- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2019

“Empire” co-creator Lee Daniels said Jussie Smollett “will not be returning” to the show after the actor was accused by Chicago police of staging a hate crime against himself.

Mr. Daniels made the announcement in a tweet Wednesday evening after Variety reported that “Empire” writers were “prepping” for Mr. Smollett’s return in the sixth and final season.

“This is not factual,” Mr. Daniels responded. “Jussie will NOT be returning to Empire.”

Variety had reported that multiple production sources said Mr. Smollett was expected to appear in the back half of the 18-episode sixth season. Mr. Daniels’ tweet is the first confirmation that the actor would not be returning.

Mr. Smollett, a black gay man, was indicted in February for allegedly paying two men to stage a fake hate crime against him and then lying to police about it. The charges were dropped in March in exchange for Mr. Smollett completing community service and forfeiting his $10,000 bond.

Variety reported that tensions were high on the “Empire” set between “the show’s primarily black cast members, who still believe Smollett is innocent, and the mostly white below-the-line crew, many of whom believe Smollett is guilty.”

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