“Empire” has been renewed for a sixth season, but Jussie Smollett will likely not return.
“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 (via E! News).
Smollett was indicted on 16 felony counts for allegedly filing a false police report, claiming he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. All the charges were dropped and Smollett has maintained his innocence, but both his future with “Empire” and the show’s future had been in question.
Last week, Smollett’s fellow co-stars including Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, as well as the show’s creator Lee Daniels, wrote an open letter to Fox and Disney executives asking for Smollett to be brought back.
“Together, as a united front, we stand with Jussie Smollett and ask that our co-star, brother and friend be brought back for our sixth season of ‘Empire,’” read the letter. “Throughout ‘Empire’s’ five seasons working with Jussie and watching how he has conducted himself throughout this traumatic event, we have come to know not just the character Jussie portrays, but also truly come to know Jussie’s personal character. He is kind. He is compassionate. He is honest and above all he is filled with integrity.”
On April 11, the City of Chicago filed a $130,000 lawsuit against the 36-year-old actor in order to recoup the cost of the police investigation.
Last week’s episode of “Empire” was the last of the season to feature Smollett, whose character Jamal Lyon married Kai (Toby Onwumere). The future of his character was not addressed.
“Empire continues to break barriers with its emotionally powerful storytelling, and it remains a core part of the FOX legacy,” said Michael Thorn, President of Entertainment for Fox Entertainment, in a statement. “We want to thank everyone on the show–Taraji, Terrence and the entire cast, as well as Lee, Danny, Brett, Sanaa, Brian, Francie, Dennis and their teams –all of whom have done a tremendous job this season. We know there are so many more stories to tell, and we can’t wait to see what they have in store for Season Six.”