"Jussie [Smollett] will NOT be returning to 'Empire,'" Daniels said, per the publication.
Variety previously reported the show's staff expects Smollett to be featured in the second half of the sixth and final season, as writers are already brainstorming his reintroduction. The 36-year-old actor was written out of the final episodes of season 5, after he was accused of orchestrating his own hate crime in January of this year.
Several months after Smollett was charged with filing a false police report—a crime of which he was eventually cleared—Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television announced there were no plans for Smollett's character, Jamal Lyon, to come back; however, the studio did negotiate "an extension to Jussie Smollett’s option for season six."
The insider told Variety the Smollett situation has led to tension among Empire's cast and crew. While most of the latter is convinced Smollett is guilty, the former has consistently defended his innocence. Co-stars Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard, Bryshere Y. Gray, Trai Byers, Gabourey Sidibe, and Nicole Ari Parker penned a letter to the studio back in April in support of Smollett's 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," they wrote in a letter obtained by Deadline. "[...] Throughout Empire’s five seasons working with Jussie and watching how he has conducted himself throughout this traumatic event, 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."
Shortly after Smollett was cleared of the charges, the City of Chicago slapped the actor with a civil lawsuit. The city claims it had spent $130,000 to investigate Smollett's alleged hoax, and now they want their money back.
"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."