Fox Entertainment announced on Monday that its drama “Empire,” in which actor Jussie Smollett starred, will be canceled at the end of its upcoming season.
As for the future of Smollett in the series, Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier said in a call with reporters there are currently “no plans” to bring him back, Variety reported.
“At this point, we have no plans for that,” Collier said, but also noted that “the writers room for next season hasn’t even gathered yet.”
Deadline reported that “Empire” struggled with lower than expected ratings during Season 5, which just wrapped, particularly when compared to its heady early days when the show about a media mogul’s family first launched in 2015.
In January, Smollett claimed he was the victim of a hate crime in which the actor said he was attacked by a pair or white men, one of whom he said yelled, “This is MAGA country!”
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He further alleged his assailants “poured an unknown chemical substance” on him and put a noose around his neck.
At a news conference in February, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson stated that the whole incident had been a “stunt” orchestrated by Smollett to raise his public profile “because he was dissatisfied with his salary, so he concocted a story about being attacked.”
After initially being supportive of Smollett, Fox Entertainment removed him from the final two episodes of the season of “Empire” after he was charged with filing a false police report in late February.
However, the following month, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, led by Kimberly Foxx, announced it was dropping the charges and sealing the records to the case.
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As part of a deal reached with prosecutors, Smollett agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bail to the city and perform community service.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel characterized the decision as a “whitewash of justice.”
Smollett countered that he was a victim of a rush to judgment by the Chicago Police Department and maintained the attack was not staged.
Entertainment Weekly reported that ahead of Smollett’s last appearance on “Empire” last month, members of the cast, including Terrence Howard, Taraji P Henson, Bryshere Y. Gray, Trai Byers, Gabourey Sidibe, and Nicole Ari Parker, sent a letter to Fox Entertainment and the show’s creative team asking he be allowed to return.
“He is also innocent and no longer subject to legal uncertainty with the criminal charges against him having been dropped,” the cast mates wrote in their letter in support of Smollett. “We are confident in his lawyer’s assurance that the case was dismissed because it would not have prevailed.”
“It’s clearer every day that the extreme political climate in our country has only made our system of justice and the court of public opinion more unjust,” they added.
On Friday, the Cook County judge assigned to decided whether a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate why Foxx’s office dropped the charges against Smollett stepped aside, Fox News reported.
Judge Leroy Martin Jr. transferred the decision to Judge Michael Toomin on Friday.
“I am not unmindful that the appearance of justice is important,” Martin said. “I think it is prudent and wise that I transfer the matter.”
Martin’s son, Leroy Martin III, is an assistant state’s attorney who has worked for Foxx for more than a year.
The move came after Sheila O’Brien, a former state appellate judge who is pushing for the special prosecutor, filed a petition requesting Martin recuse himself and let another judge rule whether a special prosecutor should be appointed.
The petition reads, in part, that Foxx by dropping the charges created “a perception that justice was not served here, that Mr. Smollett received special treatment.”
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