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Lee Daniels is clearing the air.
On Tuesday (June 4), "multiple production sources" told Variety that Jussie Smollett would be returning to "Empire" when the series returns to wrap for its sixth and final season. According to the outlet, the writing staff was drumming up ways for the embattled actor to appear in the back half of the 18-episode season. However, Daniels quickly shot down the rumors with a simple tweet that afternoon.
"This is not factual. Jussie will NOT be returning to Empire," he wrote in response to the reports. His statement comes after Fox network previously stated there was "no plans" for Smollett, who played Jamal Lyon on the show, to come back.
"By mutual agreement, the studio has negotiated an extension to Jussie Smollett's option for season six, but at this time there are no plans for the character of Jamal to return to 'Empire,'" Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox TV issued in a statement on April 30.
Smollett was written out of the final two episodes of season five before he had 16 felony disorderly conduct charges dropped against him. The criminal case made national headlines after the 36-year-old was accused of staging his own hate crime in January. Throughout the ordeal, the California native maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty to the charges in March.
Although sources told Variety that "tensions were ratcheted up on 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," a spokesperson for the actor said he was "grateful to Fox and [Empire's] leadership, cast, crew and fans for their unwavering support."
"Empire" is scheduled to move to Tuesdays this fall at 9 pm local time. Keep reading to see Daniels' tweet about the rumors ahead.