Credit: Chuck Hodes/FOX
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UPDATE: A representative for Jussie Smollett released a statement about the Empire season 6 renewal and the studio’s decision to extend the actor’s option. “We’ve been told that Jussie will not be on Empire in the beginning of the season but he appreciates they have extended his contract to keep Jamal’s future open. Most importantly he is grateful to Fox and Empire leadership, cast, crew and fans for their unwavering support.”

EARLIER: The Empire has not fallen — but it will return without Jussie Smollett.

On Tuesday, Fox announced a season 6 renewal for Empire. The move always seemed like a no-brainer, with the situation only seemingly complicated by the controversy surrounding Smollett, who the network says it currently has “no plans” to bring back.

“By mutual agreement, the studio has negotiated an extension to Jussie Smollett’s option for season 6, but at this time there are no plans for the character of Jamal to return to Empire,” Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox TV said in a statement.

Still one of the network’s signature and highest-rated series, Empire was experiencing a bit of a creative rebound when the news shifted to Smollett, who, back in January, claimed to be the victim of a racial and homophobic attack. The next few months featured numerous twists and turns to the case, with Smollett being arrested for filing a false police report, only for the charges to eventually be dropped.

During all of this, Fox made the decision to remove from Smollett from the final two episodes of season 5. In what now looks to officially be Smollett’s swan song, his character Jamal was given a possible happy ending with his wedding to Kai.

If it was up to his castmates, then Smollett would return. Empire stars Terrence Howard, Taraji P Henson, Bryshere Y. Gray, Trai Byers, Gabourey Sidibe, and Nicole Ari Parker recently penned a letter to Fox and the show’s creative team asking that their costar be reinstated. “More than ever, we must stand together as a family,” they wrote. “A family is there for us in good times and bad.”

Empire airs its penultimate episode of season 5 on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET.

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