Well, it’s official: Jussie Smollett will not be returning to “Empire.”
On Wednesday, Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour that “Empire” co-creator Lee Daniels was correct, Smollett won’t be back for the show’s final season — even though Fox extended the actor’s option for Season 6 when the hip-hop drama was renewed, before they knew it was coming to an end.
And now that we know for sure the former “Empire” star truly is not returning, fans have to be wondering what will become of his character, Jamal Lyon — who wed his fiance Kai (Toby Onwumere) on the final episode of Season 5 in which Smollett was featured — when the show returns for its sixth and final season this fall.
Now TheWrap has your answer, courtesy of Fox Entertainment’s Michael Thorn.
“He’s on his honeymoon,” the network’s entertainment president told TheWrap during the Television Critics Association press tour Wednesday. “He’s on his honeymoon and working on some projects abroad… that’s how we hear about him at the beginning of the season.”
“Honestly, I prefer to leave it at that because we’re only five or six episodes into the breaking of the season and I would rather the writers tell that story, rather than me guessing where it might go,” Thorn said.
But he added: “I think [showrunner] Brett [Mahoney] and the team have done a great job of creating a very realistic story for why he’s not in the day-to-day lives of the Lyon family.”
As “Empire” viewers will remember, Smollett was 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.
Jamal was mentioned a handful of times in the last couple episodes of the fifth season, once in a scene where it was noted he and Kai were on their “honeymoon in the Seychelles” just as Empire was planning its Trust Tour — an attempt for the Lyon Family to revitalize faith in their label.
As for where the show itself is headed in its final season Thorn said, “We’re opening the premiere episode in the first couple minutes with something that we think is jaw-dropping and that we hope creates investment for the fans and buzz around the show and real engagement for the great creative work that’s been done over the past couple of seasons.”
When TheWrap asked Thorn if the end of the show has Fox considering possible spinoffs, he said they haven’t ruled that option out.
“We’ve talked every couple of seasons about spinning off the character dynamic within the franchise and this season will be no exception,” he said. “And if there’s a way to do it where we can make it feel like a meaningful edition to ‘Empire,’ then we’ll do it, but there’s nothing concrete yet.”