Jussie Smollett I'm Proud of My 'Empire' Work ... As His Potential Final Episode Airs

4/24/2019 2:41 PM PDT

Jussie Smollett Feeling 'Pride' Before His Potential Final 'Empire' Airing

Jussie Smollett's last episode ever of "Empire" could be running Wednesday night ... and a few hours before it aired, he told us he only has one word on his mind. 

We got the embattled actor leaving Lafayette restaurant in NYC, and the paps asked him how he feels about his final episode of this season. There are 2 more to go, but we already know Jussie won't be in them. 

Make no mistake ... Jussie's future with the show is completely up in the air. On Tuesday, creator and executive producer Lee Daniels made it clear they're still debating whether to bring him back next season. Jussie seemed totally unshaken when we asked him about it.

As we first reported ... Jussie was written off the final 2 episodes on the heels of his arrest and felony charges of disorderly conduct for lying to cops. As it stands now,  "Empire" hasn't been officially green lit for season 6, but assuming it will be ... there's no guarantee he'll be part of it.

As it turns out, Jussie's co-stars, Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard, came out swinging for him ... firing off a letter to the show's honchos ... demanding he remain on the show. The letter, posted by Deadline, read, "Together, as a united front, we stand with Jussie Smollett and ask that our co-star, brother and friend be brought back for our sixth season of Empire."

It goes on to say, "He is also innocent and no longer subject to legal uncertainty with the criminal charges against him having been dropped. We are confident in his lawyer’s assurance that the case was dismissed because it would not have prevailed.”

Chicago is not so sure -- and, the fact is, Jussie's still facing a civil trial where the city will try to show he did lie. 

A lot of balls up in the air.