Update (6/4/2019 PM) — Lee Daniels has denied Variety‘s claims that Jussie Smollett would be written into the sixth season, telling them: “Jussie will NOT be returning to Empire.” Shadow And Act reached out to Fox and 20th Century Fox for comment on the initial report but they declined to give one.
Previously reported: A new report says that the writers of Empire are preparing scenarios for Jussie Smollett’s return, just as tensions have reportedly flared up between the series’ cast and their mostly-white crew. Smollett was written out at the end of the show’s fifth season after the resulting controversy surrounding his claims that he was the subject of a racist and homophobic attack. He faced charges related to staging the attack, but they were all dropped.
Sources tell Variety that the expectation is that Smollett will appear in the second half of the show’s sixth and final season. But, those sources also say that: “Tensions were ratcheted up on set between the show’s primarily black cast members, who still believe Smollett is innocent, and the mostly white below-the-line crew, many of whom believe Smollett is guilty. The hope is that those tensions will have eased in the break between seasons should Smollett come back, but no final decisions on his return have yet been made.”
The report of Smollett having the cast’s support shouldn’t come as any surprise, given that Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Trai Byers, Bryshere Y. Gray, Nicole Ari Parker and Gabourey Sidibe wrote a letter to Fox, 20th Century Fox and Empire brass, asking for Smollett to come back for season 6.
When Empire was renewed for its sixth season at Fox, the network told us, “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,” which meant that the door was open if there were to be an opportunity for Smollett or the character to return.