Jussie Smollett's ‘Empire' Character ‘Not Being Written Out,' Fox Says in New Statement

Chicago police are seeking a follow-up interview with Smollett after police said new information "shifted" their investigation of the reported attack, but it's unclear if or when the "Empire" actor will comply.

"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett's character "is not being written out of the show," 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said in a statement released Wednesday, days after Chicago police said they want to re-interview the actor and singer about an alleged attack he reported last month.

"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," Fox said of Smollett's "Empire" character, Jamal Lyon.

Less than a day earlier, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself, without explanation, from the investigation into the alleged attack.

"Out of an abundance of caution, the decision to recuse herself was made to address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case," a spokesperson said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

Chicago police are seeking a follow-up interview with Smollett after police said new information "shifted" their investigation of the reported attack, but it's unclear if or when the "Empire" actor will comply.

A representative for Smollett said he had no plans to speak with detectives on Monday, despite their requests. A source close to the situation said Smollett had not met with police as of Tuesday afternoon and would not be meeting with them later that day.

Detectives were questioning two brothers about the attack but released them late Friday without charges, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Saturday. Police said they had gleaned new information from their interrogation of the two men and they were no longer suspects.

A source familiar with the investigation told NBC's Andy Blankstein the investigation has shifted to whether Smollett paid the two men to fake the attack. 

Guglielmi declined to comment on published reports that police believe Smollett staged the assault or that a grand jury may hear evidence in the case. 

"We're not confirming, denying or commenting on anything until we can talk to him and we can corroborate some information that we've gotten," he said.

Last week, police said reports that the attack against Smollett was a hoax were unconfirmed.

Smollett, who is black and gay, told authorities he was physically attacked last month as he was returning home from an early morning stop at a Subway restaurant in downtown Chicago. He said two masked men shouted racial, anti-gay slurs and "This is MAGA country!" as they looped a rope around his neck and poured an "unknown chemical substance" on him before running away.

Smollett's lawyers said late Saturday that the actor felt "victimized" by reports that he played a role in the assault, adding that, "nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying." The statement from attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor P. Henderson also said Smollett would continue cooperating with police.

Police said they combed surveillance video in the heavily monitored area where Smollett said the attack occurred but were unable to find any footage of the incident. They did obtain images of two people they said they wanted to question.

Last week, Chicago police picked up two brothers at O'Hare International Airport as they returned from Nigeria. One of the men is Smollett's personal trainer, whom the actor hired to help get him physically ready for a music video, Smollett's attorneys said in their statement.

"It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie's complicity," the attorneys said.

Police have said they were investigating the attack as a possible hate crime and considered Smollett a victim. Reports of the assault drew outrage and support for him on social media from some politicians and celebrities. Smollett's account of what happened also has been met with skepticism, particularly in the wake of the latest developments.

Smollett, who is also a musician, gave an emotional speech during a Feb. 2 concert in West Hollywood, California, saying he went ahead with the show because he couldn't let his attackers win.

He also gave an interview to Robin Roberts of ABC News that aired Thursday in which he said he was "pissed" at people who did not believe he was attacked.

"I've heard that it was a date gone bad, which I also resent that narrative," he said. "I'm not gonna go out and get a tuna sandwich and a salad to meet somebody. That's ridiculous. And it's offensive."

"I respect too much the people - who I am now one of those people - who have been attacked in any way," Smollett told Roberts, adding, "You do such a disservice when you lie about things like this."

Smollett turned over redacted phone records that police said were not sufficient for a criminal investigation.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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