“Empire” viewers won’t be seeing Jussie Smollett when “Empire” returns for its sixth season, Fox said Tuesday.
“There are no plans for the character of Jamal to return,” the network and the show’s producer, 20th Century Fox TV, said in a joint statement. But that doesn’t mean Smollett is fired.
The statement also revealed: “By mutual agreement, the studio has negotiated an extension to Jussie Smollett’s option for season six.” Translation: Producers are securing, presumably with some payment, the right to put Smollett back on the show if plans change.
A Smollett spokesperson confirmed his status: “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.” The statement added thanks to Fox execs, “Empire” leaders and others “for their unwavering support.”
After a high-profile story line on last week’s episode — Jamal’s wedding with Kai — Smollett is not slated to appear on the remaining two episodes of the current season.
Smollett has been a hot potato since Chicago police alleged he lied in claiming in January that he was the victim of a hate crime. Though he was charged with making a false report to police, Cook County prosecutors dismissed all charges against Smollett, who agreed to forfeit the $10,000 he posted for bond.
Smollett has continued to maintain his innocence.