LOS ANGELES — "Empire" has been renewed for a sixth season at Fox, though likely without 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 Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television said in a statement.
During the fifth season, Smollett claimed that he was the victim of an assault which he said was racially and politically motivated, as well as homophobic. Later he was accused of hiring the men who attacked him and indicted for filing false statements. The criminal charges were dropped in March, and Smollett has maintained his innocence, but the city of Chicago also filed a lawsuit against the actor in order to recoup the cost of the police investigation.
A spokesperson for Smollett said in a 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. Most importantly he is grateful to Fox and 'Empire' leadership, cast, crew and fans for their unwavering support."
The fifth season of the show saw the Lyon family trying to reclaim their music company but challenged with even heavier personal struggles than before, such as the emergence of Lucious' secret first-born son who was hell-bent on destroying his father and eldest Lyon son Andre's cancer diagnosis. The series stars Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard, Trai Byers, Smollett and Bryshere Y. Gray as the Lyon family.
"'Empire' continues to break barriers with its emotionally powerful storytelling, and it remains a core part of the Fox legacy," said Fox Entertainment's president of entertainment Michael Thorn. "We want to thank everyone on the show — Taraji, Terrence and the entire cast, as well as Lee, Danny, Brett, Sanaa, Brian, Francie, Dennis and their teams — all of whom have done a tremendous job this season. 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."
"Empire" was created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, who executive produce alongside Brian Grazer, Francie Calfo, Sanaa Hamri, Dennis Hammer, Matt Pyken and Diane Ademu-John. Brett Mahoney is executive producer and showrunner for the series. The show is produced by Imagine Television in association with 20th Century Fox Television.