Charlie Collier, Fox network CEO, confirmed that ‘Empire’ fans shouldn’t expect to see Jussie Smollett return in any capacity for the show’s final season, which premieres next month.
“We as much as anything in case like this, you try to get all the information and make a good decision,” Collier explained. “[Creator Lee Daniels] is right, there’s no plans for Jussie to return to Empire … typically it’s about gathering right info and making sure we’re making the right decisions.”
Smollett, who has played musician Jamal Lyon since the beginning, was indicted in March with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report claiming two men attacked him in an alleged homophobic and racist hate crime in Chicago.
He pleaded not guilty to allegations that he lied to police, and all charges against him were suddenly dropped at the end of March. He has always denied any wrongdoing.
In June, Daniels said that Smollett would not return for Empire’s final season, revealing the scandal played into the decision to end the show after season 6.
Daniels also said he was “beyond embarrassed” for initially supporting the actor’s claims that he was a victim of the alleged hate crime.
“If it turned out that [Smollett] did it, was guilty, and all of it’s accurate, then it will feel like a betrayal,” Daniels told Vulture.
After the case shifted against Smollett, his Empire stars were left not knowing what to believe. In April, Daniels told Extra that, “the cast is upset. It is a sad time and we are slowly healing.”
However, Daniels did note that he would continue to support Smollett, and that “the lesson is still to be learned” from the incident.
“What I am learning right now is that I can’t judge. That that judgement is for that man wearing that black coat with a gavel and God. I can only support him because he is like my son, he is my son, so I am with him,” he said.
Although the Fox drama is nearing its final curtain call, Daniels told Vulture that he was leaving the door open to possibly continue Empire in the future.
“We’re trying something out, and if it works, then Empire is over and we have a great spinoff,” he said. “And if it doesn’t, then Empire may not very well be over. But the intent is to have our last season with a great spinoff.”
‘Empire’ returns for its final season, September 24th on Fox.