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Empire’s Jussie Smollett Reveals Two-Year Time Jump In Season 5: The Tone Has ‘Shifted’ (Exclusive)

Back to basics? Empire season 5 will pick up two years after season 4 ended, Jussie Smollett said in Us Weekly’s suite at the Television Critics Association’s press tour. Although it’s jumping ahead, some things have gone back to the way they were in the beginning.

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“It’s so exciting because in a way, it’s a restart. It’s also is a chance to show such growth in these characters we’ve been playing for four seasons,” Smollett, 35, told Us. “The Lyons have lost everything. And Lyons don’t do well when they can’t eat. They come back swinging, but they come back swinging together. There’s no Lyon family member that’s against a Lyon family member. This is unified.”

The actor, who portrays Jamal Lyon in the Fox drama, also detailed his character’s journey over the two years. The death of Tori (guest star Rumer Willis) “woke him up” and caused him to make a change, traveling to London to find himself.

Jussie Smollett and Rumer Willis.
Jussie Smollett and Rumer Willis. FOX

“He’s always had a backbone, always been loyal, which is wonderful, but this time, he’s come back and he’s grown. There are certain boundaries that you have to set as an adult, just a respect thing you don’t have always have. He’s learning that,” Smollett explained. “I’m trying not to give anything away because this story line, it’s stuff that I want to say, it’s stuff that I want to talk about, it’s stuff that I want to act. It’s really exciting. Jamal’s dealing with very real-life stuff. Gone are the frivolous things of our youth and here are the real things of life.”

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Smollett, who came out as gay in 2016, didn’t want to reveal much about Jamal’s love life, but did say that he’s thrilled about where Jamal is.

“Jamal has been a serial monogamous – a legal ho, if you will. He’s been taken through the ringer. This, he’s found someone,” he noted. “It’s just a story line that I really feel proud of. And that’s all I’m gonna say. It’s good.”

Jussie Smollett
Jussie Smollett

As for the tone of season 5, the singer and actor also added that it’s a “bit more rooted.”

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“Because we’ve lost everything, there’s a certain shine that had to be stripped away in order to truly tell the story of people who were starting from nothing,” he said. “I won’t say [there’s] a darkness to it … the tone has not changed but shifted.”

Empire season 5 premieres on Fox Wednesday, September 26, at 8 p.m. ET.

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