'Empire' is confirmed to end prematurely on April 21.

Empire's Terrence Howard

Empire's Terrence Howard

The popular hip-hop drama was always intended to finish after its current sixth season, but after the coronavirus pandemic forced filming to be shut down, it will now end on episode 18 of the finale series.

The FOX show's writers Lee Daniels and Danny Strong have issued separate statements to Deadline confirming the abrupt ending of the show, but said they hope that one day they can "give the series its proper conclusion".

Lee said: "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 (Howard, Lucious Lyon) and Taraji (P. Henson, Cookie Lyon), along with our amazing writers and tireless crew, for all of their hard work and bringing this story to life.

"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!"

Danny added: "We're so proud of this show and of everything this incredible cast - led by Taraji and Terrence - and crew accomplished over six seasons.

"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. "But we hope everyone tunes in to our last original episode, because the work done by our cast and crew deserves to be seen by the widest audience possible.

"Big thank you to Fox for being our home for these many years.

"And here's hoping this isn't the end!"

The penultimate episode, 19, was believed to be halfway through shooting before the enforced shutdown.

The show - which launched in 2015 - focuses on the fictional hip-hop music label Empire Entertainment and its founders the Lyon family, and became a ratings hit for US broadcaster FOX.

A possible spin-off featuring Taraji P. Henson's character, Cookie Lyon, is reportedly in the early stages of development.

'Empire' creator Lee previously stated that it was "without question" there would be a spin-off investigating the backstory of the Lyon family matriarch.

Lee explained: "I have to tell a story that I know. I can't tell it unless I've lived it.

"OK, here (Cookie) is now. How did she get to where she's at right now? Let's go back and understand her sisters. Let's get back and understand the makings of her. That I know, because I know Cookie... It would be like a prequel."

Plans for the final series had already been altered after Jussie Smollett, who played Jamal Lyon, abruptly left the show after facing indictment for allegedly staging a fake hate crime attack and filing false police reports.