The FOX drama Empire is slated to end after season six as producers for the embattled program say there are still “no plans” for actor Jussie Smollett to return, according to a report.
“We are turning the final season into a large TV event, we are trying to go out guns a blazing,” Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier said during Fox’s Upfront conference call on Monday, per Deadline. “You allow fans to lean in and have the ending they deserve.”
When pressed on whether Smollet would return to the show, Collier replied vaguely that while there’s an option for the embattled star to return, “we have no plans for that,” adding that Empire’s writers haven’t begun sketching out the show’s final season yet.
Deadline’s Dominic Patten reports:
On the other hand, amidst other long in the tooth issues, Empire was pummeled this year by new ratings lows and the every spiraling controversy over the January 29 presumed hate crime that the Jamal Lyon portraying Smollett is now alleged by Chicago Police and prosecutors to have perpetrated against himself.
Things were still looking good several weeks ago for a longer run when options for key cast like the once and now once again music moguls the Lyon clan of matriarch Cookie (Henson) patriarch Lucious , (Howard), on-screen sons Bryshere Y. Gray, and Trai Byers, along with Gabourey Sidibe and Nicole Ari Parker were sewed up last month for another season, I hear.
Having portrayed openly gay middle son Jamal Lyon on the series from its early 2015 debut, Fox Entertainment and now Disney-owned 20th Century Fox TV “negotiated an extension to Jussie Smollett’s option for Season 6.”
Last month, Fox Entertainment announced Smollett would not return to the series next season in the wake of allegations by Chicago officials the actor lied about a supposed racially motivated attack.
“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,’” the studio said in a statement that gave no reason for the decision.
Shortly after, a Smollett representative released a statement to several media outlets suggesting a hope that he may eventually return.
“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 read. “Most importantly he is grateful to Fox and ‘Empire’ leadership, cast, crew and fans for their unwavering support.”
Collier’s announcement comes as a Chicago judge is slated to decide if a special prosecutor is needed to investigate why the state prosecutor’s office dropped charges accusing Smollett of staging the attack.
Former Illinois appellate Judge Sheila O’Brien had asked for a special prosecutor to examine why the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx dropped charges against the Empire star.
O’Brien asked Martin last week to recuse himself because his son is a prosecutor in Foxx’ office. Prosecutors opposed Martin’s recusal, saying it wasn’t necessary and would set a bad precedent.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.