With a tweet, “Empire” co-creator Lee Daniels has confirmed embattled star Jussie Smollett’s fate on the musical drama.
Daniels declared on Tuesday that the actor, who is accused of staging a hate crime against himself, will not be returning for the sixth and final season of the Fox series.
The showrunner tweeted the news in response to a Variety report that “Empire” writers were preparing for Smollett’s return on Season 6. The story cited multiple production sources.
“This is not factual. Jussie will NOT be returning to Empire. -LD,” Daniels wrote.
Representatives for Fox did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment Wednesday morning.
FULL COVERAGE: Jussie Smollett case »
It’s the first definitive public statement regarding Smollett’s future on the series. In April, his costars penned an open letter asking that the actor be brought back after he had been written out of the final episodes of Season 5.
The decision to remove him came amid the uproar that erupted when police said that the January attack Smollett reported as a hate crime was actually a hoax staged by the actor for personal gain.
Daniels and co-creator Danny Strong had been among the early vocal supporters of Smollett when police initially said the actor, who is black and gay, was the victim of a possible racial and homophobic attack.
Viewers last saw Smollett’s character, the openly gay Jamal Lyon, marrying his partner in a glitzy wedding. His later absence on the show was explained via brief reference to him honeymooning, and it seemed that the Jamal chapter of the series had ended. Smollett has played Jamal since the show debuted in 2015.
Smollett has maintained his innocence, and the 16 felony charges of disorderly conducted against him were abruptly dropped in March. But the actor-musician has continued to live in infamy as Chicago police, prosecutors and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have questioned his story.
Separate lawsuits have spun off from his case, including one brought against the actor by the City of Chicago to reimburse it for the cost of the police investigation.
Last week, hundreds of documents in the case were unsealed, revealing additional details about the investigation, such as that prosecutors had told Chicago police detectives that a possible deal with the “Empire” actor was in the works a month before charges against him were dropped.
As for Daniels, he appears to have moved on to the next thing. In a separate video posted on Instagram on Wednesday, he said he was excited about the first day of filming the pilot episode for his Amazon comedy “Good People.”
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