‘Empire’ Final Season Cut Short Due to Coronavirus, Series Finale to Air April 21

“Empire” has had its fair share of bumps in the road over the last year, but now, the series is having to cut short its final season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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. Sources with knowledge of the show say that 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.

News of season 6 being cut short was revealed during a promo following Tuesday night’s episode.

“Get ready for the shocking final three episodes of ‘Empire,’” said the voiceover, tipping fans off to the change.

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.

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