Empire audiences may not have seen the last of Jamal Lyon.
Although show creator Lee Daniels said Jussie Smollett would not be returning to the Fox series for its sixth and final season in the wake of his purported hate crime attack, it appears the actor could be making one last appearance.
“It would be weird in my mind to end this family show and this family drama of which he was such a significant part of without seeing him,” showrunner Brett Mahoney told TV Line.
While a decision is not yet set in stone, discussions are underway.
“It’s fair to say it’s being discussed, but there’s no plan as of yet to bring him back,” said Mahoney. “There’s been no decision made.”
Fox had no comment.
Smollett, 37, was indicted in March with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report claiming two men attacked him in an alleged homophobic and racist hate crime in Chicago.
He pleaded not guilty to allegations that he lied to police, and all charges against him were suddenly dropped at the end of March. He has always denied any wrongdoing.
In June, Daniels, 59, said that Smollett would not return for Empire’s final season, revealing the scandal played into the decision to end the show after season 6.
Daniels also said he was “beyond embarrassed” for initially supporting the actor’s claims that he was a victim of the alleged hate crime.
“If it turned out that [Smollett] did it, was guilty, and all of it’s accurate, then it will feel like a betrayal,” Daniels told Vulture.
After the case shifted against Smollett, his Empire stars were left not knowing what to believe. In April, Daniels told Extra that, “the cast is upset. It is a sad time and we are slowly healing.”
However, Daniels did note that he would continue to support Smollett, and that “the lesson is still to be learned” from the incident.
“What I am learning right now is that I can’t judge. That that judgement is for that man wearing that black coat with a gavel and God. I can only support him because he is like my son, he is my son, so I am with him,” he said.
Smollett’s possible return would also be a change in tune from the network.
In August, during Fox’s Television Critics Association tour, Charlie Collier, the network’s CEO, confirmed that fans shouldn’t expect to see Smollett return for the show’s final season.
“We as much as anything in case like this, you try to get all the information and make a good decision,” Collier explained. “[Creator Lee Daniels] is right, there’s no plans for Jussie to return to Empire … typically it’s about gathering right info and making sure we’re making the right decisions.”
Empire returns to Fox in spring 2020.