It’s been a few weeks since Jussie Smollett was indicted on several felony counts after allegedly hiring two men to stage a hate crime on his person. Even with all of this tumult in Smollett’s personal life, his Fox series Empire is still pushing out new episodes in Season 5. However, Smollett’s reported actions are allegedly having an effect on set, where people are concerned about the future of Empire.
It’s typical at this time of the year for the casts and crews of bubble shows to worry about whether or not their network series will get a pickup for the following season. It’s definitely true that Empire does well enough in the ratings that I wouldn’t consider it a bubble show; nonetheless, TMZ reports people on set are sufficiently worried that Fox might cancel the series and have spoken about their worries that Fox might be debating cancelling the show.
Why might this have some credibility? Unlike other shows, Empire has done well enough in the past that Fox has given it majorly early renewals multiple times. This past season, it should be noted the ratings were down a little, and Fox chose to wait until May to renew the show. While it’s pretty normal for a show to get cancelled or renewed in May, there’s a lot more hanging on this season in terms of bad press. Fox’s decision is likely not wholly about the numbers this year.
Although the rest of the cast of Empire was not involved in the Jussie Smollett incident, what happened in Chicago definitely cast a pall over the show. Reports from set have indicated people have been divided about what happened, and even if those rumors aren’t accurate, what is clear is that Empire has been closely tied to the news about Smollett as the case has worn on. It had to be, as the show was filming after the incident happened.
First and foremost, the reason Jussie Smollett was in Chicago was to film Empire. As it became more likely that he may have been involved in his own attack, the Fox series sought to distance itself from the actor and ultimately removed him from the last two episodes of Season 5, although Fox has said it will not be writing off the character—perhaps recasting instead if the show moves forward.
Still, when all is said and done, Empire did a 1.5 rating in its fall finale, so if those numbers stick around in the aftermath of Smollett getting indicted, the show should continue into Season 6.