Smollett's character, Jamal, was written out of the end of Season 5, but now that the show has been renewed for Season 6, 20th Century Fox has put out a statement that says there are no plans for the character of Jamal to return to Empire. The studio did say, however, that it has extended Smollett's contract to allow for the option of his return. This news comes less than a week after series stars Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard officially advocated for his return in a major show of support.
In a letter obtained by Deadline, Henson, Howard, and fellow cast members Bryshere Y. Gray, Trai Byers, Gabourey Sidibe, and Nicole Ari Parker lobbied for Smollett's return to Empire. The letter was sent to Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier, Disney TV Studios and ABC Entertainment chair Dana Walden, Fox Entertainment president Michael Thorn, Empire co-creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, and a number of executive producers on the series.
"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 cast wrote. "We understand the past months have been difficult to process -- sometimes the headlines brought more confusion than clarity, yet we now have a conclusion to this ordeal."
The actors went also vouched for Smollett's character, writing, "He is kind. He is compassionate. He is honest and above all he is filled with integrity. He is also innocent and no longer subject to legal uncertainty with the criminal charges against him having been dropped."
The letter goes on to address the "extreme political climate in our country," which, the cast argues, "has only made our system of justice and the court of public opinion more unjust."
"We understand that this show is a business. And that business matters to us as well. We are confident our fans will welcome our 'Jamal' back into the Empire family as enthusiastically as we will," the letter reads. "That is why we write today to ask you to keep Jussie on the cast so that we can all put this behind us and move forward. Thank you for taking time to hear us. It's our hope that together we will move into our sixth season as the entire Empire family should."
Empire airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on Fox.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect Empire's renewal and Jussie Smollett's status on the show.