In a statement, the network and studio 20th Century Fox TV said, “By mutual agreement, the studio has negotiated an extension to Jussie Smollett’s option for Season 6, but at this time there are no plans for the character of Jamal to return to Empire.” According to an insider, the decision to extend Smollett’s contract — and thus pay him at least a portion of his salary — gives The Powers That Be some wiggle room in case they should opt to weave Jamal back into the show at some point next season.
The pickup comes after a tumultuous couple months, which saw Smollett suspended from Season 5’s final two episodes in the wake of his allegedly staged hate crime attack.
The decision to keep Jamal off the canvas in Season 6 comes despite the cast making a passionate plea for the actor’s return. As previously reported, the series’ principal ensemble — headed by Terrence Howard (Lucious) and Taraji P. Henson (Cookie) — penned a letter to Fox execs urging them to bring Smollett back for Season 6.
“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 letter read. The note went on to call Smollett “honest” and “filled with integrity,” before detailing his many years of activism and charitable work.
In announcing Empire‘s Season 6 renewal, Fox Entertainment President Michael Thorn said the show “continues to break barriers with its emotionally powerful storytelling, and it remains a core part of the Fox legacy. We want to thank everyone on the show… all of whom have done a tremendous job this season. We know there are so many more stories to tell, and we can’t wait to see what they have in store for Season 6.”
Despite losing half of its audience vs. last season, Empire ranks as Fox’s No. 2 scripted series (behind 9-1-1).
TVLine’s 2019 Renewal Scorecard has been updated to reflect Empire‘s pickup.