After rumors surfaced earlier today about Fox preparing to bring back controversial actor Jussie Smollett for the upcoming final season of Empire, co-creator Lee Daniels has emphatically denied the claims. "Jussie [Smollett] will NOT be returning to Empire," Daniels straight-up said in response to the reports on the actor's return. Because the powers that be at the show had not publicly confirmed whether Smollett will be included in any new episodes, there had been speculation that he may come back next season. Daniels' blunt denial now serves as a public acknowledgement that Smollett is definitely out.
Before Lee Daniels shot the story down, various sources had been reporting the Empire writers were coming up with scenarios to possibly bring back Smollett in the back half of the final season. It's plausible in that the upcoming sixth season has been reported to be the final installment of the series, and the writers are tasked with providing plenty of big moments and surprises to close the show with a bang. However, if Smollett is out as Daniels says, it would appear that the controversy surrounding his name was just too much for Fox to consider bringing him back again for the last episodes. For better or for worse, Empire fans have apparently seen the very last of Jamal.
This unfortunate saga began earlier this year when Jussie Smollett reported he had been attacked by two unidentified strangers. According to Smollett, the assault was a hate crime as he was targeted as a homosexual African-American. When the police launched an investigation, they were able to locate the two suspects, who were revealed to be two brothers who'd worked with Smollett on Empire. With the brothers fully cooperating with the investigation, officers said they uncovered enough evidence to suggest Smollett had orchestrated the attack himself by personally paying the men to stage it. Multiple felony charges were then stacked against him only to later be controversially dropped. Smollett may have gotten out of jail time, but it apparently still wasn't enough for him to keep his job.
Prior to Fox announcing the upcoming sixth season would be the last one for Empire, its cast banded together to write a public letter of support for Smollett. Considering him to be a part of the family, the cast was hoping for Smollett to return for the final season so he could put the unfortunate scandal behind him. Soon after, Fox renewed Empire for a sixth and final season, although it wasn't made officially clear one way or the other if Smollett would return in some capacity. It seems these premature reports about his potential involvement was enough for someone involved to finally chime in to put the matter to rest.
Actress Lori Loughlin is in a similar situation after dealing with a career-ending scandal of her own. Because of her alleged involvement in the infamous college admissions cheating scandal, Netflix booted Loughlin from Fuller House, ensuring Aunt Becky will not appear in the show's fifth and final season. Undoubtedly, Loughlin must be hoping for the charges against her to be thrown out as well. This information comes to us from Lee Daniels on Twitter.