Despite controversy, the cast of Empire has been pushing for the return of Jussie Smollett in the show's final season.
Those who stand by him and believe that he was framed cheered when a report said that writers were planning his return.
But now, one of Empire's creators is shooting down that claim, saying that Jussie will never set foot on the show again.
On Tuesday afternoon, a report by Variety made the rounds on social media.
The claim was that the writers were planning to include controversial actor Jussie Smollett in Empire's final season.
Season six is said to include 18 episodes.
Jussie would, per the report, appear in the back half of them.
But whether the writers really hoped for that or not, that rumor has now been harshly debunked.
Empire co-creator Lee Daniels clearly saw the report on Twitter and spoke out.
"This is not factual," Daniels corrected in a tweet.
He doubled down, telling the world that "Jussie will NOT be returning to Empire."
Lee Daniels has spoken of pain and anger in the wake of Jussie's outrageous scandal.
It is clear that he feels betrayed and does not want the show's final season to be tarnished by an extremely controversial actor.
Back in late April, Empire was renewed.
Jussie, and by extension, his character Jamal Lyon, remained in a state of uncertainty.
His contract was extended to allow for the possibility of at least a cameo in future episodes.
At the time there were "no plans" to include him early in the season, his rep announced, but the door was at least open.
(With this being the final season, a cameo in the series finale wouldn't be especially surprising)
So why did Variety report that writers were prepping stories for Jussie to return?
Our guess is because the writers were at least floating the idea -- trial ballooning it.
Even in the immediate aftermath of police claiming that Jussie had staged his own hate crime assault, he still had supporters on set.
While reports said that members of the cast and crew were divided over his innocense or guilt, it was said that a number of writers believed him.
It may be that there is still a quiet tug-of-war among the creative minds behind Empire as to whether Jussie should return.
Some may understandably question how in the world anyone could support Jussie at this point.
However, the police have presented some inconsistent versions of their accusations against him, alleging wildly different motives.
Jussie has strongly maintained his innocence from day one, which isn't an exonerating factor, but it's worth something.
Additionally, the charges were abruptly dropped under dubious circumstances, leading some to believe that prosecutors had uncovered police misconduct.
In fact, a growing number of people believe that Jussie was framed and defamed by the notoriously terrible Chicago Police.
Real talk: the allegations about the CPD's history are no joke, but it seems possible that both Jussie and the Chicago Police did bad things during all of this.
We don't -- we cannot -- know the truth of what really happened, which is what makes this controversy so difficult.
Ultimately, we have to say that Lee Daniels may be making the right call.
Even if Jussie is innocent, this massive controversy could distract from the show.
Jussie's character's arc was wrapped up tidily with a beautiful marriage to his character's longtime boyfriend, and his absence was explained.
That being said, we can't help but give Daniels a little sideeye for banishing Jussie but continuing to employ the notorious Terrence Howard.