‘Empire’: Should Jussie Smollett Get a Second Chance on the Show?

One of the most bizarre situations of the year, thus far, is the Jussie Smollett case. And nobody really knows exactly what happened. While the truth of him being attacked is possibly somewhere between fabrication and real, you have to wonder if the same thing holds true about his role on Empire.

After Smollett’s Chicago incident, his role of Jamal Lyon on Empire arguably would have been overshadowed from the controversy. This didn’t stop his fellow cast members from persuading Fox to reinstate Smollett on the show.

Now things have changed dramatically. Here’s more about the outcome and whether it makes sense for the Jamal character to be written out based on recent plot developments.

Will Jussie Smollett be back on ‘Empire’?

Jussie Smollett
Jussie Smollett | Gary Gershoff/WireImage

There were hopes Smollett would return to the series, but it’s been decided by Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox he won’t return…for now. There is a caveat to “not returning.” Smollett renegotiated a contract with the network so he’ll still be a part of it all in theory. It means he could return at a later time, and it also means he’s still being paid for not being there.

No doubt this decision wasn’t an easy one for Fox since the entire cast put together a united front for Fox/Disney to bring Smollett back. Apparently, the negotiation with him on a contract was a way of saying they still care about his employment without using him for the upcoming sixth season.

This kind of in-between from the network is almost as confusing as Smollett’s legal situation. It’s not to say maybe it wasn’t a logical choice when you look carefully at the trajectory of his character.

Who does Jussie Smollett play on ‘Empire’?

Smollett’s troubles almost pale in comparison to his on-screen character Jamal Lyon, who’d begun to suffer from PTSD due to being shot (accidentally) by Freda Gatz during season 2. Afterward, Jamal becomes addicted to painkillers and goes into rehab due to his drug reliance.

It’s possible Fox had a plan for him to have a relapse with his drug use and give the excuse of “being away” in another rehab facility. Or, will Fox take a more permanent route by killing off his character?

Due to the contract, it doesn’t make sense they’d kill him off to leave an option open for a later cameo. The worst possible move would be to cast another actor in the role, something we’ve seen far too often to the chagrin of devoted TV audiences.

What would happen if they did do this when you consider Empire is known for its realism about the entertainment industry?

Why Jussie Smollett shouldn’t be replaced on ‘Empire’

One of the plot developments for the Jamal character last year was showing him having a gay relationship. Smollett reportedly fought for this storyline to take precedence.

When you look back and see how much Smollett has represented the gay community, it might be better to kill off the character than bring someone else in. Smollett was a unique actor, making it far too noticeable with a replacement and likely backlash from faithful viewers.

Replacing actors used to work in sitcoms, though it’s never worked well in dramas. With Smollett reportedly receiving only $20,000 per episode, maybe he’d find a bigger salary elsewhere, unless Empire gives his legal issue some time to settle.

Can Jussie Smollett save his career?

Should the show continue for a few more years, it might be a good idea to bring Smollett back after a year or two. By that time, most of the public will have forgotten about his incident. Time like this also allows Smollett to do some other acting roles if anyone will hire him after the controversy.

Bets are good he’ll act in other things, leaving it open for Jamal to suddenly return later, perhaps in the indefinite final season of Empire. If so, then it proves any controversy can be washed over with time while zipping your lip discussing or analyzing an incident during future interviews.