Jamal Lyon’s Empire reign has officially ended: Embattled cast member Jussie Smollett will not be returning to the Fox drama, co-creator Lee Daniels stated emphatically on Tuesday.
Daniels’ declaration came in response to a report from our sister site Variety that Empire writers were planning to bring Smollett’s character Jamal back in the latter half of the upcoming sixth (and final) season. Replying to a tweet, Daniels fired back: “This is not factual. Jussie will NOT be returning to Empire.” He even signed it with his initials, “LD,” to confirm that the statement came directly from Daniels
— lee daniels (@leedanielsent) June 4, 2019
Smollett, who has played Lucious’ musician son Jamal since Empire debuted in 2015, was written out of the final episodes of Season 5 following a headline-grabbing brush with the law. The actor claimed he was beaten up by two men wearing “MAGA” hats who hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him, and then was accused of fabricating the attack and charged with making a false police report.
The charges were later dropped, but the scandal effectively ended Smollett’s run on Empire. When the show was renewed for Season 6, the network extended his contract but said there were “no plans” to bring him back. Smollett’s final Empire episode saw Jamal get married to Kai, but didn’t definitively write off the character.
Empire — sans Smollett — returns for its sixth and final season Tuesdays this fall on Fox.