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Fox renews Empire, without Jussie Smollett’s character

Sofia Lotto Persio May 1, 2019
Actor Jussie Smollett waves as he follows his attorney to the microphones after his court appearance at Leighton Courthouse on March 26, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.

Actor Jussie Smollett's character Jamal won't return to Empire for season six. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty)

Empire will return for a sixth season, but Jussie Smollett’s character Jamal Lyon won’t feature in it even though the actor’s contract was extended.

Fox Entertainment announced on Tuesday (April 30) it renewed the show about a family running a hip-hop record label, but Smollett’s future in it remains uncertain after he was accused of faking being a victim of a racist and homophobic hate crime in Chicago.

“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 quoted in Reuters, without specifying the reasons for the decision.

“Most importantly he is grateful to Fox and Empire leadership, cast, crew and fans for their unwavering support.”

— Jussie Smollett’s representatives on the studio decision

The actor’s representatives said in a press statement quoted in the Associated Press that Smollett was grateful to the studio and the entire Empire team for their support.

“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.”

A photo of Empire stars including Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, who demanded Jussie Smollett's character Jamal and the actor's return to the show.
The Empire cast wrote a letter asking for Jussie Smollett to return to the show. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty)

In January, Smollett said he was attacked by two supporters of President Donald Trump, but Chicago police accused the openly gay actor of having paid two brothers to stage the attack. Smollett maintained his innocence and prosecutors dropped all charges against the actor in March, sealing the relevant court records.

Smollett also agreed to community service and paid $10,000 in bond money, but the city of Chicago filed a lawsuit in April seeking financial damages related to the investigation into the attack.

Empire cast vouched for Jussie Smollett’s character

On April 24, Empire stars Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Bryshere Y. Gray, Trai Byers, Gabourey Sidibe and Nicole Ari Parker released a letter calling for the embattled actor to return to the drama, after creator Lee Daniels admitted the studio was facing a “dilemma” with regards to Smollett’s future.

In the letter, the cast vouched for Smollett’s character and reaffirmed his place in the Empire family.

The letter read: “He is kind. He is compassionate. He is honest and above all he is filled with integrity. He is also innocent and no longer subject to legal uncertainty with the criminal charges against him having been dropped.

“We are confident in his lawyer’s assurance that the case was dismissed because it would not have prevailed.

“Now, more than ever, we must stand together as a family.

“A family is there for us in good times and bad. It can cut through the noise and confusion to understand that there is a person in the center of all this who deserves nothing more than to move forward with his life.”

More: 20th Century Fox, Chicago, Empire, Jamal Lyon, Jussie Smollett

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