By Mark A. Upaa
Early today, Fox announced a season 6 renewal for Empire, it’s money spinning and highly popular series. This move had been widely expected, with the situation only seemingly complicated by the controversy surrounding actor Jussie Smollett, who the network says it currently has “no plans” to bring back. In a statement Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox TV claimed: “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.”
Empire, which still is one of the network’s signature and highest-rated series, was experiencing a bit of a creative rebound when the news shifted to Smollett, who, back in January, claimed to be the victim of a racial and homophobic attack. The next few months featured numerous twists and turns to the case, with Smollett being arrested for filing a false police report, only for the charges to eventually be dropped. The city of Chigago has filed fresh charges against the actor, in a bid to recoup money it claims was spent on investigating Smollett’s ‘bogus’ claims.
During all of this, Fox made the decision to remove from Smollett from the final two episodes of season 5. In what now looks official that Smollett’s character Jamal will not be featuring on the series moving forward.
Fellow castmates and Empire stars, Terrence Howard, Taraji P Henson, Bryshere Y. Gray, Trai Byers, Gabourey Sidibe, and Nicole Ari Parker recently penned a letter to Fox and the show’s creative team asking that their costar be reinstated. “More than ever, we must stand together as a family,” they wrote. “A family is there for us in good times and bad.” But this does not seem to have swayed producers and the shows executives.
A representative for Jussie Smollett released a statement about the Empire season 6 renewal and the studio’s decision to extend the actor’s option, even though Fox has no intention at this time for Jussie’s character to return to set. “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.”