Jussie Smollett‘s potentially permanent Empire ouster may not mark the end of the road for his character, Jamal Lyon. TVLine has learned that among the options producers are considering is bringing in a new actor to take over the role in Season 6. Per an Empire insider, series co-creator Lee Daniels — who loosely based Jamal on himself — is said to be a strong proponent of the recast option.
An Empire rep declined to comment for this story. A spokesperson for Daniels, meanwhile, could not be reached for comment.
Daniels and his fellow Empire EPs — Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer — announced on Friday their decision to “remove” Smollett and Jamal from Season 5’s final two episodes to “avoid further disruption on set.” Their statement also suggested that they are taking a wait-and-see stance before determining Smollett’s ultimate fate. “While these allegations are very disturbing,” they said, “we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out.” Any potential Jamal recast would not go into effect until next season. It’s worth noting that Fox has yet to formally renew Empire — which stands as the network’s No. 2 drama — for a sixth season, but a pickup is considered a foregone conclusion.
Smollett, who has played Jamal on the Fox drama since its debut, was arrested early Thursday in Chicago and faces a felony criminal charge of disorderly conduct/filing a false police report in connection to last month’s alleged hate crime attack. In a press conference Thursday, Chicago police claimed that Smollett hired two men to fake the attack because he was dissatisfied with his Empire salary.
Shortly thereafter, the actor’s legal team released a statement saying, “Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system. The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election. Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”