"It would be weird in my mind to end this family show and this family drama of which he was such a significant part of without seeing him," Mahoney said, adding, "It's fair to say it’s being discussed, but there’s no plan as of yet to bring him back. There's been no decision made."
Smollett's character Jamal Lyon was written off of the final two episodes of Season 5 as he was embroiled in a legal battle over accusations that he staged a racist and homophobic attack in late January in Chicago. The show justified Jamal's sudden departure by tying it to his honeymoon with husband Kai, but his continued absence was explained by his character's desire to stay in London afterwards.
In June, Variety reported that Smollett would return in Season 6, but Empire co-creator Lee Daniels emphatically rejected that rumor on Twitter.
Despite all the controversy, confusion, and uncertainty tied to Smollett's unceremonious exit, his Empire castmates have not only remained in his corner, but they have hoped for his eventual return to the show.
"I was so proud of that young man that played my son, because he still loved me at the end of it. And all he wanted to do was get closer to me," Terrence Howard said in a September appearance on the Late Late Show with James Corden. "Then out of nowhere, you know, he's snatched away from us. So it's like now he was the heart of our show, and now it's like our show is on a heart and lung bypass machine because the heart is gone, but we're still hoping that there's going to be a transplant, and hoping somehow it will come back together."
Empire will air its final 10 episodes next year.