Before the Chicago State’s Attorney’s Office dropped all charges against “Empire” star Jussie Smollett last month, the FOX television network and producing studio 20th Century Fox Television, now under the ownership of The Walt of Disney Company, had already announced that the actor would be dropped from the remaining two episodes of the show’s fifth season. In a letter dated April 19, Deadline is reporting that the cast has asked executives at Disney, FOX, co-creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, among others, to consider bringing back the actor for the show’s sixth season, should there be one.
“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,” begins the letter signed by cast members Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard, along with Bryshere Y. Gray, Tray Byers, Gabourey Sidibe and Nicole Ari Parker.
“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,” the letter continued.
Smollett was facing upwards of three years in prison for filing a false police report and had been charged with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct stemming from his claim in late January that he had been the victim of a hate crime with his attackers chanting, “This is MAGA country.” There has been a lot of controversy over the charges being dropped and recent documents have shown turmoil within the State’s Attorney’s Office over the decision to drop the charges.
The city of Chicago, which was blindsided by the decision, filed a lawsuit against Smollett after he failed to repay the $130,000 they claim was the cost of the investigation. Smollett’s attorneys, Mark Geragos and Tina Glandian, are also being sued for defamation by alleged attackers Ola and Abel Osundairo. According to the brother’s attorney, Gloria Schmidt, Geragos and Glandian’s “continued false statements and rhetoric have only deepened the damage that was caused by the very first out of 16 counts of lies that were told to the police that started this whole situation.” The brothers claim they “suffered extreme emotional distress, humiliation, anxiety, damages to their reputation, and damages to current and prospective business relations.”
Smollett’s attorney’s responded, saying, “At first we thought this comical legal document was a parody. Instead, this so-called lawsuit by the brothers is more of their lawyer driven nonsense, and a desperate attempt for them to stay relevant and further profit from an attack they admit they perpetrated.
“While we know this ridiculous lawsuit will soon be dismissed because it lacks any legal footing, we look forward to exposing the fraud the Osundairo brothers and their attorneys have committed on the public.”
“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,” continued the cast in their letter.
“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.”
Fox has until next month to make a decision on whether to return “Empire” to its schedule for a sixth season.
Disney and FOX executives did not respond to a request for comment when pressed by Deadline.