As Season 5 of the hit Fox series wraps up, fans can be reassured that Empire is coming back for Season 6, according to a press release from the network. However, after a tumultuous few months following actor Jussie Smollett alleging he was attacked in Chicago in January, Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox TV, the studios behind the series, released the following joint statement regarding actor Jussie Smollett's involvement in the new season to TheWrap:
"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."
Bustle reached out to Fox to confirm, but did not immediately hear back.
After Smollett's Feb. 21 arrest for allegedly filing a false police report, Smollett's character Jamal Lyon was written out of the final two episodes of Season 5, according to a Feb. 22 statement from executive producers. On March 8, the actor was originally charged with 16 felony counts related to filing a false police report for an alleged staged attack in Chicago. On March 26, Smollett's lawyers announced that the Cook County State's Attorney's Office had dropped all charges against him. "Today, all criminal charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and his record has been wiped clean of the filing of this tragic complaint against him," his lawyers said in a statement given to BuzzFeed News on March 26. "Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29th."
The Cook County State's Attorney's Office also released a statement to Bustle on March 26 and called it "a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case."
In the wake of the controversy, Smollett's character Jamal was last seen in the April 24 episode of Empire when he married Kai (Toby Onwumere). Many top cast members including Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard wrote an April 19 letter of support for Smollett's return, which was obtained by Deadline and sent to top position-holders at FOX as well as producers/creators of the series. In part, the letter read:
"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. We understand that this show is a business. And that business matters to us as well. We are confident our fans will welcome our 'Jamal' back into the Empire family as enthusiastically as we will."
For now, the Empire team is focusing on the season ahead without Smollett. In the press release announcing the series' Season 6 renewal, Fox Entertainment president issued the following to statement:
"Empire continues to break barriers with its emotionally powerful storytelling, and it remains a core part of the FOX legacy. We want to thank everyone on the show – Taraji, Terrence and the entire cast, as well as Lee, Danny, Brett, Sanaa, Brian, Francie, Dennis and their teams – all of whom have done a tremendous job this season. We know there are so many more stories to tell, and we can't wait to see what they have in store for Season Six."
It's difficult to know what Smollett's future with Empire will hold after Season 6 and beyond, but fans will have to tune in to see how it all unfolds.