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Empire Creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong Confirm Early Series Finale Date

But remain hopeful about filming a proper finale

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Keisha Hatchett, Allison Picurro

After Fox announced that Empire will end early with Episode 18 airing Tuesday, April 21 at 9/8c, co-creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong are opening up about the departing drama. In a joint statement obtained by TV Guide, both expressed their gratitude for the support they received over the show's unforgettable six-season run while also remaining hopeful that they'll be able to film a proper finale.

"The success of Empire and bringing the Lyon family to broadcast television will always be one of the proudest achievements of my career. This show is the definition of breaking barriers. Thank you to our incredible cast, especially Terrence and Taraji, along with our amazing writers and tireless crew, for all of their hard work and bringing this story to life. I think there's more to do with these characters, and I'm heartbroken we aren't getting to shoot the finale we wanted--at least not yet. But you know what they say in television? Stay tuned! To the Empire!" Daniels said in a statement.

Strong added: "We're so proud of this show and of everything this incredible cast - led by Taraji and Terrence - and crew accomplished over six seasons. The episode airing on April 21 was never meant to be the series finale, but due to current events it will likely be the last one our fans will see for a while. We had an ending for the series planned that we all loved, and hopefully someday we'll be able to film it and give the series its proper conclusion. But we hope everyone tunes in to our last original episode, because the work done by our cast and crew deserves to be seen by the widest audience possible. Big thank you to Fox for being our home for these many years. And here's hoping this isn't the end!"

Fox previously announced that sixth and final season will end prematurely due to the entertainment industry shutdown prompted by the coronavirus crisis. With the 18th episode now functioning as the series finale, footage from the 19th episode -- which was halfway through filming when the shutdown took effect -- will be edited in to make the ending smoother, Deadline originally reported. Lee Daniels and Danny Strong's hit series was among the group of Disney Television Studios projects to halt production on March 14 amid the coronavirus outbreak. The series finale is now poised to arrive on Tuesday, April 21 at 9/8c.

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As the Lyons' story winds down, major questions remain, like whether or not Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) and Lucious (Terrence Howard) are actually going to die. Their deaths have been hinted at throughout the season via cryptic flash-forwards in which Lucious is shot at point-blank range and Cookie's car explodes. It's unclear who might be behind their supposed deaths, but the remaining episodes should unlock more clues. Plus, with Andre (Trai Byers) continually spiraling while at the helm of Empire Records, someone will need to step in before it's too late.

While you can expect plenty of drama in the episodes ahead, don't count on seeing Jussie Smollett's Jamal Lyon before it all comes to an end. Jamal was written out of Season 6 amid the actor's legal woes and Fox entertainment chief Michael Thorn confirmed at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour that Smollett would not return for the series finale. "He is not coming back," he told Deadline, adding that the finale would likely mention Jamal in some form.

Like Empire, Supernatural had its final season cut short too, whileGrey's Anatomy will also air a shortened season and The Walking Dead postponed its Season 10 finale to later in the year.

Empire airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on Fox.

Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, Empire

Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, Empire

Chuck Hodes/FOX