Fox has revealed how Jussie Smollett’s absence will be addressed in the final season of Empire.
Following drama in his personal life involving an alleged attack in January, Smollett’s character, Jamal, has been written out of the show.
“He’s on his honeymoon! [Show co-creator] Lee [Daniels] has spoken a lot about this situation and this story will reflect it,” Charlie Collier, CEO of Fox Entertainment, told a handful of reporters after the executive session on Wednesday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. “You’ll see pictures of him in the background. He’s on his honeymoon in the storyline. Lee and the team have talked a lot about what they’re going to do, and there are some surprises at the beginning of this season that you’re going to love. And I really think Empire is going to go out just on a high.”
Fox had previously extended the 37-year-old Smollett’s contract after the alleged attack, leaving the door open for his return. However, in early June, Daniels confirmed that the actor would not be returning.
“We tried to gather all the information [and] we tried to make a good decision at the time. Lee’s right — there are no plans for Jussie to return to Empire,” Collier confirmed during a panel discussion.
Asked what sparked the change of decision, Collier said the network had worked closely with 20th Century Fox to investigate the situation further.
“Just time and information and conversations with all the right people,” Collier said. “A lot of television depends on when the writers are back, and we worked with 20th very closely to make sure that he had every piece of information to do the right thing.”
Smollett’s absence notwithstanding, Collier said the sixth and final season of the series would get the send-off it “deserves” and that the network was already looking into new show concepts to fill the gap Empire will leave in terms of shows representing diverse voices and people of color. Regarding possibilities of a spin-off, he said, “If there’s more story to tell, we want to hear it.”
“Look at what Empire’s meant to television over the last season and what it’s done with the impact [on the] pop culture of television. [We’re going] to truly gives the fans the send-off they deserve.”