Empire's Season 6 renewal came with questions about whether Jussie Smollett would return, and his rep seems to have given a definitive answer.
The Fox drama series announced Tuesday that it would be returning for Season 6 during the 2019-2020 season with new episodes, with Smollett's contract extended for the season, though no plans for him to return at first.
"By mutual agreement, the studio has negotiated an extension to Jussie Smollett's option for Season 6, but at this time there are no plans for the character of Jamal to return to Empire," the studio said in a statement, not giving their reasons for the decision.
Smollett's rep confirmed the news, adding the actor will not be returning for the first episodes of Season 6, however his return is not entirely out of the question.
"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. Most importantly he is grateful to Fox and Empire leadership, cast, crew and fans for their unwavering support," the actor's spokesperson told press in a statement.
Smollett's character, Jamal Lyon, was written off the last two episodes of Season 5 after he was entangled in legal drama after his now-infamous incident in Chicago. The investigation led police to indict Smollett with filing a false police report after they believed he had staged an assault on himself for publicity.
The charges were dropped in late March clearing him of criminal wrongdoing, though Chicago filed a lawsuit requesting Smollett pay for the cost of the investigation into the attack.
Ahead of Smollett's final episode, for now, the cast of the Fox drama series released an open letter to show producers and network executives advocating for the actor to be brought back to the show.0comments
"We understand the past months have been difficult to process — sometimes the headlines brought more confusion than clarity, yet we now have a conclusion to this ordeal," the cast wrote in the letter, released by The Hollywood Reporter. "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. He is also innocent and no longer subject to legal uncertainty with the criminal charges against him having been dropped. We are confident in his lawyer's assurance that the case was dismissed because it would not have prevailed."
Empire airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.