Jussie Smollett will not return to 'Empire,' creator Lee Daniels says | News Coverage from USA

Jussie Smollett will not return to ‘Empire,’ creator Lee Daniels says

“Empire” will move on without embattled co-star Jussie Smollett.

The news came straight from the Fox drama’s co-creator Lee Daniels, who took to Twitter Tuesday to counter a Variety report that speculated Smollett would return for the sixth and final season of the show. 

“This is not factual,” Daniels tweeted. “Jussie will NOT be returning to Empire.”

Smollett was written out of the final episodes of Season 5 after he was arrested and charged with filing a false police report in connection with a January incident that Chicago law enforcement authorities said was a hoax. Police say Smollett was unhappy with his pay on “Empire,” so he staged a racial and homophobic attack as a way to gain publicity.

‘Empire’ creator Lee Daniels: Cast experiencing pain, anger after Jussie Smollett incident

In March, Chicago prosecutors suddenly dropped the 16-count indictment against Smollett, whom they had indicted for disorderly conduct and accused of filing a false police report.

Despite the charges being dropped, Smollett’s future on the show remained unclear. 

Producer 20th Century Fox and the Fox network – now owned by separate companies –extended Smollett’s option for Season 6 in April, but noted in a joint statement that “there are no plans for the character of Jamal to return to ‘Empire.'”

Related: Fox renews ‘Empire,’ but leaves Jussie Smollett’s future on the show in doubt

Deadline reported that it had obtained a letter from Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard and other “Empire” stars that same month urging Fox and studio executives to reinstate the actor.

“Together, as a united front, we stand with Jussie Smollett and ask that our co-star, brother and friend be brought back for our sixth season of Empire,” the actors said in an April 19 letter.

Daniels also stood by Smollett, offering support and calling him “my son.”

“I think that what I’m learning right now is that I can’t judge,” Daniels told Extra in April. “I can only support him because he is like my son, he is my son, and so I’m with him. So I can only support him and I can only give him compassion.”

Daniels added, “The cast is upset. It is a sad time, and we are slowly healing.”

USA TODAY has reached out to Smollett’s rep and Fox for comment. 

Contributing: Gary Levin, Sara Moniuszko

‘He is my son’: ‘Empire’ creator Lee Daniels sends support to Jussie Smollett

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