Embattled ex-“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was given only a passing reference during this week’s season 6 premiere to explain why he is no longer a member of the hit Fox weekly drama.
Fans of “Empire” took note of Smollett’s awkward and conspicuous absence and the show’s efforts to dance around his character, Jamal Lyon.
“The last time ‘Empire’ fans saw Jussie Smollett on the show, he was getting married to the love of his life, looking jubilant in a white tuxedo and dancing with his new husband while family drama swirled around him,” The New York Times wrote. “At that point, Mr. Smollett’s character, Jamal Lyon, was the focal point of the show: Fans watched him fret over his vows and patch up a last-minute fight with his fiancé before they walked down the aisle.”
Smollett’s glaring absence was only mentioned in one scene. Jamal Lyons’ mother Cookie (played by Taraji P. Henson) and his good friend Becky Williams (played by Gabourey Sidibe) awkwardly mention that Jamal “ran off to London.”
When Becky mentioned that she liked to wear feminine pajamas during sleepovers with Jamal, Cookie said, “No wonder that boy ran off to London.”
Becky snapped back: “I thought he was running away from Lyon drama.”
“I really miss him,” Becky added, prompting Cookie to reply, “Please don’t get me started; I miss him so much.”
Cookie then quickly changes the topic altogether with the word “anyways.”
And with those few lines, Smollett’s character Jamal ceased to exist.
Cookie and Becky aren’t the only ones who miss Smollett. In real life, Terrence Howard, 50, who plays the patriarch Lucious Lyon, began crying during an interview with “Extra” while discussing Smollett, adding that he “misses” the 37-year-old actor he considers “a son.”
This will definitely be the final season of “Empire,” not only because of the Smollett drama that involved an alleged beat down but also since Howard has announced that he is retiring from Hollywood at the end of the season to embark on a journey to seek “truth.”