'Empire' Cast Writes Letter Demanding Jussie Smollett's Return To The Show

By Peyton Blakemore

April 25, 2019

The Empire cast is rallying around their co-star Jussie Smollett.

Just one day after the Fox show's co-creator Lee Daniels revealed that the 34-year-old actor's future on the show was still "in discussions," a letter written by his castmates —including Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard, and the rest of the series' top stars — in his defense has surfaced.

In the letter, which was obtained by Deadline and addressed to Fox, Disney, and ABC executives, as well as producers of the show, the Empire cast demanded that Jussie's character, Jamal Lyon, return for the upcoming sixth season, and seasons to come. "Together, as a united front, we stand with Jussie Smollett and ask that our co-star, brother and friend be brought back for our sixth season of Empire," the letter began.

"We understand the past months have been difficult to process—sometimes the headlines brought more confusion than clarity, yet we now have a conclusion to this ordeal," the correspondence continued, referencing Jussie's controversial legal case. As fans know, Jussie was accused of staging a January hate crime against himself for attention and monetary gain. While he was charged with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for the alleged staged attack, all charges were dropped against the 34-year-old star Empire star, who has maintained his innocence, in March.

The letter then mentioned Jussie's character, praising his volunteer efforts, his support of the LGBTQ community, and overall selfless nature. "This is the Jussie we know. It’s clearer every day that the extreme political climate in our country has only made our system of justice and the court of public opinion more unjust," read the letter. "It is why now, more than ever, 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. 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. That is why we write today to ask you to keep Jussie on the cast so that we can all put this behind us and move forward," it continued. "Thank you for taking time to hear us. It’s our hope that together we will move into our sixth season as the entire Empire family should."

The letter was signed by Terrence, Taraji, Bryshere Y. Gray who plays Hakeem Lyon, Trai Byers who plays Andre Lyon, Gabourey Sidibe who plays Becky and Nicole Ari Parker who is Giselle.

Fox has until next month to officially decide whether it will bring the series back.

Read their full letter below:

Dear Charlie, Dana, Michael, Lee, Danny, Francie, Brian, Sanaa, Dennis, and Brett,

Together, as a united front, we stand with Jussie Smollett and ask that our co-star, brother and friend be brought back for our sixth season of Empire.

We understand the past months have been difficult to process—sometimes the headlines brought more confusion than clarity, yet we now have a conclusion to this ordeal. Throughout Empire’s five seasons working with Jussie and watching how he has conducted himself throughout this traumatic event, we have come to know not just the character Jussie portrays, but also truly come to know Jussie’s personal character. He is kind. He is compassionate. He is honest and above all he is filled with integrity. He is also innocent and no longer subject to legal uncertainty with the criminal charges against him having been dropped. We are confident in his lawyer’s assurance that the case was dismissed because it would not have prevailed.

Jussie has shown us on and off the set who he really is as a leader. In addition to being a caring friend and cast member who treats every crew member with love and respect, he has spent time with our families and individually supported each of us. These recent and detailed letters from The Black AIDS Institute, the Rainbow Push Coalition and the City Lights Orchestra shine a light on his commitment to true community service. Just a few months ago, Jussie partnered with the Trevor Project to provide support to their volunteer program that allows LGBTQ youth in crisis access to vital counseling services. Prior to that, he gave every cent from his sold out world tour to numerous charities. He has adopted a school in Chicago, taught songwriting to incarcerated youth at the Cook County Jail last year and bought the family of Kayden Kinckle, a six-year-old, double amputee, a wheelchair accessible van due to his school district not having a wheelchair accessible school bus. He has traveled to South Africa for service as well as to Jamaica to quietly meet about the safety of LGBTQ youth. This was all done without posturing, the need for attention or even discussion.

This is the Jussie we know.

It’s clearer every day that the extreme political climate in our country has only made our system of justice and the court of public opinion more unjust.

It is why now, more than ever, 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. 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.

That is why we write today to ask you to keep Jussie on the cast so that we can all put this behind us and move forward. Thank you for taking time to hear us. It’s our hope that together we will move into our sixth season as the entire Empire family should.

SINCERELY,

Terrence Howard

Taraji P Henson

Bryshere Y. Gray

Trai Byers

Gabourey Sidibe

Nicole Ari Parker

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