“Jussie Smollet will NOT be returning to Empire,” Daniels tweeted on Tuesday.
Daniels’ comment came as a response to a Variety report saying that “Empire’s” writing staff was working on ideas for the upcoming season with the expectation that Smollett would appear in the back half of the 18-episode season.
Here’s more from Variety via Page Six:
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.
Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television declined to comment.
Multiple “Empire” cast members penned a letter back in April that was sent to multiple Fox executives and series executive producers. “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 letter read. It was signed by “Empire” stars Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard, Bryshere Y. Gray, Trai Byers, Gabourey Sidibe, and Nicole Ari Parker.
Meanwhile, Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television said that they had extended Smollett’s option for Season 6 but that there were no plans for him to return. Two weeks later, Fox announced that the sixth season would be the show’s last. Prior to the events of this year, Smollett was a key cast member on “Empire.” His character, Jamal Lyon, is loosely based on Daniels.