“Empire” will return to Fox in the fall, but one of its most famous cast members will likely not be joining for the new season. In a pair of announcements on Tuesday, the network revealed that the series has been renewed for a Season 6, but that cast member Jussie Smollett is not returning to the show at this time.
A statement from Fox Entertainment and 21st Century Fox TV read, “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.'”
Accompanying the Season 6 renewal news, Fox Entertainment president Michael Thorn saluted the show’s creative team and avoided addressing Smollett by name. “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,” Thorn said.
Smollett will not be tried on recent charges stemming from an alleged staged hate crime attack on January 29. After evidence surfaced that appeared to contradict Smollett’s initial claims that he had been attacked by two strangers, the actor was eventually taken into custody by Chicago police on February 21. Charges against Smollett were eventually dropped in late March, well after the event had become a national political news story.
At the time Smollett’s charges were stricken, his attorneys maintained his innocence. “This entire situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion. That is wrong,” a statement read. Earlier this month, the city of Chicago filed a lawsuit against Smollett as a means of recouping the over $130,000 spent on the initial investigation into Smollett’s assertions.
In the world of “Empire,” last week’s episode saw the marriage of Smollett’s character Jamal to his boyfriend Kai (Toby Onwumere), a ceremony that culminated with Kai telling those gathered for the celebration that he is HIV positive. Season 5 of “Empire” will close next Wednesday night with a season finale entitled “The Roughest Day.”