On Tuesday, the FOX television network announced that the sixth season of its hit drama Empire would move forward without actor Jussie Smollett.
“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,” FOX said in a 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 … all of whom have done a tremendous job this season,” the statement continued. “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.”
Smollett gained infamy after he claimed earlier this year he was a victim of a hate crime, alleging that he had been set up and beaten up by two men who yelled “racial and homophobic slurs” after returning from a Subway sandwich shop in the early morning hours of Jan. 29. The two men reportedly poured an unknown chemical substance on Smollett and tied a tope around his neck before fleeing the scene.
Smollett also claimed the men told him, “This is MAGA country!” — a reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.”
But Chicago Police later said they had evidence that Smollett had staged the attack, and had hired two brothers to carry it out.
Smollett was indicted on 16 charges of disorderly conduct, but maintained his innocence throughout the course of the investigation. In a much-disparaged move, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx ultimately dropped the charges against Smollett.
The two brothers involved in the attack, Ola and Abel Osundario, have since sued Smollett’s attorneys for defamation for accusing them of an actual hate crime. Both brothers acknowledged they took part in staging the hate crime, but said they did so because Smollett paid them.
A representative for Smollett released a statement to The Associated Press expressing hope that Smollett would eventually return in his role as Jamal Lyon in the Emmy-nominated drama.
“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.”
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