While the TV studio didn’t necessarily draw any lines between Smollett’s legal imbroglio and the drama’s axing, Fox CEO Charlie Collier deftly dodged any questions about a possible connection between the two during a media conference call on Monday morning.
He also announced that the show is moving to Tuesdays for its final season, putting it up against juggernaut This Is Us.
“We’re turning the final season of Empire into a large television event,” Collier said on the call to reporters. “We are going out guns a-blazing. Six years is a pretty remarkable run for a drama series. You allow fans to lean in and have the ending they deserve.”
WATCH BELOW: A timeline of the Jussie Smollett investigation
In early May, Empire showrunners were hesitant to speak about Smollett’s future with the show, but they eventually confirmed that there were “no plans” for him and his character, Jamal Lyon, to return.
“There’s an option to have Jussie in the series but we have no plans for that,” reiterated Collier on the call when asked about Smollett’s Empire future.
“Empire continues to break barriers with its emotionally powerful storytelling, and it remains a core part of the Fox legacy,” said Fox Entertainment’s president of entertainment, Michael Thorn. “We want to thank everyone on the show — Taraji, Terrence and the entire cast, as well as Lee, Danny, Brett, Sanaa, Brian, Francie, Dennis and their teams — all of whom have done a tremendous job this season. We know there are so many more stories to tell, and we can’t wait to see what they have in store for Season 6.”
Smollett pleaded not guilty to charges he lied to police about being attacked in downtown Chicago, and by the end of March, the charges were dropped as part of a prosecution deal. He had to forfeit a $10,000 bond and was given credit for community service.
Since last season, Empire has lost approximately half of its viewing audience, most likely due in part to the Smollett fracas.
The cancellation of Empire follows Friday’s axing of co-creator Lee Daniels’ musical drama Star after three seasons. Collier said on the call that the decision to end Star was “difficult.”
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