Empire will likely go on without Jussie Smollett

On the eve of the series' fifth season finale, Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television confirmed the show had been renewed for season 6. The companies announced the news in a statement to Variety, thanking the cast and crew for contributing to Empire's success.

"Empire continues to break barriers with its emotionally powerful storytelling, and it remains a core part of the Fox legacy," Michael Thorn, Fox Entertainment’s president of entertainment, said. "We want to thank everyone on the show—Taraji, Terrence, and the entire cast, as well as Lee, Danny, Brett, Sanaa, Brian, Francie, Dennis and their teams—all of whom have done a tremendous job this season. We know there are so many more stories to tell, and we can’t wait to see what they have in store for Season Six."

Fox also addressed the fans' biggest question: What will happen to Smollett's character, Jamal Lyon?

Though the the studio claimed it had conducted negotiations for the actor's return, there are currently "no plans" to bring Smollett's character back for season 6.

"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," Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television said in a statement.

Smollett's future with the series has remained unclear over the last several months. The 36-year-old actor was accused of orchestrating his own hate crime in late January and was indicted on 16 counts of falsifying a police report. All charges against Smollett were ultimately dismissed, but the City of Chicago is now suing the actor to recover the costs of the investigation.

"Mr. Smollett has refused to reimburse the City of Chicago for the cost of police overtime spent investigating his false police report on January 29, 2019," a spokesperson for the City said, per TMZ. "The Law Department is now drafting a civil complaint that will be filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Once it is filed, the Law Department will send a courtesy copy of the complaint to Mr. Smollett's L.A. based legal team."

In wake of the scandal, Empire's showrunners decided to remove Smollett's character from the last two episodes of the current season. Several members of the Empire cast have expressed their support for Smollett and have called for his return

"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 show's stars wrote in a letter obtained by Deadline. "[...] We have come to know not just the character Jussie portrays, but also truly come to know Jussie’s personal character. He is kind. He is compassionate. He is honest and above all he is filled with integrity. He is also innocent and no longer subject to legal uncertainty with the criminal charges against him having been dropped."