‘Empire’ Renewed, But Jussie Smollett Probably Won’t Return

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Following the months-long saga of Jussie Smollett, his accusations of a hate crime on the streets of Chicago, the charges that he faked said hate crime, and the sudden dropping of those charges, it now appears that Smollett is out of a job on TV.

Per The New York Times, Smollett’s TV show, Empire, has been renewed by Fox for a sixth season, but that there are “no plans” for the actor to remain a part of the cast. However, the network has negotiated an extension of Smollett’s option, meaning he could return to the series at some point.

Smollett claimed in late January that he had been assaulted by two men who shouted racial and antigay slurs near his home in Chicago, very late on a cold night. Police in Chicago extensively studied surveillance tape, hoping to discover evidence of a crime, but they never did. When two men were brought in as persons of interest in the case, they confessed to police that Smollett had paid them to stage the attack.

The actor was charged in February with 16 counts related to filing a false police report, although the following month the charges were suddenly dropped, under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Per Pitchfork, the City of Chicago went on to sue Smollett for more than $100,000, in order to reimburse the city for the time police spent on the case. There is also talk of a special prosecutor being appointed in the case.

Smollett, throughout, has maintained that he has been telling the truth all along about the attack.

Per Deadline, several actors on Empire wrote a letter last week urging the network to keep Smollett on the show. Per an Inquisitr story in March, the controversy has divided the cast and crew of the series over whether or not to back Smollett. The actors were mostly on the actor’s side, while the crew, including makeup artists, were said to have less support for Smollett — with tension coming to a head when a card was passed around to express support for him.

“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 actor’s representatives said in a statement to The Times and other media outlets. “Most importantly he is grateful to Fox and Empire leadership, cast, crew and fans for their unwavering support.”