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Now That ‘Empire’s’ Jamal Lyon Tied The Knot, What is Jussie Smollett’s Future With The Show? Cast Sends Letter Of Support

Photo: FOX

Looks like the writers and producers of Empire found a way to write out the character of Jamal Lyon permanently, or leave the door open if decisions are made to keep actor/singer Jussie Smollett (Jamal) on the series following his trouble with the law in Chicago stemming from faking a hate crime.  A crime that he had all charges dropped against him which has been shrouded in controversy, and has been a lightning rod on social media and the news.

On Wednesday night’s Empire, Jamal married Kai (Toby Onwumere) with Chaka Khan performing at the nuptials in an emotional episode. Even with the momentous TV occasion to see two gay black men getting hitched on network television, it was unfortunately overshadowed by all the behind the scenes drama.  For this season, Wednesday marked final episode for Smollett, who was cut out of the upcoming final two episodes of the season.  In story, the characters are sure to be on their honeymoon, and they could eventually wind up living in Europe, which would keep Jamal off the canvas.

The Fox network and creative personnel at Empire will need to make a decision on Smollett’s future.  While Empire had not received its renewal pick-up, its fairly certain it will live on to see another season    Meanwhile, the cast of Empire penned a letter asking Fox to bring Jussie back to the series.

Photo Credit: HutchinsPhoto.com

Here is how it read:

Dear Charlie, Dana, Michael, Lee, Danny, Francie, Brian, Sanaa, Dennis, and Brett,

Together, as a united front, we stand with Jussie Smollett and ask that our co-star, brother and friend be brought back for our sixth season of Empire.

We understand the past months have been difficult to process—sometimes the headlines brought more confusion than clarity, yet we now have a conclusion to this ordeal. Throughout Empire’s five seasons working with Jussie and watching how he has conducted himself throughout this traumatic event, we have come to know not just the character Jussie portrays, but also truly come to know Jussie’s personal character. He is kind. He is compassionate. He is honest and above all he is filled with integrity. He is also innocent and no longer subject to legal uncertainty with the criminal charges against him having been dropped. We are confident in his lawyer’s assurance that the case was dismissed because it would not have prevailed.

Jussie has shown us on and off the set who he really is as a leader. In addition to being a caring friend and cast member who treats every crew member with love and respect, he has spent time with our families and individually supported each of us. These recent and detailed letters from The Black AIDS Institute, the Rainbow Push Coalition and the City Lights Orchestra shine a light on his commitment to true community service. Just a few months ago, Jussie partnered with the Trevor Project to provide support to their volunteer program that allows LGBTQ youth in crisis access to vital counseling services. Prior to that, he gave every cent from his sold out world tour to numerous charities. He has adopted a school in Chicago, taught songwriting to incarcerated youth at the Cook County Jail last year and bought the family of Kayden Kinckle, a six-year-old, double amputee, a wheelchair accessible van due to his school district not having a wheelchair accessible school bus. He has traveled to South Africa for service as well as to Jamaica to quietly meet about the safety of LGBTQ youth. This was all done without posturing, the need for attention or even discussion.

This is the Jussie we know.

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.

It is why now, more than ever, we must stand together as a family. A family is there for us in good times and bad. It can cut through the noise and confusion to understand that there is a person in the center of all this who deserves nothing more than to move forward with his life. We understand that this show is a business. And that business matters to us as well. We are confident our fans will welcome our “Jamal” back into the Empire family as enthusiastically as we will.

That is why we write today to ask you to keep Jussie on the cast so that we can all put this behind us and move forward. Thank you for taking time to hear us. It’s our hope that together we will move into our sixth season as the entire Empire family should.

SINCERELY,

Terrence Howard
Taraji P Henson
Bryshere Y. Gray
Trai Byers
Gabourey Sidibe
Nicole Ari Parker

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7 Comments

  1. su000

    April 26, 2019 at 8:21 pm

    The Media whipped that whole mess into a public frenzy; Overkill..

    I’ll sign the letter..

    Jussie Smollett had All charges dropped against him.
    This America, that is the way it is.
    Jussie Smollett should 100% remain with Empire.

  2. Jamesj75

    April 27, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    Okay, I didn’t speak up before, but I will do so now…

    It is a shame that Smollett’s fellow cast members (and other supporters) are SO misguided. Smollett does not deserve any opportunity to return to his show, and other producers would be smart to avoid casting him ever again. This selfish punk is the one who stirred up a “public frenzy” by his own self-inflicted wounds, his own misguided actions. I happen to trust the police on this one. The evidence against Smollett is overwhelming. What caused the prosecutors to drop all charges against him is mystifying, but we have all seen miscarriages of justice before — O.J. anyone? Casey Anthony anyone?

    To reiterate, Smollett first sent a threatening letter to himself. Then, with the help of two acquaintances, he staged a phony attack on himself, which was projected and sold as racial, homophobic hate crime. Other details are well documented. What Smollet did was an affront to African Americans, gays, and, well, decency!

    Smollet’s actions were meant to evoke sympathy from the fans and producers of his show in hopes to expand his pocketbook and stardom. Well, he has certainly become notorious, but NOT in a good way!

    • Harry

      April 27, 2019 at 3:23 pm

      James, I do agree and what is so detrimental is that his actions might cast doubt on real victims of hate crimes.

      • Jamesj75

        April 28, 2019 at 9:52 am

        Thanks, Harry. And yes, the point you’re making is the most important and tragic consequence. Best to you, Harry!

    • Shay

      April 28, 2019 at 7:37 am

      Absolutely, James! Smollett’s repulsive and lawless attempt at self-promotion has managed to alienate and outrage decent people everywhere! I cannot think of any single incident in recent times which has so effectively coalesced such widespread disapproval, including that from normally disparate groups which tend to agree on very little else. The fact that even after this nearly-universal rebuke by the American public any individual could defend and continue to promote this remorseless and clearly guilty prevaricator really calls into question their own sense of what’s right and wrong. How one could excuse such inexcusable, and yes, criminal, behavior is truly beyond me. Perhaps it’s time for the entire “Empire” to go the way of ancient Rome, which also collapsed under its own weight of moral morass.

      • Jamesj75

        April 28, 2019 at 10:08 am

        Thanks, Shay. The “nearly-universal rebuke” is staggering for this, as you rightly indicate, “criminal” behavior. I also enjoyed your linking of “Empire” to the fall of Rome!

        And in case I am coming across as judgmental (though I know not to you, Shay), I have made more than my fair share of mistakes. And thankfully, I have apologized and tried to make amends for most of them. If only Smollett had attempted a modicum of self-awareness, remorse, and humility, it would have gone a long way to his redemption. Just as I have (sometimes) learned lessons when I have messed up, there are lessons to be learned from this fiasco. Best to you, Shay!

  3. nancy dillingham

    April 30, 2019 at 9:38 pm

    Why?

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Empire

‘Empire’ Series Finale Brings Lyon Family Together; While Many Viewers Dissatisfied Over Makeshift Ending

Following Tuesday’s night series finale of Empire, which featured once again, brilliant performances from Taraji P. Henson (Cookie) and Terrence DaShon Howard (Luscious), many longtime viewers took to social media unsatisfied with its conclusion.  However, it should be noted that the shows producers did their best to use the footage they had in the can to craft something they hoped would be meaningful.

As previously reported, due to COVID-19, Empire had shot 18 episodes and a half of episode 19, of their 20 season order, when they were forced to shut down production.  Thus, the set-up and focus of the finale had to be significantly changed.

If you have not seen last night’s finale and plan to watch, do  not read any further for spoilers.

In an episode entitled “Home is On The Way,” which now makes complete sense post-viewing, Cookie and Luscious throughout trials, tribulations, realizations, deaths, and wrestling back control of the company, find their way back to each other.  Throughout the episode, viewers are treated to flashbacks of the duo’s long and twisted history – the good, the bad, the ugly, the dirty, and the nasty.

Photo: FOX

To get them back together, the series had to figure out what to do to with Yana, the musical protege with whom Luscious was involved with.  Backstage at a major concert event, Yana realizes that Luscious is not going to come on the world tour with her, because he still deeply loves Cookie.  He does not deny it.  When Yana’s father, Damon sees her backstage in what looks like she is hugging and all into Luscious, he pulls out a gun.  When we come back from commercial, we learn Yana was shot and killed, sending Damon on a spiral to get Luscious once and for all.

Following the shooting, Lucious tries to cancel the premiere of Hakeem’s Lyon legacy movie over concerns for the safety of his entire family,  but the Andre of old steps up and says they won’t let fear force the family to do that.

Earlier in the episode, Luscious had previously requested that in the event something should happen to him to please get a special letter he wrote to Cookie, where he opens up about his feelings for her.  When Cookie gets the letter, it is juxtaposed with the Luscious vs. Damon showdown; which Luscious ultimately wins when he clubs Damon over the head with his own prosthetic leg.

Photo: FOX

With the threat to their ultimate happiness eliminated, the series ends with the entire family attending the premiere party of the film Birth of an Empire, where Hakeem performs a rap, “The Oath,” as an ode to the Lyon legacy. The  lyrics of the song detail Cookie and Luscious’ family story and flashbacks from all six seasons are used throughout the rap.  Then came how to deal with the missing Jussie Smollett and the character of Jamal Lyon in said flashbacks.

While Luscious, Cookie, Andre and Hakeem’s flashbacks showed the actual actors who play their respective roles, Jamal’s flashbacks only showed a young child portraying the middle son of the clan – eliminating any appearance of Smollett from the finale; even via previously shot footage from the five seasons in which Smollett appeared.

Empire showrunner, Brett Mahoney spoke to TV Line as to the decision on ending of the finale: “I realized that the movie premiere, with the family coming together, with Cookie and Lucious recognizing their love for one another, we definitely have the spirit of what I had intended for our true series finale, It’s almost the idea that the family is more important than the empire. That the love that they have for each other is more important than anything else … that’s definitely where we’re headed in terms of the actual series finale.”

As to the premise from the beginning of season 6 that fans were hoping would be answered in the series finale – who blew up Cookie’s car and who shot Luscious – Mahoney shared: “I was not able to answer that in a satisfying way with what we had shot, so that’s why I’m hoping that we can really still shoot our intended series finale and answer those questions.”

The biggest cliffhanger to come out of the series finale from Tuesday night is; will Mahoney and company be able to re-group and shoot the series finale they intended; following any lessening of the COVID-10 safety measures in the coming months? Stay tuned.

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Empire

TONIGHT: ‘Empire’ Series Finale: How It Will Conclude? Even Taraji P. Henson Says She Doesn’t Know

The coronavirus pandemic not only has wreaked havoc on the physical, emotional, and financial well-beings of everyone in our country and around the world, but for TV viewers it really messed with production plans for many of your favorite shows.   For the primetime soap Empire, that could not have been more true.

Faced with having filmed 18 episodes and a part of its 19th (with an originally planned 20 season order), its series finale and story had to be restructured.  So tonight on Tuesday April 21st, the hip hop music drama will say goodbye on FOX.

Empire has had a very twisted road in its six seasons.  For its first few years on the air, it was a juggernaut bringing in huge ratings.  Then in 2019 things took a turn with a behind the scenes shift when one of its leads, Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon), made headlines for his claimed hate-crime attack on the streets of Chicago in the wee hours of the morning.  This led to plenty of revelations in Smollett’s case with the law, and his not returning to the series for the end of its fifth and in its sixth and final season.

Photo: FOX

Showrunner Brett Mahoney told TV Line that if things line up right following the pandemic, he could see trying to give the show a proper send-off: “I can’t guarantee it will happen, but we’re hopeful. And if we don’t actually get a chance to shoot the series finale, I think we’ll find some creative way to get (the information) out there, whether it’s by just releasing the script or finding another way to satisfy fans “= We don’t know what the costs will be in terms of keeping our sets. And then the question becomes who from the cast will be available at that point.”

On Monday’s episode of the CBS daytime series, The Talk, the ladies welcomed Taraji P. Henson (Cookie Lyon) to get a preview of what to expect tonight.  She surprised the hosts by saying she doesn’t really know.

Henson expressed: “We were in the middle of the 19th episode when everything got shut down. So, I used to know how the show was going to end, but I don’t know. They are going to make some kind of movie magic in that editing room. They are going to take all the footage they have already, and just come up with some kind of finale… I will be finding out what’s happening at the same time you guys are finding out, which is kind of fun.”

She added, “I’m a little hurt because I didn’t get to say goodbye to my cast and my crew. I bought them amazing letterman sweaters, that’s my gift to them because it was our senior year.  I hope ‘Empire’s’ legacy will be that African American stories do translate, and they cross over, and they’re international.”

Watch Taraji on The Talk below. Then weigh-in: how do you think the story will conclude for Luscious (Terrence Howard) and Cookie, and the Lyon family in the makeshift ending of Empire? Let us know in the comment section.

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Breaking News

EMPIRE’s Final Season Cut Short Due To COVID-19; Series Finale Now Set For April 21

Will we now ever know just how the lives of Empire’s Lucious  (Terrence Howard) and Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) and their dysfunctional family will resolve now that the series has had to scrap two of their planned episodes in their final season?  The sixth and final season was scheduled to run for a total of 20 episodes.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the production shutdown left them with only 18 episodes tht could be completed.

That means, as first announced during last night’s episode of Empire via voice-over: “Get ready for the shocking final three episodes of ‘Empire,’”  that reveal let viewers of Empire know there was change in plans.”  Now, the shortened season and series finale end on FOX on April 21st.

Reports also note that episode 19 was partially shot and that footage of that unfinished episode will be cut into the finale.

As to what happens with the character of Jamal Lyon played by Jussie Smollett, who everyone knows ran into significant trouble with the law; on last reports executives said he would not be back for the final episodes of the series, although there has still have been mentions of the character throughout season 6.

Come April 21st, there still may be more Empire in our future, if  FOX executives decide to greenlight a potential spinoff headlined Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon; that first came to light earlier this year in January as being in heavy discussions.

So, what do you think of how Empire will wrap-up after 6 seasons? Do you feel short-changed, or glad they are trying to work in everything they shot to deliver some kind of series finale for fans of the primetime soap? Comment below.

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