Fox’s hit drama Empire is wrapping up its sixth and final season, and it’s noticeably doing so without its former star Jussie Smollett.
Smollett was written out of the show in 2019 after being arrested for allegedly filing a false police report in which he claimed he was a victim of a racist and homophobic attack.
All charges against Smollett were dropped; however, his case is currently being probed by special prosecutor Dan Webb who’s reportedly obtained a year worth of Smollett and his manager’s data from Google.
At FOX’s Television Critics Association party, Empire star Taraji P. Henson said that she wants Smollett to return for the series’ finale.
“If I had my say, he would have been back,” said Henson to Extra. “I mean, we can’t end this show without him. He’s such an integral part to the show. He certainly was Cookie’s favorite son, and we need him to wrap this thing up.”
Henson confirmed the cast supports his return; however, the network has decided against bringing him back.
“We’re not going to bring Jussie back to the show,” Fox entertainment president Michael Thorn told TVLine. “There were a number of factors that went into the decision to not bring him back. There were many points of view about if he should come back or if he shouldn’t. As hard as a decision as that was, for us — and when I say us I mean the network, the studio and the producers — it felt like it was in the best interests of the show and the cast.”
“Our hope is that all of the controversy surrounding Jussie doesn’t overshadow the show,” adds Thorn, “which we think is bigger than him.
Empire‘s final season returns this winter.