The cast of Empire has called on the creators of the Fox TV show to bring back Jussie Smollett for season six.
Smollett – who plays openly gay Jamal Lyon in the hit TV show – will be absent for the remaining episodes of the fifth season following a legal battle where it was claimed he allegedly set up a racist and homophobic attack against himself back in January.
However, despite the actor was cleared of all criminal charges, creator Lee Daniels previously revealed that his future on the show was ‘unclear’.
But now his co-stars Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Bryshere Y. Gray, Trai Byers, Gabourey Sidibe and Nicole Ari Parker have written a letter urging the openly gay actor to return for the sixth season.
In the letter, which was obtained by Deadline, the actors say they are a ‘united front’ and ‘stand with Jussie Smollett’.
They continue: “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.”
The letter goes on to explain how Smollett was committed to a number of organisations including The Black Aids Institute, the Rainbow Push Coalition and the City Lights Orchestra as well as the Trevor Project.
“This is the Jussie we know,” they continued. “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.”
Smollett’s last scene saw the show make primetime history by having a gay, black wedding with Jamal and his partner Kai – played by Toby Onwumere.