The 36-year-old actor is in the midst of a highly publicized criminal scandal, in which he is accused of orchestrating his own hate crime in late January. Though he was ultimately cleared of all 16 charges in the case, his future with Empire remains unclear.
Shortly after Smollett was arrested for allegedly staging his attack, series executives announced they had cut his character, Jamal Lyon, from the last two episodes of the current fifth season.
“While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out,” Empire execs wrote in a statement. “We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of ‘Jamal’ from the final two episodes of the season.”
Fox has yet to confirm Empire‘s sixth season; but if it ends up receiving the green light, the show’s main cast is asking that Smollett be brought back. Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard, Bryshere Y. Gray, Trai Byers, Gabourey Sidibe, and Nicole Ari Parker penned a letter to Fox and Disney Studios calling for Smollett’s return for the potential sixth season.
“Together, as a united front, we stand with Jussie Smollett and ask that our co-star, brother and friend be brought back for our sixth season of Empire,” the stars wrote in a letter obtained by Deadline. “[…] Throughout Empire’s five seasons working with Jussie and watching how he has conducted himself throughout this traumatic event, we have come to know not just the character Jussie portrays, but also truly come to know Jussie’s personal character. He is kind. He is compassionate. He is honest and above all he is filled with integrity. He is also innocent and no longer subject to legal uncertainty with the criminal charges against him having been dropped.”
The letter was addressed to Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier, Disney TV Studios and ABC Entertainment chairwoman Dana Walden, Fox president Michael Thorn, Empire co-creators Danny Strong and Lee Daniels, as well as other executive producers. You can read the full letter here.
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