Jussie Smollett won’t be reprising his role as Jamal Lyon on ‘Empire’ for the time being. However, Jussie ‘appreciates’ the negotiation that was made.
Empire is officially returning for a sixth season. But one of the Fox show’s leading stars, Jussie Smollett, 36, won’t also be making a comeback on the series — at least for now. “By mutual agreement, the studio has negotiated an extension to Jussie Smollett’s option for season six, but at this time there are no plans for the character of Jamal to return to ‘Empire,’” read a statement that Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox TV provided to HollywoodLife on April 30.
Jussie didn’t entirely see this as bad news. “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,” a spokesperson for the actor, who plays Jamal Lyon on Empire, told our sister website Variety on April 30.
Jussie had already been cut from the final two episodes of Season 5. Although there are no immediate plans for Jussie’s return to Empire, Fox previously assured that his character would not be permanently booted from the show. “Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show,” the network wrote in a statement, released on Feb. 20. That was a month before Jussie’s 16 felony disorderly conduct charges were dropped after the actor, who identifies as gay, was accused of allegedly staging a hate crime against himself in Chicago on Jan. 29.
Jussie has appeared on 82 episodes of Empire since its 2015 premiere, so his absence will not go unnoticed. Many of his co-stars, like Jussie’s on-screen parents Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard, feel the same way and have voiced their support for Jussie in the midst of the scandal. They even reportedly penned a letter for executives on April 19, along with other starring members on the cast, to request Jussie’s return for Season 6.