Variety seems to have been the first to report this. Fox has renewed Empire for a 6th season but has no plans to bring back Jussie Smollett, though they did leave themselves an opening in the form of a contract extension:
“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 Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television said in a statement…
A spokesperson for Smollett said in a statement, “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.”
If they have no plans to bring him back, why bother extending his contract? TMZ suggests Fox is waiting to see how the city’s civil lawsuit against Smollett pans out:
It could be … Fox is hedging its bets, to see what happens in the civil case in which the City of Chicago is suing the actor for the costs of the investigation. The upshot of that case — Jussie will be tried for allegedly faking the “attack.” Perhaps if he wins, Fox will reconsider.
As we reported, Jussie has had lunch meetings with “Empire” execs, and for a time it looked like he may come back, but now it seems Jussie needs to find other employment.
Other employment? Where does Smollett go from here? It’s hard to imagine anyone is going to hire him with the lawsuit hanging over his head. More importantly, there’s the fact that he’s a despicable person who faked a hate crime (though that didn’t seem to bother the cast at Empire much). Smollett has a singing career going as well as an acting career, so maybe he’ll focus on that for a while and at some point the hate crime hoax will be forgotten. But will people buy his music knowing what he did?
If Smollett has a hard time finding work, maybe he could get something part-time and close enough to his apartment that he can walk to work. It won’t be glamorous like television work but I think it might do him some good to get a little appreciation for the fact that not everyone earns $65,000 a week (or whatever). Here’s his new script:
Jussie: What can I get for you today?
Stranger: I’ll take a 12-inch Spicy Italian on white.
Jussie: What kind of cheese would you like with that?
I’d pay to see an episode of Jussie Smollett: Subway Sandwich Artist. I bet a lot of other people in Chicago would too.