Fans of Empire will be pleased to hear that the show was picked up for a sixth season by Fox.
But it seems more and more likely that Jussie Smollett will not be returning along with the hit TV series.
The openly gay actor is still plagued by allegations he faked his own hate crime to secure a salary increase.
He claimed he was assaulted by two white men in a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago earlier this year. However, police later charged the 36-year-old with staging his own assault.
Smollett was written out of the final two episodes of Empire following the charges. Though the Chicago prosecution dropped their case against him, his future on the show had been in question for months.
In late April, several of Smollett’s Empire co-stars wrote an open letter asking Fox executives for Smollett to be brought back onto the show.
‘At this time there are no plans for the character of Jamal to return to Empire’
Empire has been widely praised of its LGBTI representation, including from Smollett’s gay character, Jamal.
The actor’s final episode in the fifth season saw Jamal’s wedding to Toby Onwumere’s character, Kai.
In a statement released to E! News, Fox said: ‘By mutual agreement, the studio has negotiated an extension to Jussie Smollett’s option for season six, but at this time there are no plans for the character of Jamal to return to Empire.’
Michael Thorn, President of Entertainment for Fox Entertainment, also released a statement praising the show.
‘Empire continues to break barriers with its emotionally powerful storytelling, and it remains a core part of the FOX legacy,’ said Thorn.
The absence of Smollett’s character has yet to be addressed on the show.
Allegedly staged his own hate-crime
Smollett’s story first made headlines in late January, when the actor reported that he had been attacked by two men on a Chicago street in the early hours of the morning.
The actor claimed the men shouted racial epithets, hung a noose around his neck, and poured bleach on him.
He was initially met with an outpouring of support from public figures and LGBTI rights advocates.
But police soon cast doubt on his account after they arrested two brothers associated with Smollett.
The brothers claimed that Smollett had paid them to help him stage the attack.
Evidence began mounting up against the Empire star, and police soon charged him with 16 felony counts.
In a surprise move in late March, Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx announced all criminal charges against Smollett would be dropped.
Prosecutors justified the move on account of Smollett’s alleged crime being non-violent. However, they have gone on to say they believed that Smollett is guilty of staging his own attack.
Career in question
The 36-year-old actor has been widely condemned and ridiculed following the case. The decision to drop the charges facing Smollett was also a highly controversial move.
A number of people have questioned if his career will ever recover after the attention the case has generated.
However, Smollett continues to maintain his innocence, and has described his experience as an ‘incredibly difficult time’.
He reportedly apologized to his Empire co-stars about the negative media attention after being released on bail in February.
Several members of the Empire cast continue to stand behind Smollett, and signed a letter asking Fox executives and the show’s creator to bring him back on board.
‘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 letter read.
Among the signatories are Taraji P Henson, Terrence Howard, Bryshere Y Grey, Trai Byers, Gabourey Sidibe, and Nicole Ari Parker.