On Monday (March 11), the site revealed production members are concerned about the fate of the show following Jussie Smollett's scandal. According to TMZ, "anxiety is high" among the "Empire" staff after Smollett was arrested for allegedly staging his own hate crime in late January.
Smollett initially told police he was attacked by two men in Chicago wearing black ski masks. Smollett said the men approached him yelling racial and homophobic slurs before assaulting him and pouring an unknown chemical substance on him. He also told law enforcement he fought back until his assailants ran off. However, in a press conference in February, Chicago PD disputed those claims.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson stated Smollett paid two Nigerian brothers $3,500 to stage a fake attack in order to boost his celebrity status. He also claimed Smollett was dissatisfied with his salary on "Empire." Following his arrest, Smollett's character, Jamal Lyon, was written out of the final two episodes of the current season.
Sources told TMZ Smollett's character will be "out of the country" when the show returns this month to wrap for season five. As for the renewal status of the show, it appears the network should have made a decision by now. Sources believe the outcome of Smollett's case may play a hand in whether or not the show returns for another season. According to TMZ, Fox is expected to announce the news in two weeks.
Another viable option? Having Smollett not return to "Empire" at all. Production sources told TMZ "higher-ups" have expressed concerns having the 36-year-old actor back on set after the alleged hoax. There were also reports that series creator Lee Daniels is "on board" with recasting his role if the series is renewed for season six.