The stars of Fox’s “Empire” are standing by their co-star Jussie Smollett.
In a letter sent to Fox and the show’s producers on Wednesday, series regulars, including Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard, called for Smollett to be brought back to the show next season. Other names signed to the letter include 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.
Fox declined to comment, and a spokesperson for 20th Century Fox Television did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
Smollett was written out of the last two episodes of Season 5 after he was accused by Chicago police of orchestrating a staged assault against himself earlier this year. He was initially charged with 16 felony counts related to filing a false police report, but the charges were later dropped.
“We understand the past months have been difficult to process — sometimes the headlines brought more confusion than clarity, yet we now have a conclusion to this ordeal,” the letter read, going on to describe Smollet as “honest” and “filled with integrity.”
“He is also innocent and no longer subject to legal uncertainty with the criminal charges against him having been dropped,” the group wrote. “We are confident in his lawyer’s assurance that the case was dismissed because it would not have prevailed.”
Among the names addressed at the top of the letter are Charlie Collier and Michael Thorn of Fox Entertainment, Dana Walden of Disney TV Studios, “Empire” co-creators Lee Daniels, Danny Strong and showrunner Brett Mahoney, as well as other executive producers on the drama.
Read the letter in its entirety below.
Dear Charlie, Dana, Michael, Lee, Danny, Francie, Brian, Sanaa, Dennis, and Brett,
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.
We understand the past months have been difficult to process–sometimes the headlines brought more confusion than clarity, yet we now have a conclusion to this ordeal. Throughout Empire’s five seasons working with Jussie and watching how he has conducted himself throughout this traumatic event, 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. He is also innocent and no longer subject to legal uncertainty with the criminal charges against him having been dropped. We are confident in his lawyer’s assurance that the case was dismissed because it would not have prevailed.
Jussie has shown us on and off the set who he really is as a leader. In addition to being a caring friend and cast member who treats every crew member with love and respect, he has spent time with our families and individually supported each of us. These recent and detailed letters from The Black AIDS Institute, the Rainbow Push Coalition and the City Lights Orchestra shine a light on his commitment to true community service. Just a few months ago, Jussie partnered with the Trevor Project to provide support to their volunteer program that allows LGBTQ youth in crisis access to vital counseling services. Prior to that, he gave every cent from his sold out world tour to numerous charities. He has adopted a school in Chicago, taught songwriting to incarcerated youth at the Cook County Jail last year and bought the family of Kayden Kinckle, a six-year-old, double amputee, a wheelchair accessible van due to his school district not having a wheelchair accessible school bus. He has traveled to South Africa for service as well as to Jamaica to quietly meet about the safety of LGBTQ youth. This was all done without posturing, the need for attention or even discussion.
This is the Jussie we know.
It’s clearer every day that the extreme political climate in our country has only made our system of justice and the court of public opinion more unjust.
It is why now, more than ever, we must stand together as a family. A family is there for us in good times and bad. It can cut through the noise and confusion to understand that there is a person in the center of all this who deserves nothing more than to move forward with his life. We understand that this show is a business. And that business matters to us as well. We are confident our fans will welcome our “Jamal” back into the Empire family as enthusiastically as we will.
That is why we write today to ask you to keep Jussie on the cast so that we can all put this behind us and move forward. Thank you for taking time to hear us. It’s our hope that together we will move into our sixth season as the entire Empire family should.
Taraji P Henson
Bryshere Y. Gray
Nicole Ari Parker