'Empire' to end with season 6, likely without Jussie Smollett

Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard star in Fox drama 'Empire'. (Credit: Fox)

Fox’s hip-hop drama series Empire will come to an end after its upcoming sixth season, it has been announced - and controversial star Jussie Smollett is unlikely to return.

Charlie Collier, Fox Entertainment CEO, revealed the news on the network’s pre-upfront call, via Deadline.

The news of the show’s cancellation came just two weeks after the 20-episode sixth season was announced.

Read more: Fan anger at Fox over Smollett

“We are turning the final season into a large TV event — we are trying to go out guns a-blazing,” said Collier. “You allow fans to lean in and have the ending they deserve.”

Collier also told those on the call that there are “no plans” for Jussie Smollett to return in the wake of the hate crime controversy around him.

Jussie Smollett arrives at the FOX 2016 Programming Presentation red carpet arrivals at the Wollman Rink in Central Park on Monday, May 16, 2016, in New York City. Diego Corredor / MediaPunch /IPX

The 36-year-old actor was written out of the final two episodes of season five in the wake of an alleged racial assault that Smollett was subsequently believed to have orchestrated in an attempt to further his career.

He was charged with filing a false police report and denied the allegation, before the charges were ultimately dropped in March.

The prospect of his return to the show has been widely discussed and Collier said “there is an option” for him to come back if it is deemed appropriate.

Read more: Charges against Smollett dropped

Empire follows the power struggle surrounding record label Empire Entertainment when its CEO, Lucious Lyon played by Terrence Howard, is diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

Lucious’ three sons, including Smollett’s character Jamal, and his wife (Henson) subsequently jockey for position in an attempt to take over the family business.

Once a guaranteed ratings blockbuster for Fox, Empire’s most recent season was dogged by low viewing figures, as well as Smollett’s controversy.

For its final season, the show will return to its original Tuesday airdate, in direct competition with NBC juggernaut This Is Us.