Jussie Smollett 'Will Not' Return for 'Empire' Final Season, Lee Daniels Says
By Philiana Ng
It appears Jussie Smollett's days on Empire are over for good.
After a report circulated Tuesday afternoon suggesting that writers were prepping stories for the sixth and final season with Smollett expected to return for the back half of the 18-episode run, co-creator Lee Daniels quickly took to Twitter to shut down any speculation.
"This is not factual," Daniels wrote. "Jussie will NOT be returning to Empire."
The door had been left open for a potential Smollett cameo following the renewal announcement in April. At the time, there were "no plans" for the actor to return as Jamal Lyon, though Smollett's contract had been extended to keep the option open. “We've been told that 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," Smollett's personal rep told ET at the time.
Asked in May whether the status of a Smollett cameo had changed, with Empire ending after the next season, the head of Fox Entertainment remained mum. "There is an option [for him to return]. [At] this point, we have no plans for that," Charlie Collier, CEO of Fox Entertainment said.
Smollett, who played the Lyons' middle son, was written out of the final two episodes of season five after he was arrested in February for allegedly filing a false police report in which he claimed he was a victim of a hate crime. All charges against Smollett have since been dropped, though the city of Chicago is seeking reimbursement from the actor to cover over $130,000 in investigatory fees, which Smollett has refused to cover.
Smollett's arc as Jamal was seemingly wrapped up in a nice bow when he said "I do" to his longtime love, journalist Kai (Toby Onwumere), in front of close family and friends in an ornate church wedding, in the third to last episode of season five. His parents, Lucious (Terrence Howard) and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), walked him down the aisle. Jamal's absence was briefly addressed in the finale via a text message he sent to Cookie.
A source told ET that the culmination of Jamal's storyline was a creative priority for Smollett. "This was an episode that Jussie really championed with the writers and a storyline he is proud of," the source said.
News of Smollett's likely end on Empire comes after the cast -- led by Howard and Henson -- sent a letter to Fox and Disney urging them to reinstate Smollett for the sixth season.
"I talk to Jussie all the time. He's doing well. We're all doing well. The show is doing well," Henson said during an April appearance on The View, saying at the time that Smollett is still part of the Empire family: "I haven't heard anything else."
Now, it appears we have our answer.
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