Empire executives suspend Jussie Smollett and say his character Jamal will not appear in final two episodes

Gareth Davies
Jussie Smollett - REUTERS

Jussie Smollett's character Jamal will not appear in the final two episodes of Empire, the Fox show's executive producers have said.

Smollett has been charged with filing a false police report after alleging he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack, authorities have said.

Police in Chicago had earlier said the 36-year-old actor was being considered as a suspect in the case and have now confirmed charges have been brought against him.

He has been charged by Cook County State's Attorney's Office with disorderly conduct and filing a false police report. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said detectives are now looking to arrest Smollett.

In a statement, Fox said: "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.

"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."

Jussie Smollett's mugshot

Lawyers acting on behalf of Smollett have said they will mount an "aggressive defence" to the charges.

Lawyers Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said in a statement: "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.

"Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defence."

It did not say where Smollett is and when he might turn himself in to police.

The charges emerged on the same day that detectives and two brothers who were earlier deemed suspects testified before a grand jury.

The announcement that charges had been made followed weeks of speculation around the investigation and lengthy interviews of the brothers by authorities, a search of their home and their release after police cleared them.

Investigators have not said what the brothers told detectives or what evidence detectives collected.

On Friday, it became clear the focus of the investigation had shifted when police announced a "significant shift in the trajectory" of the probe after the brothers were freed.

If found guilty of the Class 4 felony, Smollett faces a prison sentence of between one to three years, but could also receive probation.

Smollett had alleged he had been attacked by two masked men in downtown Chicago on January 29, telling police his attackers had shouted racist and homophobic abuse and tied a noose around his neck.

Jussie Smollett as his character Jamal in Empire Credit: Chuck Hodes/Fox

Smollett, who is black and came out as gay in 2015, made a tearful appearance on Good Morning America this month and said he had been "forever changed" by the alleged attack.

He said: "I will never be the man who this didn't happen to.

"I am forever changed and I don't subscribe to the idea that everything happens for a reason, but I do subscribe to the idea that we have the right and responsibility to make something meaningful out of the things that happen to us, good and bad."

Asked what message he wanted to send by speaking about the attack, he replied: "I want young people, young members of the LGTBQ community, young black children, to know how strong they are, to know the power they hold in their little pinky."

Smollett has starred in musical drama Empire since 2015. He plays Jamal, the gay son of a music mogul, played by Terrence Howard.

Fox, the network which airs Empire, said it had no comment to add.