Jussie Smollett is reportedly suicidal after his character, Jamal Lyon, was axed from Fox TV’s soap opera Empire next season. Variety.com reports Empire was renewed at the final hour on Tuesday. 20th Century Fox executives negotiated a contract extension for Smollett, but decided not to bring his character back next season.
“By mutual agreement, the studio has negotiated an extension to Jussie Smollett’s option for season six, but at this time there are no plans for the character of Jamal to return to ‘Empire,'” Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television said in a statement obtained by Variety.
According to a source close to the family, Smollett, 36, is “devastated” and suicidal over the apparent end of his acting career. The part-time singer also lost a coveted lead role in the Tony Award-winning Broadway play Take Me Out, about a baseball player who comes out of the closet at the peak of his career.
Smollett’s older brother JoJo Smollett told BET Network his younger sibling has trouble sleeping and “violently” awakens from “night terrors”.
Publicly, his reps are saying Smollett “appreciates” the studio extending his contract and leaving the door open for him to return, but privately sources are saying the door has closed and the extension was suggested by the actor’s good friend and father figure Lee Daniels, who co-created Empire as a vehicle to increase tolerance and acceptance of the LGBT community.
A spokesperson for Smollett said in a statement:
“We’ve been told that Jussie will not be on ‘Empire’ in the beginning of the season but he appreciates they have extended his contract to keep Jamal’s future open. Most importantly he is grateful to Fox and ‘Empire’ leadership, cast, crew and fans for their unwavering support.”
Smollett’s troubles began when he told police he was ambushed and attacked by two Trump supporters outside his Chicago condo in January. The actor, who is biracial and openly homosexual, said his attackers shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him.
Smollett was arrested in February and charged with making a false police report. He was later indicted on 16 felony counts by a Cook County grand jury, but those charges were dropped in March.
The city of Chicago filed a lawsuit against Smollett after he refused to pay $130,000 to cover the costs of investigating his lies.