After getting renewed for a sixth season, Fox announced on Monday that Empire’s upcoming season will be its last.
When asked if there were plans to bring Jussie Smollett back amid his legal problems, Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier said the network has the option to include the actor in the show’s final season, “but there are no plans at this point.”
A spokesperson for Smollett did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Smollett, who has played Jamal Lyon on the show for the past five seasons, is at the center of a controversy after telling Chicago police in late January that he was attacked by two men who yelled anti-gay and racist slurs, put a rope around his neck, and threw a bleachlike substance on him.
His costars, the network, Empire co-creator Lee Daniels, and many in Hollywood rallied around Smollett, but his story soon seemed to unravel. Police suspected the actor staged the attack and filed a false police report. In March, Smollett was indicted by a grand jury on 16 counts, but the charges were later dropped. Then in April, the city of Chicago filed a lawsuit against the actor for refusing to reimburse police for costs related to the investigation.
Despite maintaining his innocence from the beginning, support for Smollett started to waver and he was written out of the last two episodes of Empire Season 5 in what appeared to be a suspension.
"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,” a spokesperson for Smollett said in a statement in April when news first broke that Fox didn’t have any immediate plans for the actor to return. “Most importantly he is grateful to Fox and Empire leadership, cast, crew and fans for their unwavering support."
Collier also told reporters that Empire is moving to the 9 p.m. slot behind The Resident and that they intend to “go out guns a-blazing.”
“We are turning the final season of Empire into a large television event,” he said. “If you think about it, one of the great benefits of announcing a final season is that you actually allow the fans to lean in and have the ending they deserve.”