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'Empire' renewed for Season 6 but Jussie Smollett's return is in doubt

Posted at 9:18 PM, Apr 30, 2019

"Empire" will return for a sixth season, but the same can't definitely be said for Jussie Smollett.

"By mutual agreement, the studio has negotiated an extension to Jussie Smollett's option for Season 6, but at this time there are no plans for the character of Jamal to return to 'Empire,'" Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox TV said in a joint statement.

That means the studio isn't including him in the series, but is leaving open the possibility of his return.

"We've been told that Jussie will not be on 'Empire' in the beginning of the season, but he appreciates they have extended his contract to keep Jamal's future open. Most importantly, he is grateful to Fox and 'Empire' leadership, cast, crew and fans for their unwavering support," a spokesperson for Smollett said in a statement.

Smollett does not appear in the final two episodes of the show's current season, having been written out as he grappled with the aftermath of what Chicago police have said was a staged attack .

The decision, producers said at the time, was made to "avoid further disruption on set."

On the episode of "Empire" airing this week, Smollett's character, Jamal, the middle brother of the Lyon family at the center of the show, is said to be on his honeymoon with his new husband. Plans regarding how writers will address the character's absence into next season are still unclear.

The "Empire" season finale airs next week.

Last week, in an appearance on " Good Day New York ," series creator Lee Daniels said Smollett's fate was still being considered

"There are only two judges -- God and that man that wears a robe. And I cannot judge. I can only have compassion," he said.

In a release announcing the show's renewal, Fox Entertainment President Michael Thorn said the show "continues to break barriers with its emotionally powerful storytelling, and it remains a core part of the Fox legacy."

"We know there are so many more stories to tell, and we can't wait to see what they have in store for Season 6," he added.

Smollett was charged with multiple felony counts alleging the actor duped the Chicago police into believing he had been the target of a hate crime.

Prosecutors later dropped the charges against Smollett, but the city has asked him for more than $130,000 to cover the cost of the investigation.

Smollett denied the allegations and his attorneys have said the actor "will not be intimidated into paying."

Daniels said on "Good Day New York" that Chicago's pending suit against Smollett, as well as insurance issues, were "causing a dilemma."

Smollett has starred on "Empire" since the show's start in 2015.