The sixth and final season of “Empire” was scheduled to run for 20 episodes, however, the production shutdown caused by the pandemic meant that only 18 episodes could be completed. The result is that the final three episodes, including what will now be the series finale, will air on April 21 on Fox. According to series star Taraji P. Henson, episode 19 was part-way through shooting when the shutdown came into effect, and that footage from that unfinished episode will be cut into the finale.
“We were in the middle of episode 19 and then this happened. So, we just have about a week and a half to go, about 10 more days and we’ll be finished,” Henson explained.
In respective statements regarding the premature end, co-creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong hinted that they may be able to shoot their planned series finale once production has returned to some semblance of normality. However, sources with knowledge of the production said that there is no current timetable for the show’s potential return.
“The success of ‘Empire’ and bringing the Lyon family to broadcast television will always be one of the proudest achievements of my career. This show is the definition of breaking barriers. Thank you to our incredible cast, especially Terrence and Taraji, along with our amazing writers and tireless crew, for all of their hard work and bringing this story to life. I think there’s more to do with these characters, and I’m heartbroken we aren’t getting to shoot the finale we wanted—at least not yet. But you know what they say in television? Stay tuned! To the Empire,” said Daniels.
News of season 6 being cut short was revealed during a promo following the March 31 episode.
“We’re so proud of this show and of everything this incredible cast – led by Taraji and Terrence- and crew accomplished over six seasons,” added Strong. “The episode airing on April 21 was never meant to be the series finale, but due to current events it will likely be the last one our fans will see for a while. We had an ending for the series planned that we all loved, and hopefully someday we’ll be able to film it and give the series its proper conclusion. But we hope everyone tunes in to our last original episode, because the work done by our cast and crew deserves to be seen by the widest audience possible. Big thank you to Fox for being our home for these many years. And here’s hoping this isn’t the end!”
During season 5, “Empire” and its former star Jussie Smollett became the center of a national scandal over Smollett’s claims that he was the victim of a racially charged attacked in Chicago early last year, which the police department and city of Chicago alleges was a hoax. Smollett claimed that he was attacked by unknown assailants who poured bleach on him, put a rope around his neck, and used racial and homophobic epithets. Charges against Smollett were previously dropped, however, the actor was once again hit with a six-count indictment less than two months ago, accusing him of faking the hate crime.
Smollett’s character was written out of the show following the debacle, but there have been several Jamal Lyon mentions in season 6, and rumors still swirl that he might make some kind of return before the Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard-led series says it final goodbyes.
Since the Smollett affair, “Empire” has struggled to regain the substantial audience and ratings it once commanded. Season 6 is averaging a 0.7 rating among adults 18-49 and 2.6 million Live+Same Day viewers to date, as opposed to the 1.4 rating and 4.5 million that season 5 would bring in on average.