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By Minyvonne Burke
Fox studio is responding to a report that actor Jussie Smollett’s scenes on the show “Empire” have been significantly reduced in the wake of suggestions that he may have staged an attack on himself last month in Chicago.
“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,” 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said in a statement Wednesday.
The statement follows a TMZ story claiming Smollett’s scenes on the show were “getting slashed” from nine to four.
Smollett, 36, plays Jamal Lyon, the son of music mogul Lucious Lyon on “Empire,” which is in its fifth season and returns to the air March 13.
The actor, who is black and gay, told Chicago police he was beaten Jan. 29 by two masked men who hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him as he was out getting food in the upscale neighborhood of Streeterville. He also said the men put a noose around his neck and poured what he said was bleach on him.
Police investigated the alleged assault as a possible hate crime and last week arrested Ola and Abel Osundairo, who are brothers, in connection with the reported attack.
Police released the two men Friday without charges. They are no longer suspects in the case, police said, adding that after questioning the brothers, the investigation into the attack “had shifted.”
Authorities are now looking at whether Smollett allegedly paid the two men to stage an assault, a police source familiar with the investigation told NBC News on Saturday. Police have requested another interview with the actor.
Smollett’s attorneys have strongly denied any suggestion that the actor was complicit.
“He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack,” the attorneys said.