In Empire Season 5, Episode 12 (Shift and Save Yourself), which aired on March 27, Jamal’s older brother Andre (Trai Byers) received a terminal cancer diagnosis.
“I have cancer — advanced lymphoma stage 4,” he told his girlfriend Teri. “I’m dying – [I have] a few months at best.”
Andre’s terminal diagnosis raised the likelihood of a major cast departure from Empire at a time the show was struggling to cope with uncertainties after Jussie Smollett was accused of faking a hate crime against himself.
Smollett’s case has been the focus of attention, with fans wondering about the actor’s fate and whether his character Jamal will continue to appear on the show.
There is 0% truth that @JussieSmollett was going to be written off of Empire. This rumor is totally false. He is the third lead and one of the most beloved characters on the show. Writing him off the show has NEVER even been discussed.
— Danny Strong (@Dannystrong) February 15, 2019
The writers of Empire have never planned or even discussed writing @JussieSmollett off of the show.
— Empire Writers (@EmpireWriters) February 15, 2019
The focus on Smollett and his character Jamal meant that less attention was given to the implications of Andre’s terminal cancer diagnosis in Episode 12.
Lately, fans have been asking questions about the future of Trai Byers and his character Andre.
Was it Andre’s casket we saw in the flash-forward scene in Season 5, Episode 1, where Lucious (Terrence Howard) is shown mourning someone’s death?
Is Andre leaving Empire?
Many fans became convinced that it was Andre’s casket we saw in the flash-forward at the start of Season 5 after another flash-forward in Episode 9 (Had If From My Father) showed Andre being rushed to the ER. We then see Andre’s heart monitor flatlining.
Showrunner Brett Mahoney warned fans not to jump to conclusions
“It could be Andre [in the coffin] but it is not definitively Andre,” he said. “There is still a lot more to be revealed about that mystery as the back half of the season unfolds.”
Mahoney’s comments sparked speculation that it could be another character in the casket. A flash-forward in Episode 2, for instance, shows FBI agents interviewing Lucious about a murder.
This means that even if Andre dies, we might still lose another character before the end of Season 5.
Speculation that Andre could die in Season 5 appears consistent with long-running rumors that Trai Byers, who portrays Andre, was planning to leave the show.
The rumors were fueled by claims that Trai was not happy with his character’s story arc. However, the actor tried to squash the rumors in 2016 when he denied he wanted to leave the show. But, he admitted his frustrations about his character’s story arc.
When showrunner Mahoney was asked in an interview with EW whether the casket in the Episode 1 flash-forward was Andre’s, he avoided giving a direct answer to the question.
“We cannot definitively say that Andre is in the casket,” he answered evasively. “But we can say that Andre is certainly facing dire circumstances as we move forward…”
Mahoney told EW that the mystery surrounding the identity of the character in the casket will not be solved until the end of the season and that it would be “impactful.”
Mahoney’s comments so far leave open the possibility that Season 5 is Andre’s last and that Trai Byers is leaving the show. But fans will have to wait until the season finale to confirm Andre’s fate.
Empire airs on Wednesdays at 8/7c on Fox.