'Empire' Creator Reveals Jussie Smollett Will 'Not Be Returning' for Final Season

Empire creator Lee Daniels says Jussie Smollett will not return for the show's final season after all.

The celebrated filmmaker, who co-created Fox's musical drama alongside Danny Strong, responded to a Variety report that claimed writers are preparing to welcome the actor back to the show in the second half of Season 6. Daniels shut down the report altogether, saying Smollett will not return at all.

"This is not factual. Jussie will NOT be returning to Empire," Daniels wrote on Twitter, responding to a tweet from the outlet.

Smollett, who has played Jamal Lyon on Empire since the premiere on 2015, was written off the show in the final episodes of Season 5 following the controversy surrounding his legal problems.

The actor claimed he was beaten up by two men wearing "MAGA" hats who yelled racist and homophobic slurs at him, and was later accused by police of fabricating the attack and charged with filing a false police report. The charges were later dropped, but not before the show made the decision to say goodbye to Jamal.

The report by the outlet also claimed the hesitance to bring Smollett back at the beginning of Season 6 stemmed from tension arising from the majority African American cast of the show and the mostly-white crew behind the scenes that started after Smollett was first caught in the scandal.

When the show was first renewed for Season 6 — later announced as the final season for the Fox drama series — the network announced they had extended Smollett's contract for the season, though there were no plans for him to return at the time.

"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 at the time.

Smollett's rep confirmed the new, though at the time the question of the actor's return seemed to be up in the air.

"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 in May.

Neither Smollett or his rep have responded to Daniels' announcement.


Jamal wrapped his story on the show with a star-studded wedding episode. After getting married to Kai (Toby Onwumere), the character went off on his honeymoon and was not seen again. The show addresses his absence on the season finale — which featured a major death — by saying Jamal had not been able to fly out after a family emergency.

Empire will return for its sixth and final season in fall 2019 on Fox.