Empire showrunner Brett Mahoney said the sixth season of the hit show will be a “reset”.
Last week, the critically-acclaimed musical drama was renewed for another installment but embattled actor Jussie Smollett is less likely to return.
Smollett, who plays Jamal Lyon in the Fox show, was written out of the last two episodes of season five after he was accused by Chicago Police of orchestrating a staged assault against himself earlier this year.
The 36-year-old was initially charged with 16 felony counts related to filing a false police report. The charges were later dropped, though the city of Chicago is seeking reimbursement from the actor to cover over USD 130,000 in investigatory fees, which he has refused to cover.
Mahoney said he and the team of writers are yet to decide the course of sixth season post Smollett’s exit.
“I haven’t convened with the writers yet – we haven’t started breaking what season six will be – but it will require an adjustment in terms of him not being there in the first episodes,” he told Variety.
“Season six will have to be somewhat of a reset, and we’re going to find some exciting, bombastic way in. And we may discover that it takes more than just blood to be a Lyon, and we might see some other characters step up and step into the fold,” Mahoney added.
In its renewal order, while the network did not mention Smollett, there are “no plans” to bring his character back currently.
By the fifth season, Smollett’s arc as Jamal appeared to have reached a full circle after the character exchanged vows with his longtime beau, journalist Kai (Toby Onwumere), in front of close family and friends.
Mahoney said there was “definitely stuff I wanted to do with Jamal” that he had to express a different way.
But it opened up the focus a little bit more on Andre Lyon’s storyline, he said. Andre is suffering from cancer and has now decided to fight for his life.
“We have such a terrific ensemble that when first you’re told you have to take one chess piece out, it’s ‘What the hell am I going to do?’ But then it opens up space and room to tell the other important stories that you want to tell. So there are pluses and minuses,” Mahoney said.