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    18 Times Actors Walked Away From Television Roles After Shooting The Pilot Episode Or Appearing In The First Season Of The Series

    Sometimes, show business requires major casting switch-ups.

    It's hard to envision the lead characters of your favorite TV shows being played by anyone other than their well-known series regulars.

    CBC / Via

    But in some cases, a performer may not stick with a role they were originally hired to play, and casting adjustments need to be made.

    HBO / Via

    Here are 18 times entertainers withdrew from a TV series, either after filming a pilot episode or shooting just one season.

    1. Ruby Rose moved on from Batwoman after experiencing awful working conditions, they explained in a series of Instagram stories.

    Ruby Rose as Batwoman poses in the Season 1 episode, "'How Queer Everything Is Today!"
    photo: Colin Bentley / ©The CW / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Ruby initially said a discussion with Batwoman executive producer Greg Berlanti resulted in the shared understanding that their portrayal of Kate Kane wouldn't go past Season 1. The show continued two for additional seasons after Ruby's departure with Javicia Leslie leading the series.

    "I ended up talking to Warner Brothers and Greg [about] where the show was going. And we...had a really honest, good chat where we sort of mutually agreed that...we had done what we set out to do," Ruby said on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in October 2020.

    A year later, in October 2021, Ruby revealed a different reason for finishing Batwoman with the finale of Season 1. They explained that unsafe and inappropriate working conditions led to their time on the show ending. This included having to return to filming 10 days after undergoing emergency spinal surgery, being cut so close to their eye on set that they were nearly left blind, and witnessing other severe injuries take place in the workplace.

    "To everyone who said I was too stiff on Batwoman — imagine going back to work 10 days after this (or the whole crew and cast would be fired, and I'd let everyone down because Peter Roth said he wouldn't recast, and I just lost the studio millions — by getting injured on his set)," they wrote in an Instagram story.

    2. Regé-Jean Page knew from the beginning his Bridgerton role wouldn't be long-term.

    Regé-Jean Page as Simon speaks to Queen Charlotte about his foundation of friendship with Daphne
    Shondaland / Netflix / Via

    After Bridgerton's successful first season, Netflix and Shondaland announced in April 2021 that Regé-Jean wouldn't appear as Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings, in Season 2 of the series. The actor was already aware that this role wouldn't be a lasting commitment, which piqued his interest in the opportunity.

    “It’s a one-season arc. It’s going to have a beginning, middle, end — give us a year,” Regé-Jean said to Variety about his departure. “[I thought] ‘That’s interesting,’ because then it felt like a limited series. I get to come in, I get to contribute my bit and then the Bridgerton family rolls on.”

    “I have nothing but excitement for Bridgerton continuing to steam train off and conquer the globe. But there is also value in completing these arcs and sticking the landing," he added.

    3. Alex Borstein's Mad TV role meant she couldn't play Sookie St. James past the Gilmore Girls pilot.

    Alex Borstein stands in a kitchen as she plays Sookie St. James in the original "Gilmore Girls" pilot
    Warner Bros. Television / Via Facebook: Purryburry

    Alex was in the original pilot episode of Gilmore Girls as Sookie St. James. She was already starring in the sketch comedy show Mad TV when this episode was shot. After Alex was unable to give up this previous commitment, she had to back out of her Gilmore Girls role, and Melissa McCarthy was recast in the part. 

    4. Farrah Fawcett walked away from Charlie's Angels after its first season to make films with Lee Majors, her then-husband.

    Farrah Fawcett as Jill answers the phone in the "Charlie's Angels" pilot episode
    Spelling-Goldberg Productions / Via

    In March 1977, the Washington Post reported that Farrah informed producers she'd be exiting Charlie's Angels after one season on the show. Her manager, Jay Bernstein, told the news outlet the actor was removing herself from the series to instead begin producing films with her then-husband, actor Lee Majors.

    Farrah's Charlie's Angel costar, Jaclyn Smith, believes Lee was a big influence in the actor's choice to leave her role as Jill Munroe. Farrah and Lee would later divorce in 1982.

    “I think [Farrah] had a lot of people in her ear,” Jaclyn said during an interview on the It Happened in Hollywood podcast in March 2019. “She was married to Lee Majors. He wanted her home cooking and being a wife. That didn’t work, so it ended pretty quickly.” 

    5. Ross Butler departed Riverdale when he had to choose between this role and13 Reasons Why.

    Ross Butler as Reggie laughs in the school hallway
    Berlanti Productions

    Ross played Reggie Mantle throughout Season 1 of Riverdale in 2017. Simultaneously, he portrayed Zach Dempsey in13 Reasons Why. The actor then had to choose whether to continue with one of these roles or split his time between Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why as more minor characters. Ultimately, he decided to only keep playing Zach, which was the role he resonated with more as an actor.

    "Reggie’s a great character, but it’s a different tone. I connected with Zach on a much more real level where I didn’t have to create so much of a character for him," Ross told Vulture in May 2018. "Reggie’s more outspoken, like that jock archetype. Zach is too, but Zach has more colors, at least from what I saw."

    Charles Melton replaced Ross in the role of Reggie after this departure. In 2021, Ross made one more Riverdale appearance as Reggie.

    6. Maura Tierney removed herself from Parenthood due to medical reasons.

    Maura Tierney as Sarah talks to her kids in the unaired "Parenthood" pilot
    Imagine Television / Via

    In September 2009, the Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Maura had to step back from playing Sarah Braverman in Parenthood. She was seeking breast cancer treatment at the time, and the show's schedule would have conflicted with her medical plan. This report came after she shot an unaired pilot of the show.

    “Ms. Tierney and her doctors remain confident that the outcome of her treatments will be positive,” a spokeswoman of Maura's said. “She is deeply disappointed that she will not be able to rejoin such a highly respected, talented, fun and funny group of actors and wishes to thank Jason Katims and NBC for their patience and support.”

    Lauren Graham was named as the actor chosen to replace Maura a month later. Six months after undergoing breast cancer treatment, Maura returned to work with the stage play North Atlantic.

    7. David Caruso opted out of NYPD Blue's second season in order to focus on movie projects.

    David Caruso as Detective John Kelly meets with Lieutenant Arthur Fancy
    20th Century Fox Television

    In 2016, Steven Bochco, a co-creator of NYPD Blue, opened up about working with David for the first season of the series. He noted that David's behavior could vary from "volatile, moody, or sullen" on any given day on set. Steven attributed this demeanor to David's desire to leave the show and become a prominent film actor.

    "He never said it to me directly, but the simple truth was, Caruso felt he was too good for television," Steven wrote in his memoir, Truth Is a Total Defense: My Fifty Years in Television, per the Hollywood Reporter. "He wanted to be a movie star. And his plan was to alienate the writers, producers and his fellow castmates in hopes that we would dump him from the show."

    During a summer hiatus after Season 1, David's agent told Steven the actor wanted his NYPD Blue contract to be terminated, but Steven refused to comply. Next, David's lawyer requested a list of the actor's demands be met for Season 2, including a pay raise and seven weeks off to open up more time for film shoots. Steven eventually agreed to release David from his contract. 

    Four episodes of Season 2 that required David's character to be present had already been written. After filming these episodes, Jimmy Smits joined the show as Detective Bobby Simone to replace David's lead role of Detective John Kelly.

    8. Jane Levy left Shameless when she won a lead part in Suburgatory.

    Jane Levy as Mandy talks to Ian at his place of work
    Bonanza Productions

    After shooting Season 1 of Shameless as the character Mandy Milkovich, Jane left the series in favor of a different offer. She'd auditioned for and scored the role of Tessa Altman in Suburgatory, which was a project she felt passionately about from the get-go.

    "I try not to get attached to stuff; I try to move on," Jane told Backstage in August 2012. "But [Suburgatory] was the first one I went out for and it was exciting ... I was told by everyone to keep my expectations low, so I did. But when I found out it was actually going to happen, I went crazy."

    Actor Emma Greenwell then played Mandy from 2012 to 2016.

    9. Brian Dunkleman didn't continue hosting American Idol after Season 1 to pursue acting.

    Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman speak onstage during the "American Idol in Vegas" concert on September 18, 2002
    Ethan Miller / Getty Images

    Following hosting Season 1 of American Idol alongside Ryan Seacrest in 2002, Brian chose to leave the reality competition series. He didn't stay on the show because he wanted to concentrate on acting, he later wrote in an April 2016 Variety article. This news piece coincided with Idol concluding its run on Fox.

    "I wanted to have an acting career, and I knew that leaving when I did would give me the best shot of accomplishing that," Brian said. "Still working on it. But the undeniable truth is, I just didn’t have the wisdom at the time to handle what was happening. Do I regret not remaining on the show now that it’s coming to an end? Yes. Especially when I open my bank statements. But without the benefit of hindsight, I would have done the exact same thing." 

    Brian later discovered that, unbeknownst to him, the Idol producers had already planned to let him go after the show's first season. Learning that his reality TV fate would have remained the same whether or not he had quit Idol left the comedian with a strong sense of relief.

    "[The producers] told me that I quit before they could deliver the news ... to tell you that I gained closure is an understatement," Brian told GQ in September 2019. "All those years where I’m walking around as the biggest mistake in the history of show business, it turns out that’s not what happened. That’s going to allow me to die peacefully someday. It’s changed my whole outlook on everything."

    10. The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers prevented Lauren Graham from staying on Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist.

    Lauren Graham as Joan speaks in front of a group in "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist"
    Zihuatanejo Production

    The part of Joan was portrayed by Lauren in the first season of Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist. For Season 2, it was written in that the character was moving to Singapore for a new job opportunity. The show's creator, Austin Winsberg, later explained that Lauren was unable to return due to scheduling conflicts related to her involvement inThe Mighty Ducks: Game Changers. 

    “I would have loved to have had more of her in season two,” Austin told the Hollywood Reporter. “Unfortunately, the character of Joan was a victim of covid scheduling. Lauren had committed to doing another show that was supposed to be done shooting by the time we went into production. But the pandemic changed all of that and both shows ended up shooting at the same time. So, there was just no way for her to do both ... I feel very fortunate that we were able to get her at all.”

    He added that "the door is always open" for the Gilmore Girls star to return to the show, which was concluded with a holiday film on Roku in 2021. 

    11. Damon Wayans Jr. disappeared from New Girl, returned, and then exited once more.

    Damon Wayans Jr. as Coach talks to Jess about shopping in the "New Girl" pilot
    Elizabeth Meriwether Pictures

    Damon starred as Coach in the pilot of New Girl, but his presence was replaced by the character of Winston, played by Lamorne Morris, after this first episode. His leaving took place because the actor was under contract to play Brad in Happy Endings. It was uncertain whether this series would be renewed, but when Happy Endings got another season, he had to drop out of New Girl.

    He later returned as Coach in 2013 after Happy Endings was cancelled, but again left this part after Season 4 of New Girl. Damon made a few more appearances as Coach through the show's sixth and seventh seasons.

    12. Xochitl Gomez had to say goodbye to The Baby-Sitters Club when she scored a major Marvel role.

    Xochitl Gomez as Dawn invites Kristy over to her house in "The Baby-Sitters Club"
    Paulilu Productions

    In 2021, it was announced that Xochitl had landed the part of America Chavez, the first queer Latinx Marvel superhero character, in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. This required her to stop playing Dawn Schafer in Netflix's The Baby-Sitters Club after one season in this role. She was then replaced by Kyndra Sanchez, who portrayed Dawn for the show's second and final season.

    "I felt really sad, but I knew that, just because of COVID, I couldn't be at one place and then another and then have to just switch all the time," Xochitl told Entertainment Tonight. "But I think Kyndra Sanchez is going to do an amazing job and I'm really excited to see her in season 2 of Baby-Sitters Club as Dawn."

    13. Gavin Leatherwood won't be returning toThe Sex Lives of College Girls and will instead explore other opportunities.

    Gavin Leatherwood as Nico tutors Kimberly in "The Sex Lives of College Girls"
    3 Arts Entertainment

    The Season 1 cast list of The Sex Lives of College Girls included Gavin Leatherwood as Nico Murray. In March 2022, however, Gavin said he wouldn't be returning for Season 2 in order to pursue other creative projects. He praised Mindy Kaling and the cast of the show as he spoke of his choice to move on.

    “It was such an incredible experience. I think Mindy is brilliant and the cast, everyone’s lovely,” Gavin told Us Weekly. “But with so many amazing opportunities out there, we want to keep spreading our wings and leading ourselves to other projects, so that’s the move.”

    “It’s such a lovely community because there’s so many talented people, so … yeah, I’ll miss that and I’ll miss them," he added.

    14. Sherilyn Fenn couldn't remember why she left after the first pilot episode of Birds of Prey was shot.

    Sherilyn Fenn arrives at the 1999 Premiere Women in Hollywood Luncheon
    Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

    In the original pilot of the early '00s series, Birds of Prey, Sherilyn portrayed Harley Quinn. Actor Mia Sara ended up taking on the role after this appearance, however. In a January 2014 interview, Sherilyn couldn't recall why she didn't stay with the part, but she guessed it likely boiled down to finances.

    "I don’t remember what happened. It might’ve had to do with some kind of financial situation, because I thought it was fun. It was easy to play," Sherilyn said to the A.V. Club. "It seems like I had to go somewhere after I filmed it, but… I don’t remember! ... It was probably money or something. They had all of these other girls, and I wasn’t supposed to be a main character, so … there you go."

    15. Aml Ameen left Sense8 over "creative differences."

    Aml Ameen as Capheus sits in a bus and comforts Riley in "Sense8"
    Anarchos Productions

    Aml played Capheus in Season 1 of Sense8. In April 2016, Deadline reported he would be walking away from this role following reported behind-the-scenes tension with Lana Wachowski, a co-creator of the show. The news site named "creative differences" as the source of Aml's departure, which came after an allegedly contentious Season 2 table read and start to filming. Toby Onwumere then took on the role for the second season.

    16. Jennifer Ehle's reason for not continuing to play Catelyn Stark after the original Game of Thrones pilot was "entirely personal."

    Jennifer Ehle arrives at the 2019 premiere of "The Wolf Hour" at the Sundance Film Festival
    George Pimentel / Getty Images

    Michelle Fairley appeared as Catelyn Stark in Game of Thrones starting with its 2011 premiere episode, but she wasn't the first person chosen to play the character. Jennifer Ehle was in the original GoT pilot as Catelyn, but ultimately decided to leave the project. When she spoke to the Daily Beast in July 2017, Jennifer explained that she wanted to focus on raising her young child at the time the show was starting.

    "Well, [leaving] was entirely personal," Jennifer said. "My daughter was seven months old when we did the pilot. It was too soon for me to be working, emotionally and bonding-wise, but I needed to do it and I was also passionate about the books."

    "I think everything worked out beautifully, because clearly the show is what it was meant to be," she added.

    17. The original Phoebe in Charmed, Lori Rom, quit after the pilot was shot due to "personal reasons."

    Lori Rom as Phoebe clashes with Prue in the unaired "Charmed" pilot
    Spelling Television / Via

    In the unaired pilot episode of Charmed, Lori starred as the character Phoebe Halliwell. Alyssa Milano then replaced Lori and played this role for the remainder of the series. The show's creator, Constance M. Burge, explained that Lori left the series after this initial taping on her own accord in a February 2018 interview. 

    “My understanding is that [Lori's] desire to leave was for personal reasons,"  Constance told  InTouch. "She was accommodated and after that we just got so fortunate with Alyssa. It was horrid and sad for her to go, but we were fortunate that it all worked out with Alyssa.” 

    18. And, lastly, Jeffrey Hunter said no to filming a second Star Trek pilot.

    Jeffrey Hunter plays Captain Christopher Pike in the original pilot of "Star Trek"
    Desliu Productions / Via

    The original pilot of Star Trek featured Jeffrey as Captain Pike. When NBC requested the pilot be reshot, however, the actor rejected the opportunity to continue with the role. He was then replaced with the character of Captain Kirk, who was played by William Shatner.