'Empire' showrunner addresses Jussie Smollett absence in finale, says Season 6 will need to be a 'reset'

Following the Season 5 finale of “Empire,” showrunner Brett Mahoney got candid about moving the show forward without embattled star Jussie Smollett’s character, Jamal.

Fox Entertainment previously announced that there were no plans for the Jamal character to return in Season 6 after being written out of the final episodes of Season 5.

The finale of the drama’s fifth season debuted Wednesday with Jamal still off-screen on his honeymoon. Mahoney explained that the decision to write him out of the show came at a lucky time for his character arc.

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“Had the wedding episode hit in a different place, it would have been much, much, much more difficult,” he explained to Variety. “Luckily, it was almost a completion of the Jamal arc in [Episode] 16. There were elements I wanted to express in [Episodes] 17, 18, and I had to take those out, but it was lucky in the sense that it happened [then], so the wedding was a natural way to move on — to send him on his honeymoon.”

'Empire' showrunner Brett Mahoney explained how the show addressed Smollett's absence.

'Empire' showrunner Brett Mahoney explained how the show addressed Smollett's absence. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)

As for Season 6, Jamal isn’t expected to return any time soon. However, Mahoney says the writers have not yet reached a decision on how best to orchestrate the character's exit. He teased that other characters will have to “step up” and fill the void.

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“Season 6 will have to be somewhat of a reset, and we’re going to find some exciting, bombastic way in. And we may discover that it takes more than just blood to be a Lyon, and we might see some other characters step up and step into the fold.”

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In a stunning reversal, the Cook County State Attorney’s office announced on March 26 that all felony counts against Smollett were being dropped and the record in the case sealed. The 36-year-old actor previously pleaded not guilty to 16 counts that stemmed from an alleged hate crime attack against him. Police accused him of orchestrating the incident along with two brothers affiliated with “Empire” production. Although Smollett maintains his innocence, the city of Chicago then sued Smollett for the cost of the investigation.