The question of Jussie Smollett’s potential return to “Empire” has finally received a definitive answer. Fox entertainment president Michael Thorn announced to TVLine that Smollett will not be returning for the series’ final season.
“We’re not going to bring Jussie back to the show,” Thorn told the outlet. “There were a number of factors that went into the decision to not bring him back. There were many points of view about if he should come back or if he shouldn’t. As hard as a decision as that was, for us — and when I say us I mean the network, the studio and the producers — it felt like it was in the best interests of the show and the cast.”
“Our hope is that all of the controversy surrounding Jussie doesn’t overshadow the show, which we think is bigger than him,” he added.
The news arrives after months of speculation from both “Empire” viewers and executives. Last month, the series’ showrunner Brett Mahoney told TVLine that discussions to potentially bring Smollett back on the show were underway.
“It would be weird in my mind to end this family show and this family drama of which he was such a significant part of without seeing him,” Mahoney said. “It’s fair to say it’s being discussed, but there’s no plan as of yet to bring him back. There’s been no decision made.”
This revelation countered what series creator Lee Daniels announced on Twitter back in June.
“Jussie will NOT be returning to Empire,” he wrote.
Smollett, who previously starred as Jamal, claimed he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. He was written out of the series’ fifth season final episodes after he was caught fabricating the entire incident.
“Empire” will wrap up its six-season run later this winter.
“Brett and the producers have a fantastic way to conclude the series that we are really excited about and we think it will be as epic a finish as its [beginning],” Thorn told TVLine.