Fox has renewed Empire, its musical soap opera, for a sixth season, but it appears that Jussie Smollett will not return to the show.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News Tuesday, Fox and 20th Century Fox, the studio that produces Empire, said Smollett's character will not be back — at least for now.
"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,'" the statement read.
A source close to the show said they're waiting to see how the dust settles, but as of now, there are no plans to write Smollett into the first half of Empire's next season.
Smollett's spokesperson issued this 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."
In late January, Smollett told police that he was attacked by two men who threw a bleachlike chemical on him, called him anti-gay and racist slurs, and put a rope around his neck. He also said they shouted "This is MAGA country" at him.
But Smollett's story soon seemed to fall apart, and police suspected that the actor had staged the attack. His alleged coconspirators in the hoax, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, turned against him and cooperated with police. (They're now suing Smollett's team for defamation.)
When Smollett first alleged he was attacked, Fox and 20th Century Fox stood by him, and a number of celebrities (including Viola Davis, John Legend, and Empire co-creator Lee Daniels) and politicians (Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Nancy Pelosi) also rallied by his side.
But as the story appeared to unravel, so did his support. Smollett's character, Jamal, was written out of Empire's final two episodes of the season in what appeared to be a suspension.
In March, Smollett was indicted by a grand jury on 16 counts, including filing a false police report. But the charges were dropped later that month by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, which cited Smollett’s lack of danger to the public, his community service, and forfeiture of $10,000 in bail.
Smollett has maintained his innocence throughout and insisted that he was really attacked.
Earlier this month, the city of Chicago filed a lawsuit against Smollett after he refused to reimburse police for overtime costs related to the investigation.