This image released by Fox shows Jussie Smollett, left, and Taraji P. Henson in a scene from the "The Depth of Grief" episode of "Empire," originally airing on Oct. 31, 2018. (Chuck Hodes/FOX via AP)
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Jussie Smollett is enmeshed in weekly drama on the set of "Empire," the Fox TV series that gave the actor a breakout role and the fame to advance his social activism.But a scene that played out on a dark Chicago street in January has left Smollett facing felony charges and raised the possibility that "Empire" could mark the pinnacle of the 38-year-old's career.Producers appeared to be doing that for now, with Smollett traveling directly after being released from jail on bond Thursday to the "Empire" set.Replacing Smollett at this point would be problematic. The Fox studio that makes "Empire" publicly stood behind Smollett when he first reported the attack and as skepticism about it arose.The online mockery Smollett is taking is unlikely to stop, and it could hinder any attempt to re-emerge, said Eric Dezenhall, CEO of the public relations firm Dezenhall Resources.The allegation that Smollett did it for money could be seen as both a betrayal and baffling, given what he earns: more than $1.8 million for the current 18-episode season of "Empire," according to a person familiar with the situation.Dezenhall said it would be tough for Smollett, who proclaimed himself innocent of the charges through his lawyers, to explain himself publicly.
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