Charges against Jussie Smollett with regard to filing false police report may have already been dropped, but that doesn’t mean that he’s coming back to Empire. Fox’s family musical drama starring Terrence Howard (Lucious) and Taraji P. Henson (Cookie) revolves around the Lyon family who owns Empire Entertainment. Debuting in 2015, Smollett plays Jamal, the couple’s openly-gay middle child who’s a talented singer-songwriter and is among the original cast members of the series.
Late January, Smollett made headlines when he was reportedly attacked by two men wearing the “Make America Great Again” red hats sported by Donald Trump supporters. The perpetrators allegedly screamed homophobic and racial slurs, and tied a rope around the actor’s neck. He was hospitalized for his injuries, and soon, message of support from across Hollywood poured down on him. But things took a 180 degree turn when police suspected that Smollet staged the attack by paying off the men who physically and verbally abused him, which led to his arrest. But despite the charges cleared, it still doesn’t pave the way for his return to his old TV gig.
Related: Here’s Everything That Disney Now Owns From Fox (& What It Means)
According to a new report from Deadline, Fox is not actively looking for ways to bring back Smollet to Empire. “Things are so unclear and there is a feeling that this isn’t over, that there’s more to come,” the outlet says, quoting someone who has a personal knowledge of the actor’s legal circumstances and ramifications for the show. Another anonymous person said that they’re ready to “cut their losses if need be” by not having the actor return.
Aside from the false accusation case, Smollett is embroiled in a federal probe wherein he’s suspected to have written a hate-filled letter sent to Empire last year. If proven guilty, this could mean 5-20 years in prison for the actor. “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is working closely with our law enforcement partners on this investigation. We are unable to provide any additional comment at this time,” the USPS said in a statement.
Smollett has already been excluded in the final two episodes of the series’ current season, but with a big possibility that it’ll be renewed for another year, many are expecting that he’ll reprise his role come season 6 in light of the dropped charges. However, with the controversy surrounding the verdict, hyped up by the vocal outrage from outgoing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel among others, and another run-in with the law, it’s understandable why Fox executives are not exactly jumping the gun to bring him back. Early reports claim that Smollett staged the attack to get publicity, which could lead to a higher pay in the show, but since he’s acquitted, this particular bit in this issue is now overlooked. However, assuming that there was really pay dispute between him and Empire, regardless of whether or not the staged his own attack, it makes sense that they don’t want him back in the project.
More: The Really Bad Effects Of The Disney-Fox Deal, Explained