Empire Producers Reportedly Don't Think Jussie Smollett Issue Was About Money

Empire renewed for Season 6

There has been a lot of back-and-forth in the case of Jessie Smollett who told Chicago police he had been attacked by two white men while walking back from a Subway restaurant on January 29. In the time since, the Chicago police have charged Smollett with federal disorderly conduct in falsifying a police report and the actors’ role on Empire has been cut down for the remainder of this season. Police reportedly believe that Jussie Smollett staged the attack to raise his profile and subsequently his Empire salary. Fox brass allegedly don’t agree.

Right now, Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard are the two highest paid actors on Empire, earning a reported $250,000 per episode. Some other cast members are a step down from those salaries, with Jussie Smollett allegedly earning $125,000 per episode alongside Bryshere Y. Gray, who plays Hakeem on the series.

Per TMZ, Jussie Smollett had not spoken with Fox executives about a potential salary change in the weeks prior to his attack in Chicago. He was in the middle of a “long-term contract” with Empire.

Usually it is only at the end of contracts that actors are in a good position to renegotiate, which is how the cast members over at The Big Bang Theory ended up earning a million per episode later in that show’s run.

Sources are reporting that Smollett seems to have been a little more concerned about his musical career in the weeks leading up to his attack. His first album Sum of My Music did not do particularly well and he was working on a follow-up at the time of the alleged attack.

Jussie Smollett has maintained his innocence since he first reported being attacked by two men who reportedly ended up being Nigerian Americans Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, but Chicago police have come out to say the department feels confident in the felony charges, which could result in up to 3 years in prison or $25,000 in fines if convicted.

This week, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson spoke out on Good Morning America about what is going on with the charges, noting,

So right now, as I said, he has the presumption of innocence and he'll get his opportunity in court if he chooses to go that route. I was very acutely aware of the situation in terms of the Chicago Police Department declaring he was a suspect. But I can tell you this [sic] there's a lot more evidence that hasn't been presented yet that does not support the version that he gave us. There's still a lot of physical evidence, video evidence and testimony that just simply doesn't support his version of what happened.

While all of this is being sorted out, Fox and Empire allegedly decided to cut down Jussie Smollett’s role during the show’s final couple of episodes this season. Ultimately that wasn’t the decision that was made. While Fox has said those on Empire “care deeply” about Jussie and the character of Jamal, the show cut the character out of the final two episodes.

Empire typically has shortened seasons compared to other network shows. While the show will be wrapping up Season 5 soon, Fox may not make a decision about a renewal until later this TV season. Even with all of the Jussie Smollett brouhaha ratings have remained steady on the series, however.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Jessica Rawden is Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. She’s been kicking out news stories since 2007 and joined the full-time staff in 2014. She oversees news content, hiring and training for the site, and her areas of expertise include theme parks, rom-coms, Hallmark (particularly Christmas movie season), reality TV, celebrity interviews and primetime. She loves a good animated movie. Jessica has a Masters in Library Science degree from Indiana University, and used to be found behind a reference desk most definitely not shushing people. She now uses those skills in researching and tracking down information in very different ways.