The embattled actor was written out of the show’s final two episodes of this season, and while he remains under contract, his character, Jamal Lyon, isn’t scheduled to return.
“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,” Fox and producer 20th Century Fox TV say in a statement.
Smollett’s future with the series has remained up in the air since he was charged with lying to police over an alleged attack the early hours of Jan. 29. Those charges were eventually dropped, but Smollett was written out of the final two episodes of the season (airing May 1 and 8).
As for the series itself, Empire is Fox’s second-highest rated drama in 2018-19 and No. 3 entertainment series overall (behind The Masked Singer and 911). With a week of delayed viewing it averages a 2.1 rating among adults 18-49 and about 6.6 million viewers. With Fox now an independent network, it will be paying Disney — the new owner of the network’s former corporate sibling 20th TV — a license fee to air season six.