Lee Daniels Says He’s ‘Heartbroken’ He Can’t Shoot ‘Empire’ Finale Due To COVID-19

COVID-19 continues to affect Hollywood and the Lyon family isn’t exempt. The 18th episode of Empire‘s sixth season will be the series finale—at least for now. 

Due to the pandemic and strict orders of social distancing in many states, the story line, featuring stars Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard and their fictional family, has been cut short.

According to Deadline, Empire was originally set to end with a mystery being solved in episode 20. This is the second time the story line has been changed, as the original plans were scrapped to accommodate the absence of Jussie Smollett, who was released from his contract after being accused of lying about a hate crime. (Those charges were dismissed, but the actor is now being charged by a special prosecutor.)

Cocreators and executive producers of the show Lee Daniels and Danny Strong are hopeful that one day they might see their vision for the series play out completely. They each issued separate statements, obtained by ESSENCE, expressing their disappointment. 

“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,” Daniels said. “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!”

Strong echoed much of Daniels’s statement, but added: “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.”

This may be the end of Empire as we know it, but there is a possibility that the franchise will live on. Deadline reports that Fox is considering green-lighting a spin-off following Henson’s character Cookie Lyon, the matriarch of the fierce family.

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