​Jussie Smollett Not Returning for Next Season of 'Empire'

​Jussie Smollett Not Returning for Next Season of 'Empire'
Jussie Smollett's character Jamal Lyon will not appear in the upcoming sixth season of Empire, Fox Entertainment has revealed.
 
The network renewed the hip-hop drama for a sixth season earlier this week, but also released a statement [via the Associated Press], which reads: "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."
 
Smollett's representatives released a slightly more hopeful statement, which reads: "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."
 
Fox did not provide an explanation for removing Smollett from at least the beginning of the upcoming sixth season, but he was removed from the show's final fifth season episodes earlier this year in the wake of filing a false police report about an allegedly staged hate crime. He was later cleared of all charges.
 
"The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us," the series executives said at the time. "Jussie has been an important member of our Empire family for the past five years and we care about him deeply. While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out. We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of 'Jamal' from the final two episodes of the season."
 
After he was removed from the show, fellow castmate Taraji P. Henson publicly supported Smollett.

Last month, she appeared on The View and said, "I talk to Jussie all the time, and he's doing well. We're all doing well. The show is doing well. We're on hiatus right now... The writers are trying to figure out what next season is going to look like."

When asked if Smollett would be returning to the show, Henson replied, "Yes. I haven't heard anything else."