash-forward coffin mystery. Regardless of how heavily Jamal was meant to play into that arc's conclusion, though, rewriting those scenes is still likely a major headache.
For what it's worth, both Fox and Empire co-creator Danny Strong stated last week that there have been zero plans to write Jussie Smolllett and Jamal off of the show in the aftermath of the alleged attack. Those sentiments were made before the latest batch of curiosity-stoking details came out, including the arrest and subsequent release of two potential suspects, brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, neither of which was charged for any crimes.
There is a growing number of people claiming that the attack was completely staged, with Jussie Smollett having been a part of the planning process. Those claims have been patently denied by those close to Smollett, however. Authorities have stated in recent days that the investigation is still ongoing, and that more facts still need to be confirmed before any official proclamations can be made.
In spite of those rumors pitting the Empire star as being responsible for his own attack, Jussie Smollett has received renewed support from showrunner Brett Mahoney, who says that he still stands with Smollett. The actor had received previous support from others on Empire's staff as well, including co-star Taraji P. Henson.
Empire is set to return to Fox's midseason schedule for the back half of Season 5 on Wednesday, March 13. Will any other major changes go into effect before the soapy drama returns to its "Who's in the casket?" mystery? Keep checking back for more updates.