Jussie Smollett will not be returning to Empire, the show’s co-creator Lee Daniels has now confirmed.
Responding to claims that writers were preparing for Smollett’s comeback, Daniels tweeted: “Jussie will NOT be returning to Empire.”
The actor was accused of staging a racist and homophobic attack on himself in January – which he’s always denied.
But since the incident there’s been speculation over his future on the show.
Daniels’s tweet is the first public confirmation that Smollett will definitely not be coming back for the sixth and final season.
In April, TV Network Fox confirmed Empire had been renewed for a sixth season and the studio had “negotiated an extension to Jussie Smollett’s option for season six,” adding, there were no immediate “plans for the character of Jamal to return”.
Smollett has been on the show since the first season in 2015.
His character was written out for the final two episodes of season five following the allegations and fans have been waiting to hear confirmation about his return ever since.
But now it’s official – Jussie is out.
Daniels has previously spoken of the “pain and anger and sadness and frustration” that Smollett’s case has caused him and the Empire cast.
In a letter to Fox executives and series producers on 19 April, Empire cast members expressed support for Smollett, writing: “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.”
It’s been a complicated case to keep up with:
- On 29 January Smollett claimed he was attacked by two masked men, who the actor said made reference to MAGA (make America great again) – the slogan often used by President Donald Trump and his supporters
- On 14 February brothers Olabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo were arrested by Chicago police and questioned. They had worked as extras on Empire
- A few days later the brothers were released by police without charge and, on 20 February, Jussie Smollett was charged with filing a false police report
- Smollett was arrested and police say he paid the Osundairo brothers to stage the attack
- On 1 March the Osundairos said they “regret” their involvement in the incident
- Two weeks later, Smollett pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of disorderly conduct – and 12 days after that all charges against him were controversially dropped
Despite the charges being dropped, Chicago police repeated accusations that Smollett “orchestrated” the attack and ordered him to pay $130,000 (£99,000) to compensate for the manpower used investigating his alleged assault.
The City of Chicago have sued Smollett, after he refused to pay the amount and he has continued to deny the allegations.
Addressing the final season earlier this week, Charlie Collier, CEO of Fox Entertainment, told reporters: “One of the great benefits of announcing a final season is to allow the fans to lean in and to have the ending they deserve, and that’s everything we’re trying to do with this iconic series.
“Six years is a pretty remarkable run for a drama series and we feel good about it.”
Representatives for Fox have been approached for comment.
Empire returns later this year.