During a conference conference call with reporters, Fox CEO Charlie Collier elaborated on the decision to end the Taraji P. Henson-Terrence Howard soap with Season 6, side-stepping questions about what role — if any — the real-life drama surrounding embattled cast member Jussie Smollett played into it.
“We’re turning the final season of Empire into a large television event,” Collier said of the Tuesday-bound drama. “We are going out guns-a-blazing. Six years is a pretty remarkable run for a drama series.”
Fox previously announced that it has “no plans” to bring Smollett’s Jamal back next season, although showrunner Brett Mahoney recently suggested to TVLine that the door remains slightly ajar for him to return down the road (hence the network’s decision to extend Smollett’s option). “There are no plans yet in terms of how the character may or may not come back,” Mahoney said, adding that the interim period will give Smollett “time to address what is going on and put it behind him.”
Despite losing half of its audience vs. last season, Empire will end the current season as Fox’s No. 2 scripted series (behind 9-1-1).