“Empire” co-creator Lee Daniels denied a report Tuesday that Jussie Smollett is in talks to return for the final season of the Fox drama.
“This is not factual. Jussie will NOT be returning to Empire,” Daniels tweeted in response to a Variety story, which first reported the news of Smollett’s potential return.
Following Variety’s initial story, multiple individuals familiar with the situation subsequently told TheWrap that Smollett was in early talks to make a return to “Empire.”
The show’s writers have already begun developing story ideas to potentially bring back Smollett’s character, Jamal, for the sixth and final season, though the situation was described by one individual as “very premature.”
Discussions about Smollett’s possible return come weeks after “Empire” was renewed for its sixth and final season at Fox. The network said at the time that there were “no plans” for Smollett to make an appearance, despite a negotiation to extend his option through the final run of episodes.
Representatives for Smollett did not immediately return TheWrap’s request for comment. Fox and 20th Century Fox Television, which produces the show, declined to comment.
Smollett had previously been written out of the final few episodes of Season 5 after Chicago prosecutors charged him with multiple counts of filing a false police report, though those charges were later dropped as part of a deal requiring him to perform community service and forfeit $10,000 bond.
In an interview with TheWrap following the Season 5 finale, showrunner Brett Mahoney said no firm decision had been made regarding the possibility of Smollett returning at some point next season. “I think I just want what’s best for the show, so we’ll see what that is as we move forward,” he said.
Earlier this year, in a show of solidarity with Smollett, Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard and a number of the show’s other stars, delivered a letter to Fox and the show’s producers calling for the actor to be brought back to the show. Among the other names signed to the letter were Bryshere Y. Gray, Trai Byers, Gabourey Sidibe and Nicole Ari Parker.
“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 group wrote.
The letter continued, “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.”