The musical drama has been hit by disruption following Jussie Smollett’s arrest on charges relating to him allegedly faking a racist and homophobic attack on himself earlier this year, prompting producers to axe him from the final two episodes of the series, but his co-star – who plays family matriarch Cookie Lyon – claims the scandal hasn’t affected the atmosphere during filming.
She told ‘Entertainment Tonight’: “It’s a great atmosphere.”
While the 48-year-old actress stayed tight-lipped on how Jussie’s character, her on-screen son Jamal Lyon, will be written out of the finale, she is excited about what’s in store for her own alter ego.
She said: “Cookie’s on a really emotional roller coaster this year. She’s finding herself.”
‘Empire’ showrunner Brett Mahoney recently insisted it is “too early” to make a decision on whether Jussie will keep his job on the show as he and other executives working on the show wants to see how his legal case develops first.
He said: “It’s a matter of trusting the process and allowing the legal process to play out and see where it goes from there. And it’s too early to think about what we would have to do if we didn’t have Jussie.
“We have such a strong ensemble and we have so many stories to tell for all of these fascinating characters that it’s bigger than one character, but it’s too early to think about the show without him.”
However, the executive producer felt making the “difficult decision” to drop the 36-year-old actor from the final weeks of filming was the best thing to do, both to allow him to focus on his legal battle and his co-stars to focus on the show without any “disruption” or stress.
He explained: “It was a very difficult decision, but I think in terms of allowing the cast and the crew to really get the work done without a great deal of disruption in terms of the day-to-day and the stress of the day-to-day, and, in addition, allowing Jussie the time to really deal with what he’s been confronted with and allow him the time to focus and prepare his case, this seems like the logical decision to make.”