Empire returned to the air on Fox Wednesday night for its Season 5 midseason premiere, the first time the show has aired a newbie since its star Jussie Smollett told police in Chicago that he was assaulted on January 29th.
A few weeks later, he was arrested and charged with filing a false police reports; police say the black, openly gay actor considered with two black brothers to stage a racist and homophobic hate crime against him. He denies all allegations of wrongdoing.
The last new episode aired December 5. Here’s The Wrap’s summary of the last show: it ended with Jeff Kingsley (A.Z. Kelsey) telling Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), Andre (Trai Byers), Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) and Jamal (Smollett) that he is Lucious’ (Terrence Howard) son,and a flash-forward showing Andre flatlining in front of his parents, giving fans more fuel for their theories about who is in the casket.
Smollett is set to appear in court today (Thursday). Many are watching to see how the popular show performs in ratings, especially as Smollett’s character has been written out of the season’s final episodes.
Regarding that decision, executive producer Brett Mahoney told EW: “It was a very difficult decision, but I think in terms of allowing the cast and the crew to really get the work done without a great deal of disruption in terms of the day-to-day and the stress of the day-to-day, and, in addition, allowing Jussie the time to really deal with what he's been confronted with and allow him the time to focus and prepare his case, this seems like the logical decision to make.”