JUSTICE: Jussie Smollett Will NOT Return To ‘Empire,’ Series Creator Says
“Empire” star Jussie Smollett, who was charged with 16 felonies after he claimed two white attackers beat him but was then cleared by a Chicago prosecutor, won’t be returning to the Fox drama for its sixth and final season after all.
Although Smollett’s contract was renewed and there were reports he may return, series creator Lee Daniels shot down a media report that suggested Smollett would return. “This is not factual. Jussie will NOT be returning to Empire,” Daniels said in a tweet to Variety after the Hollywood insider magazine reported an “exclusive” headlined “‘Empire’ writers prepping for Jussie Smollett’s return in Season 6.”
‘Empire’ Writers Prepping for Jussie Smollett’s Return in Season 6 (EXCLUSIVE) https://t.co/cCMxmOqqmz
— Variety (@Variety) June 4, 2019
After Smollett was charged for the hoax, he was written out of the final episodes of the show’s fifth season.
Variety updated its report.
UPDATED: “Jussie [Smollett] will NOT be returning to ‘Empire,’” series co-creator Lee Daniels said Tuesday.
Daniels was responding to a Variety report in which multiple production sources said that “Empire’s” writing staff was breaking ideas for the show’s sixth and final season with the expectation that Smollett would appear in the back half of the 18-episode season.
This is the first public acknowledgment that Smollett will not return for the final season of the Fox drama series. He was written out of the final episodes of the show’s fifth season following severe backlash stemming from accusations the actor and musician faked a hate crime against himself earlier this year in Chicago.
The same production sources also note tensions were ratcheted up on set between the show’s primarily black cast members, who still believe Smollett is innocent, and the mostly white below-the-line crew, many of whom believe Smollett is guilty.
A Chicago grand jury indicted Smollett in March on 16 felony counts that he allegedly lied to police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic hate crime. Those charges came after he was arrested in February and charged with felony disorderly conduct for the allegedly false police report.
To bolster his claim that the attackers were white, Smollett said the two men yelled racist and homophobic remarks, at one point invoking President Trump’s signature slogan, “Make America Great Again” by saying, “This is MAGA country.”
But the Cook County, Illinois state attorney’s office suddenly dropped all charges and sealed the case. “After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollett’s volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case,” the office said in a statement.
Smollett’s lawyers claimed victory, saying in a statement that the actor “was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator as a result of false and inappropriate remarks made to the public causing an inappropriate rush to judgement.”
“Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions. This entire situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion. That is wrong. It is a reminder that a victim, in this case Jussie, deserves dignity and respect. Dismissal of charges against the victim in this case was the only just result,” the lawyers said.
Smollett also claimed that he had been “truthful” throughout.