It was recently confirmed Smollett — who was accused of orchestrating a racist and homophobic attack on himself earlier this year — won’t be returning as Jamal Lyon for the first episodes of the upcoming series and showrunner Brett Mahoney has admitted the decision means there will have to be an “adjustment” in the plans for the musical drama.
It’s been confirmed that season six of the show will be a “reset.”
Mahoney told Variety: “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 …
“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.”
Smollett was cut from the final two episodes of season five due to the scandal and while Brett admitted it was a blow, it also offered some positives because he could focus on other characters.
He continued: “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.
“There was definitely stuff I wanted to do with Jamal in [episodes] 17 and 18 that I just had to express a different way, but it did open up the focus a little bit more on the Andre storyline.”
And Brett felt “lucky” that the shape of Jamal’s storylines made his abrupt exit much easier to write around.
He said: “Had the wedding episode hit in a different place, it would have been much, much, much more difficult.
“Right before we were headed into production of [episode] 17 was when the decision was made to take the character out of the last two episodes, but luckily, it was almost a completion of the Jamal arc in [episode] 16.
“There were elements I wanted to express in [episodes] 17, 18, and I had to take those out, but it was lucky in the sense that it happened [then], so the wedding was a natural way to move on — to send him on his honeymoon.
“We had to tweak some stuff because of his availability, but not in a sense to limit him or cut him out.”