Fall TV Preview

Here's How Empire Will Explain Jamal's Absence in Final Season

Empire Season 5, Episode 16 - Jussie Smollett

There’s an extended honeymoon and then there’s a permanent honeymoon.

Amid official word that embattled Empire star Jussie Smollett will not be returning for the Fox’s drama’s sixth and final season, it appears newlyweds Jamal and Kai will be enjoying the latter.

Speaking to TVLine ahead of the Fox drama’s Sept. 24 premiere, Empire showrunner Brett Mahoney says the happy couple will opt to remain happy — and that means keeping their distance from Lucious, Cookie and Co. “Jamal is taking a sabbatical from the family,” the EP reveals. “He doesn’t want to be caught up in Lyon family drama, which is very much in keeping with his point of view last season — that [the family business] should be something that the family moves away from.”

As a result, Mahoney says, “Jamal and Kai have decided to stay in London.”

Fox last May left the door to Smollett’s return slightly ajar when the network announced that it had extended the actor’s contract through Season 6. Shortly thereafter, series co-creator Lee Daniels slammed that door shut, tweeting emphatically that “Jussie will NOT be returning to Empire.” And earlier this month, Fox CEO Charlie Collier confirmed that there are “no plans for Jussie to return to Empire.”

Smollett, who played Lucious’ musician son since Empire debuted in 2015, was written out of the final episodes of Season 5 following a headline-grabbing brush with the law. The actor claimed he was beaten up by two men wearing “MAGA” hats who hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him, and then was accused of fabricating the attack and charged with making a false police report. The charges were later dropped, a move that sparked its own fair share of controversy.

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