Terrence Howard Says He Misses Jussie Smollett on Empire: 'The Heart of Our Show Is Gone'
The show addressed Jussie Smollett's absence by sending his character to London during its season 6 premiere
“Jussie played my son, I mean the show kicked off because I took my four-year-old son and put him in the trash can because he had worn high heel shoes down the stairs,” Howard, who famously plays Lucious Lyon, recalled before describing the show’s heart-wrenching beginning storyline.
“I was so proud of that young man who played my son, because he still loved me at the end of it and all he wanted to do was get closer to me,” he added. “And out of nowhere he’s snatched away from us.”
In June, the show’s creator, Lee Daniels, confirmed that Smollett would not be returning for the series’ last season after the 37-year-old was indicted with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report claiming two men attacked him in an apparent hate crime in Chicago in January.
At the time of his departure, Smollett’s character was at the center of the show’s plot-line as fans followed Jamal while he navigated his relationship and wedding day.
“He was the heart of our show, and now it’s like our show is on a heart and lung bypass machine, because the heart is gone,” Howard explained to Corden, adding, “but we’re still hoping that there’s gonna be a transplant and hoping it’ll come back together.”
During Tuesday’s season premiere episode, the show addressed Smollett’s absence in a quick exchange between his former co-stars Taraji P. Henson (Cookie Lyon) and Gabourey Sidibe (Becky Williams), who played his mother and best friend respectively.
In the scene, Cookie pokes fun at Becky’s pajama set, who then tells Cookie that she and Jamal “used to wear these to our sleepovers all the time.”
“No wonder that boy ran off to London,” Cookie responds, to which Becky says, “I thought he was running away from Lyon drama. I really miss him.”
“Please don’t get me started. I miss him so much,” Cookie adds, before changing the subject.
While speaking to Corden, Howard said he wasn’t happy with how quickly Smollett’s character was omitted from the show, with no reference to Jamal’s father and Howard’s character.
“We are all still trying to put the pieces together because my son is gone,” he said. “My son. That was my little boy and he’s gone now and they don’t mention him as if it’s OK.”
“We miss Jussie,” she said. “He’s family to us. There’s no way we can throw five years of family away. I miss him.”
Smollett had pleaded not guilty to allegations that he lied to police when he said he was attacked in what authorities later claimed was a staged incident to draw attention to himself. At the end of March, all charges against Smollett were dropped.
Smollett’s attorneys released a statement to PEOPLE after the charges were dropped, saying, “Today, all criminal charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and his record has been wiped clean of the filing of this tragic complaint against him. Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29th. He was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator as a result of false and inappropriate remarks made to the public causing an inappropriate rush to judgment.”
And with Smollett’s absence, Henson revealed that the new season of Empire will focus more on her own character.
“Cookie is finding herself,” Henson said. “It’s not about the empire any more. It’s not about Lucious anymore, it’s not about her kids. It’s about her. I think a lot of women will identify with that.”
Empire airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.