Jussie Smollett Will Not Return To Empire For Season 6, According To Lee Daniels

empire season 5 jussie smollet jamal lyon
(Image credit: Fox)

Empire was a wild ride throughout its fifth season as it built to the reveal of which member of the Lyon family would wind up in a coffin. The question of the big death cliffhanger wasn't the only one lingering over the show, though, as Jussie Smollett's legal trouble raised the possibility that he would be axed from the show.

Now, Empire creator Lee Daniels (who had some interesting comments earlier) has seemingly delivered an answer, and it's not one that Jamal fans will be happy about. In response to a report that the writers were planning on keeping Jussie Smollett on board, Daniels posted this:

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Lee Daniels' tweet didn't beat around the bush in debunking the claim that Jussie Smollett will be written into the upcoming sixth season of Empire. He could have simply stopped at stating that the report of his return is "not factual," which would have left room for interpretation that Smollett will be back but the writing process simply hasn't started yet. Instead, Daniels just went ahead and confirmed that Smollett won't be back.

The cast and crew of Empire were reportedly split over the Jussie Smollett controversy during Season 5. The whole mess started back in January, when Jussie Smollett came forward and claimed that he'd been attacked on the streets of Chicago, and the incident was investigated as a hate crime. There was an outpouring of public sympathy for Smollett, including from his Empire costar Taraji P. Henson.

Then, rumors began to circulate that Jussie Smollett had staged the attack, with some suggesting that it was for the purpose of winning a salary bump. In the early days, Empire had no plans to write Smollett out of the show, although his show scenes were cut and he was axed from the last two episodes of Season 5. When he was arrested in February, it began to feel unlikely that he could return for a sixth season.

New rumors began to spread that Empire was looking to recast Jamal, and that possibility has not yet been definitively debunked, so it's possible that Jamal could return from his honeymoon with a new face and set of pipes. A lot of changes are in store anyway considering how Season 5 ended Cookie and Lucious' stories.

The early confirmation that Jussie Smollett won't be back for Season 6 means fans will have a lot to speculate about over the rest of hiatus. Will Jamal be recast, or will he be gone? If he's gone, was he killed off, sent off for an off-screen happily-ever-after with Kai, or something else? How will the Lyon family be different?

Find out when Empire returns in the 2019-2020 TV season on Fox. For now, you can find new TV options on our summer TV premiere schedule.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.