Smollett’s character cut from Empire
EMBATTLED actor Jussie Smollett has apologised to the cast and crew of Empire - offering up an emotional, on-set plea in which he maintained his innocence.
"I'm sorry I've put you all through this and not answered any calls," he said, according to production sources who spoke to TMZ, the New York Post reports.
"I wanted to say I'm sorry and, you know me, I would never do this to any of you," Smollett added.
"You are my family. I swear to God, I did not do this."
Sources told TMZ that Smollett was at least 30 minutes late for shooting on Thursday after appearing in court earlier in the day.
His apology however was not enough to stop him being cut from the last two episodes of season five.
"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," the producers, Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer, said in a statement released by 20th Century Fox Television. "While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out," the statement continued. "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."
His co-stars are reportedly split over the incident.
His Empire cast mate and former flatmate Gabby Sidibe deleted a message of support she had posted for Smollett.
The actress had shared two posts on Instagram captioned "I know him, I believe him, I stand with him" but they have since disappeared from her account.
Some of those who publicly supported Smollett when news of the alleged attack broke have responded to the revelation he may have faked it.
Democratic California Senator Kamala Harris, who is running for president, had called the attack on Smollett an "attempted modern day lynching".
On Twitter Senator Harris now said she was "sad, frustrated and disappointed".
The 36-year-old is facing a class 4 felony charge of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report. He claims to have suffered a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago late last month.
Police say Smollett, who is gay and black, made up the attack story to gain sympathy and a possible pay raise. He has denied the allegations against him.
His lawyers have maintained he has "impeccable character and integrity" and was "betrayed" by the legal system, despite mounting evidence from authorities that the actor staged a hate attack on himself.
"Today we witnessed an organised law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system," Smollett's lawyers said.
"The presumption of innocence, a bedrock, in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably on the eve of a mayoral election."
The statement goes on to say that the TV actor "fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing."
20th Century Fox Television - which produces Empire - did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday in regards to the Smollett apology.
Sources told Page Six that the actor's role as Jamal Lyon will likely be reduced due to the scandal surrounding him.
"We understand the seriousness of this matter, and we respect the legal process," Fox said in a statement on Thursday following Smollett's arrest. "We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options."
This article originally appeared on the New York Post and has been republished with permission.