'No plans' for Jussie Smollett to return to 'Empire' amid hate crime fallout

Fox said Smollett remains under contract, but the actor is off the show for now.

Fox renewed hip-hop musical drama "Empire" for a sixth season on Tuesday, but the network said it has "no plans" to bring back Jussie Smollett, the embattled actor who was accused of staging a hate crime by police.

Fox and 20th Century Fox, the studio that produces the show, said Smollett's character, Jamal Lyon, isn't scheduled to return for the upcoming season -- at least not for now.

But the companies said the actor remains still under contract, which leaves the door open for a possible return. For now, he appears to be off the show.

"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 said in a joint statement.

Smollett's team confirmed the news in a statement to ABC News late Tuesday.

“We've been told that Jussie will not be on 'Empire' in the beginning of the season but he appreciates they have extended his contract to keep Jamal’s future open," a spokesperson for the actor said. "Most importantly, he is grateful to Fox and 'Empire' leadership, cast, crew and fans for their unwavering support."

Fox Entertainment President Michael Thorn thanked Smollett's on-screen parents, Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard, and several other "Empire" actors in a statement announcing the show's return on Tuesday, but he didn't mention Smollett.

"'Empire' continues to break barriers with its emotionally powerful storytelling, and it remains a core part of the Fox legacy," Thorn said in a statement Tuesday. "We know there are so many more stories to tell, and we can’t wait to see what they have in store for season six."

Henson, Howard and other co-stars reportedly issued a letter to the show's producers earlier this week, begging the network to keep Smollett on board.

"We must stand together as a family. A family is there for us in good times and bad. It can cut through the noise and confusion to understand that there is a person in the center of all this who deserves nothing more than to move forward with his life," the letter read, according to the Hollywood Reporter. "We understand that this show is a business. And that business matters to us as well. We are confident our fans will welcome our 'Jamal' back into the Empire family as enthusiastically as we will."

Smollett’s character was written out of the final two episodes of season five earlier this year after the Chicago Police Department said he lied about being attacked Jan. 29.

The Cook County State's Attorney's Office said it dropped criminal charges against Smollett to focus its resources on violent crimes, a move that sparked backlash from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the police department.

City officials sued the actor for $130,000 in the wake of the dropped charges, seeking reimbursement for funds spent investigating what they called a bogus hate crime.

The lawsuit laid out a detailed account of the allegations against Smollett, who told police he was attacked by two men who shouted homophobic slurs at him, wrapped a noose around his neck and poured an unknown liquid on him. The timeline includes a 41-point, blow-by-blow description, from when Smollett first met the Ola and Abel Osundario -- the brothers who say Smollett paid them to help stage the attack -- in the fall of 2017, until the final allegation that Smollett continued to be in contact with the brothers days after the purported attack.

A lawyer for Smollett, who portrays a gay musician on Fox's "Empire," said the actor "vehemently denies" accusations of making false statements to police and "will not be intimidated into paying the demanded sum."

"Empire" is produced by 21st Century Fox, now part of the Walt Disney Co., also the parent company of ABC News.

ABC News' Julie Townsend contributed to this report.