Fox has some good news for fans of Empire and also for embattled star Jussie Smollet:
First, for viewers of this intense drama, the network has decided to renew it for a sixth season.
Second, for Smollet itself, the network has decided NOT to bring him back as a regular cast member, meaning he has more time than ever before to orchestrate his next so-called attack.
Sorry. Too soon?
Executives have seemingly made a choice to pick up Empire for new episodes, yet have also made it clear that Smollett will not be returning.
The statement issues by Fox is not as clear as it could be, however, leaving the door slightly open for the actor to one day reprise his role 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," reads this message from Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television.
The statement comes on the heels of quite a past few months for Smollett.
When we last saw his character, Jamal was getting married and seemingly getting sent off with a happy ending to his story.
He had been written out of the final two Season 5 episodes following a bizarre, controversial and downright confounding run-in with the Chicago Police Department.
As you must know by now, Smollett alleged that he was the victim of a hate crime in late January, claiming that two white men beat him up and screamed racial/anti-gay epithets in his direction.
After an investigation, however, police actually arrested Smollett for falsifying a report and making up the entire incident.
Just when it seemed as if he would go to jail or go to trial for his role in this very strange "assault," the charges against Smollett were dropped.
And yet... even after they were dropped... the Chicago Mayor and even the prosecutor who chose to drop them made it evident in public statements that they believed Smollett was guilty.
The latter simply didn't think it was worth wasting more city money and resources of his prosecution.
Or something. It remains very confusing what happened there.
But the bottom line is that Smollett is a free man and that his co-stars recently made it very cleae they want him back on Empire.
Consider THIS STATEMENT they wrote in Smollett's passionate defense.
Signed by Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Gabourey Sidibe and others, the letter runs down Smollett's charitable efforts and includes a section that reads:
It is why now, more than ever, we must stand together as a family.
A family is there for us in good times and bad. It can cut through the noise and confusion to understand that there is a person in the center of all this who deserves nothing more than to move forward with his life.
Due to the negative coverage surrounding Smollett, however, it appears as if producers and higher-ups do not agree.
Why is there still a chance he does appear on Season 6?
The city of Chicago has filed a civil lawsuit against Smollett.
Officials are looking to recoup the $130,000 in expenses that it spent in investigating the actor's alleged attack, while also trying to get on some sort of legal record that the guy is guilty as sin.
Perhaps if Smollett comes out on top in this case, Fox will reconsider his future on Empire.
But it seems like a long shot at the moment.
Empire’ continues to break barriers with its emotionally powerful storytelling, and it remains a core part of the Fox legacy, said Fox Entertainment’s president of entertainment Michael Thorn.
They added on Tuesday evening:
\We want to thank everyone on the show – Taraji, Terrence and the entire cast, as well as Lee, Danny, Brett, Sanaa, Brian, Francie, Dennis and their teams – all of whom have done a tremendous job this season.
We know there are so many more stories to tell, and we can’t wait to see what they have in store for Season Six.
Will you continue to watch Empire without Smollett?