Empire has been renewed by Fox for a sixth season, however it will go on without Jussie Smollett, at least for the start of the season, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The actor was written out of the final episodes of the current season, despite remaining under contract. His character, Jamal Lyon, is not scheduled to return.
“We’ve been told 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,” a representative for Smollett said. ” He is grateful to Fox and Empire leadership, cast, crew and fans for their unwavering support,” the rep followed by saying “He is grateful to Fox and Empire leadership, cast, crew and fans for their unwavering support.”
Smollett’s future with the show remained unclear after he was charged with falsifying claims that he was the subject of a hate crime to police in January. Although the charges were dropped, his character was written out of the season on a positive note as he married his fiancé and went on a honeymoon. “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 and producer 20th Century Fox TV said in a statement.
Smollett’s co-stars wrote a letter to producers and Fox networks in support of Smollett saying “We must stand together as a family. A family is there for us in good times and bad. It can cut through the noise and confusion to understand that there is a person in the center of all this who deserves nothing more than to move forward with his life.”
Fox Entertainment president Michael Thorn said “We want to thank everyone on the show — Taraji [P. Henson], Terrence [Howard] and the entire cast, as well as Lee, Danny, Brett [Mahoney], 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.” Empire is the No. 3 entertainment series overall, and Fox’s second-highest rated drama.