Chicago, IL – FOX Entertainment has announced that “Empire” will be returning for a sixth season, but it won’t include former star Jussie Smollett or bring back his character of Jamal.
“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 said in a statement released Tuesday, according to Entertainment Tonight.
Smollett’s future on the show has been in question since he was arrested on Feb. 21 for staging a hoax attack on himself in Chicago.
Chicago police have said they believe Smollett lied when he told police he was jumped by two masked men as he was walking home from a Subway restaurant in his Streeterville neighborhood in the early hours of Jan. 29.
He said the men beat him, and hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him.
Smollett told police that the men threw an unknown substance on him and put a noose around his neck before they ran off.
His manager told police that he was on the phone with his client at the time of the attack and heard Smollett’s attackers say “This is MAGA country” while they were assaulting the actor, NBC News reported.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson explained at a press conference the day of Smollett’s arrest that that police considered the actor a victim up until Ola and Abel Osundairo returned from Nigeria to Chicago and were taken into police custody, and then the investigation “spun in a totally different direction.”
“We gave him the benefit of the doubt up until that 47th hour. But when we discovered the actual motive, quite frankly, it pissed everybody off,” he explained.
He said the brothers told police that Smollett paid them $3,500 to stage the attack, with another $500 after they returned from a planned trip to Nigeria.
“We have the check that he used to pay them,” Superintendent Johnson said.
He said police have obtained phone records that “clearly indicate” Smollett and the Osundairo brothers talked to each other quite a bit before and after the staged attack, as well as while the brothers were out of the country.
Superintendent Johnson also said that Smollett had beaten himself up before he went to the hospital.
“The brothers had on gloves during the staged attacked where they punched him a little bit. But as far as we can tell, the scratches and bruising that you saw on his face was most likely self-inflicted,” the superintendent explained.
He said that he believed the actor wanted the faked attack caught on camera, but the particular camera he chose to perform in front of wasn’t pointed the right direction.
The superintendent said chasing down bogus leads “put out in the universe” by the media wasted a lot of the police’s time during the investigation.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office announced on March 8 that Smollett had been indicted by a grand jury on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct.
But then on March 26, without giving Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel or Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson a courtesy heads up, the State’s Attorney’s Office unceremoniously announced all charges against the “Empire” actor had been dropped.
The backlash against Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has been harsh and severe, and has forced her office to scramble to prove the disposition of Smollett’s case was in line with the way most cases similar to his are handled.
Chicago city officials and President Donald Trump have called for a federal investigation into Foxx’s handling of the Smollett case.
Smollett’s character Jamal was written out of the last two episodes of Season 5 of “Empire” after the hoax attack scandal broke.
The FOX television series faced its lowest ratings ever in the wake of its star’s staged hate crime debacle in the Windy City.
The drama about a hip-hop music studio and the family that started it received its lowest ratings ever for the episode that aired one day after the charges were dropped against Smollett, the New York Post reported.
Only 3.97 million viewers tuned in to watch “Empire” on March 27, the New York Post reported.
This is down from just over 6 million viewers watching the FOX television drama six months ago, according to TV Series Finale.
Viewership of “Empire” has been slowly declining since September, but critics said the brutal drop to 4.39 million viewers when the show returned to the air on March 13 can likely be credited to the revelation that one of the show’s stars had staged a fake hate crime against himself.
After the charges were dropped, producers initially appeared to stand by the “Empire” star with a tepid statement of support, Vox reported.
“Jussie Smollett has always maintained his innocence, and we are gratified on his behalf that all charges against him have been dismissed,” 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said in a written statement.
After the network made the announcement about Season 6, Smollett’s representatives highlighted the fact that FOX has technically extended the actor’s contract, despite the fact they have said they have no plans to bring back his character on the show.
“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,” Smollett’s representatives told Entertainment Tonight in a written statement. “Most importantly he is grateful to Fox and ‘Empire’ leadership, cast, crew and fans for their unwavering support!”