There has been an ongoing question about how Empire will handle Jussie Smollett, who played Jamal Lyons on the television show. Its sixth and final season will air later this month, and after some initial confusion over whether Smollett would return to Empire, showrunner Brett Mahoney has revealed how Jamal’s absence will be addressed.
“Jamal and Kai have decided to stay in London,” Mahoney explained to TVLine, referencing Jamal’s wedding to Kai (Toby Onwumere) that took place in season 5 episode 16. It was the last time Smollett’s character was seen on the show. “Jamal is taking a sabbatical from the family. He doesn’t want to be caught up in Lyon family drama, which is very much in keeping with his point of view last season — that [the family business] should be something that the family moves away from.”
In other words, Jamal is being written off quietly and in keeping with his character. Kai, Jamal’s new husband, was at odds with the Lyon family drama, and it nearly ended the couple’s relationship. Now, Jamal is choosing to stay with his husband in London, away from the family. It’s the perfect angle to wrap up the disappointing real-life arc of Smollett’s legal issues.
Smollett was accused of allegedly staging a hate crime in 2018; all charges against Smollett were dropped following successful completion of community service. Smollett is still being sued in civil court by the city of Chicago to recoup law enforcement costs related to the police investigation. Meanwhile, a court-appointed special prosecutor, the FBI, and the Department of Justice are investigating Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s handling of the case.
In a statement, per the Associated Press, Smollett’s public relations team said that “every iota of information...Smollett has stated has been fully corroborated.”