Jussie Smollett’s Jamal is not the only member of Empire‘s Lyon clan MIA from the Fox drama’s final season. Bryshere Y. Gray (aka “Yazz”), who portrays Smollett’s kid brother Hakeem, has been a scarce presence in Season 6. How scarce?
After appearing briefly in the Sept. 24 premiere, Gray has been completely absent from Episodes 2 and 3 — triggering a chorus of “Where’s Hakeem?” on social media. Hakeem’s vanishing act was particularly glaring in last week’s episode when his older brother Andre (Trai Byers) found himself in the throes of a devastating family crisis. Not only was Hakeem not by his sibling’s side, his absence was never even addressed (unlike Jamal, whose relocation to London was clearly established in the opener.)
Reps for Empire and Gray declined to comment on the reason behind Gray’s reduced workload, but a source close to the show tells TVLine that the actor — who continues to be billed as a series regular — is taking time off this season for “personal reasons.”
Meanwhile, Empire showrunner Brett Mahoney maintains in a statement to TVLine that viewers have not seen the last of Cookie and Lucious’ youngest son. What’s more, the EP says that Hakeem’s absence was foreshadowed in the premiere when the character — arguably out of nowhere — decided to pursue an acting career.
“With Hakeem off filming the Lucious Lyon [movie] in Los Angeles, there may be episodes we don’t see him,” Mahoney acknowledges, “but fans should certainly know that he and Yazz remain a big part of the show. Stay tuned.”