Nearly a week after the cast of Empire signed a letter calling on the series showrunners and FOX to allow Jussie Smollett to return to the show, the network has renewed it for a sixth season. However, it doesn’t look like the maligned actor will be returning to the series anytime soon, though that doesn’t mean that he and his character, Jamal Lyon, won’t be back ever again.
According to Deadline, FOX carefully outlined Empire‘s season six renewal and Smollett’s loose association with it in a statement to the press. “By mutual agreement, the studio has negotiated an extension to Jussie Smollett’s option for Season 6,” it read, “but at this time there are no plans for the character of Jamal to return to Empire.” Meanwhile, Smollett’s own team released a companion statement:
“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,” said reps for the actor who has played the openly gay Jamal Lyon on Empire since the show premiered on January 7, 2015. “Most importantly he is grateful to Fox and Empire leadership, cast, crew and fans for their unwavering support.”
In January, Smollett was allegedly attacked in what the press initially described as a racist and homophobic incident. However, the Chicago Police Department then launched an investigation into Smollett’s story and subsequently arrested him for the charge of filing a false police report. The charges were ultimately dropped and Smollett has long maintained his innocence, but that didn’t stop the Empire team from writing his character out of the current season.