June 5, 2019 / 5:52 PM / 15 days ago

Actor Jussie Smollett not returning to 'Empire,' TV creator says

FILE PHOTO: Actor Jussie Smollett leaves court after charges against him were dropped by state prosecutors in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski/File Photo

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Jussie Smollett will not be returning to U.S. television series “Empire”, the show’s creator says, marking the first public confirmation that the actor has been dropped after a furor over claims that he was the victim of a hate crime.

Responding to a Variety report that writers were discussing scenarios in which Smollett’s character would return towards the end of the sixth and final season, “Empire” creator Lee Daniels wrote on Twitter on Tuesday; “Jussie will NOT be returning to Empire.”

Smollett, 36, who is black and gay, ignited a firestorm by telling police in January that two apparent supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump struck him, put a noose around his neck and poured bleach over him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs on a Chicago street.

Chicago police later accused Smollett of making up the attack but the actor maintained his innocence and prosecutors in March dismissed criminal charges against him.

Smollett, who played gay singer-songwriter Jamal Lyon on the show about a family in the hip-hop entertainment business, was dropped from the final episodes of season 5 earlier this year.

The Fox network, now owned by Walt Disney Co, said in April that there were no plans to bring his character back for Season 6, which is expected to air this fall, but left open a contractual option for Smollett to return.

Fox has said “Empire” will end after Season 6.

Representatives for Smollett did not return a request for comment on him being dropped from the show.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Susan Thomas

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