The cast of Empire openly advocated for Jussie Smollett to return to the show's possible sixth season ahead of the actor's final episode.
The Fox drama series said goodbye to Smollett's Jamal Lyon Wednesday in an episode that featured his wedding to his fiancé Kai (Toby Onwumere). Before the episode aired, series stars Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard, Bryshere Y. Gray, Trai Byers, Gabourey Sidibe and Nile Ari Parker wrote an open letter (dated April 19) to Fox bosses pleading for the actor to return.
The letter was reportedly sent to Fox Exntertainment CEO Charlie Collier, Disney TV Studios and ABC Entertainment chair Dana Walden, Fox Entertainment President Michael Thorn, series co-creator Lee Daniels, co-creator Danny Strong and other producers, The Hollywood Reporter writes.
"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," the letter began.
"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 continued. "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."
"Jussie has shown us on and off the set who he really is as a leader. In addition to being a caring friend and cast member who treats every crew member with love and respect, he has spent time with our families and individually supported each of us. These recent and detailed letters from The Black AIDS Institute, the Rainbow Push Coalition and the City Lights Orchestra shine a light on his commitment to true community service. Just a few months ago, Jussie partnered with the Trevor Project to provide support to their volunteer program that allows LGBTQ youth in crisis access to vital counseling services. Prior to that, he gave every cent from his sold out world tour to numerous charities. He has adopted a school in Chicago, taught songwriting to incarcerated youth at the Cook County Jail last year and bought the family of Kayden Kinckle, a six-year-old, double amputee, a wheelchair accessible van due to his school district not having a wheelchair accessible school bus. He has traveled to South Africa for service as well as to Jamaica to quietly meet about the safety of LGBTQ youth. This was all done without posturing, the need for attention or even discussion."
"This is the Jussie we know," they added. "It's clearer every day that the extreme political climate in our country has only made our system of justice and the court of public opinion more unjust. It is why now, more than ever, 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. We understand that this show is a business. And that business matters to us as well. We are confident our fans will welcome our 'Jamal' back into the Empire family as enthusiastically as we will."
They conclude, "That is why we write today to ask you to keep Jussie on the cast so that we can all put this behind us and move forward. Thank you for taking time to hear us. It's our hope that together we will move into our sixth season as the entire Empire family should."1comments
Smollett was written out the final two episodes of Empire's fifth season after he was indicted for his alleged involvement in staging a hate crime on himself in January. He has since been cleared of all charges.
Empire airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox. The show has not officially been renewed for a sixth season.