Empire has yet to be officially renewed by Fox, but star Taraji P. Henson says that the show’s writers have already begun planning for a sixth season — one that includes embattled star Jussie Smollett. On Thursday morning, Henson stopped by The View, where she discussed her new movie The Best of Enemies and future plans for Empire. When asked about Smollett’s status on the Fox drama — Smollett was removed from the final two episodes of Season 5 after he was charged with lying to police about his January 29 attack (the charges have since been dropped) — Henson said that “yes,” Smollett will appear in Empire Season 6. “I haven’t heard anything else,” she told The View‘s panel.
Henson may have been on the ABC talk show to promote The Best of Enemies, but of course, the panel had to ask her about the scandal surrounding Empire star Smollett. “Recently, your co-star Jussie Smollett has been in the news,” said co-host Meghan McCain. “The charges against him have been dropped, and you say you are, quote, ‘Happy the truth has finally been set free.’ Have you spoken with Jussie?” Henson said that she speaks to Smollett “all the time,” and the actor is “doing well” despite the media frenzy surrounding the scandal.
“We’re all doing well. The show is doing well,” continued Henson. “We’re on hiatus right now. The writers are trying to figure out what the next season is gonna look like, what our storyline is gonna be. They’re trying to drum up some really good, juicy stuff for you guys. So that’s where we are right now.”
Behar followed up by asking whether Smollett will appear in Season 6, to which Henson answered, “Yes. I haven’t heard anything else. I haven’t heard anything.”
On January 29, Smollett claimed to have been attacked in an alleged hate crime, but as Chicago police began investigating the incident, their focus quickly shifted to the actor. In February, police claimed that Smollett staged the attack because he was “dissatisfied” with his Empire salary, and they later charged him with filing a false police report and disorderly conduct. However, on March 26, the Cook County, Chicago state’s attorney dropped all charges against the actor — a stunning reversal in the highly-publicized case.
Since the charges were dropped, Empire producers have stayed relatively quiet about Smollett’s future on the show. “Jussie Smollett has always maintained his innocence and we are gratified that all charges against him have been dismissed,” said 20th Century Fox TV and Fox Entertainment in a March 26 statement.
Creator Lee Daniels has stayed mum on the topic, which makes Henson’s admission on The View all the more surprising. If Smollett really will be returning to Empire Season 6, as Henson says, it’s likely that his presence will be met with some skepticism from fans, particularly those who believe he should have been tried for his alleged role in the attack.
Watch Henson’s interview on The View above. The discussion about Jussie Smollett’s future on Empire begins at the 6:48 mark.