Empire may be launching its sixth and final season this fall, but Fox’s CEO says the hip-hop saga may not truly be over. “We’re in the Lee Daniels and Danny Strong business — if there is more story to tell we want to hear it,” Charlie Collier told TCA this morning on the possibility of spinoffs from the Empire duo.
Promising a big send-off for the soapy drama series led by Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard in its supersized last season, Collier praised the once ratings boss and “what it has done to impact the pop culture conversation.”
Regardless of whether there is more Empire or a spinoff, Collier made it clear that Jussie Smollett will not be a part of the final season or a potential future. “Lee’s right, there’s no plan for Jussie to return,“ the Fox Entertainment chief told the assembled media Wednesday, reiterating Daniels’ June 4 insistence that Smollett, who played Jamal Lyon on the show for almost five seasons, is permanently gone amid his legal troubles earlier this year.
Still, Smollett’s honeymooning character (got to love those soap staples) will appear in family photos and be mentioned in at least the early episodes of the final Empire season, Collier noted, with implication that his absence will be written into the plot of the show.
Following controversy and since dismissed criminal charges after an alleged hate crime assault against Smollett on January 29, the actor was written out of the final episodes of Season 5. Not long afterwards, the core Empire cast penned a note to the EPs and execs pleading for Smollett’s return. Those fell on deaf ears.
In the weeks after the final season announcement of early May, it was stated again that there were “no plans” to bring Smollett back for the swan song. Since then, Smollett’s legal drama has increased with his once sealed case made public, a special prosecutor recommend to probe why the Cook Country States Attorney’s office dropped the charges, and more dust-ups over a suit from the city of Chicago over the costs of the police investigation into the seemingly staged attack.
Empire was a big part of the start of Wednesday’s session. Collier came onstage at the Beverly Hilton following a pounding and “revolution”-promising sizzle reel full of quips from the show, The Simpsons, the NFL, Last Man Standing, the returning The Masked Singer and the slew of new shows like Bless the Harts and the BH90210 reunion mockdrama, which premieres tonight.