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'Empire' Wrote off Jussie Smollett in a 20 Second Convo

by Sam Cronin

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday September 26, 2019

Fox drama "Empire" decided for this sixth and last season not to bring back Jussie Smollett's character, Jamal Lyon. The out actor is embroiled in an ongoing legal controversy related to accusations that he staged a hate crime against himself.

Smollett was already written out of season five amid backlash from the allegations, according to Variety, and in early June, series writer Lee Daniels confirmed on Twitter that Smollett would not be returning to the show.

The season six opener made only a brief mention of Smollett's character, Jamal's departure, explaining that he "ran off to London," according to Vulture. In the short conversation, lasting only about 20 seconds, Jamal's mother, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) admits she misses him to Jamal's friend Becky Williams (Gabourey Sidibe).

The write off of Smollett is reminiscent of other notable controversy-inspired ones in recent history, including those of Kevin Spacey and Roseanne Barr. In both cases, those stars were promptly dropped from their shows when controversy built up. With Smollett's dropping added to the pile, a firm precedent of networks dumping talent at the first sight of trouble is set.

Smollett's criminal charges were dropped in March, but he now faces a civil suit from the Chicago Police Department asking for damages in the amount of $130,000 to recoup overtime costs related to the initial investigation. Read more about the developing case here at EDGE.