Landing a TV role can bring a huge boost to an actor's career. However, having to leave the show can be either a blessing or a curse.
Sometimes, they end up leaving before the series ends to pursue other projects, but other times, their time on the show ends when their character is written off for storytelling purposes.
Here are 15 actors who were devastated to be written off their TV shows:
1.Steve Buscemi was originally supposed to play Tony Blundetto — a cousin of Tony Soprano — on The Sopranos for two seasons.
However, after Blundetto committed murder, show creator David Chase realized that the victim's associates would need to seek revenge. He called the oversight a "blunder," but killed off Blundetto earlier than promised.
Buscemi told Today, "I was really, really sad. That’s really just about missing the greatest job I’ve ever had."
2.Drea de Matteo played Adriana La Cerva on The Sopranos for seven years.
However, when Tony Soprano had Adriana killed for being an FBI informant, de Matteo feared that her acting career was over.
She told Today, "I can’t lie. I was still in love with Adriana."
3.Samira Wiley learned that Poussey Washington was going to die in Season 4 of Orange Is the New Black right before production started — but she had to keep it a secret from her costars.
She told Vulture, "The first thing was shock and confusion. You’re on a show for so long and you feel a part of it and then, all of a sudden, you get news like this, and it’s a real shock. I definitely needed the time and am grateful and thankful for all the executive producers being able to understand how delicate and sensitive this situation was. They made sure I was okay throughout the whole process. They also let me know, even though I didn’t have a script, what story was trying to be told in terms of 'Black Lives Matter.'"
On the day she filmed Poussey's death scene, the entire cast gathered to watch. She said, "For me, I felt like a little bit of my responsibility on that day, shooting that scene, was to take care of everybody. ... Even though I’m the one that’s gone, I was cheering people up."
4.Suzanne Somers played Chrissy Snow on Three's Company for five seasons, but she was fired for asking for a raise.
She requested an additional $120,000 an episode so her salary would match that of her male costar, John Ritter. However, ABC only offered her an additional $5,000, then when an old back injury caused her to miss filming for two episodes, they wrote her off the show.
However, Somers always wished things ended on a better note. More than 30 years later, she told the Television Academy, "To this day, I feel a sadness not being able to finish out Three's Company. I see that it was important. ... I still have a heartache that it ended so badly."
5.Erinn Haynes played Donna Gable — who was married to Kevin James' character — in the first season of Kevin Can Wait. However, she was killed off before Season 2 and replaced by Leah Remini, James' former King of Queens costar.
Haynes briefly addressed her firing on Twitter, writing, "True, I've been let go from the show. Very sad, I had a great experience..."
She reportedly liked several tweets from fans who said they were boycotting the show, but she also asked them to stop placing the blame on Remini.
6.Dan Bucatinsky played James Novak on Scandal for three years, but not even the Emmy he won for the role could convince show creator Shonda Rhimes to spare him.
He told HuffPost that getting a call from Rhimes was "sort of this confirmation of [his] worst fear" — James was going to die.
"I think James was poking the bear a little too much this season that was leading to a very big move narratively," he said.
7.Jon Polito played Steve Crosetti on Homicide: Life on the Street, but after the second season, he left because of a "major artistic parting of the ways" between himself and co-executive producer Tom Fontana.
After the actor departed, Crosetti died by suicide. Polito told the Orlando Sentinel, "It makes no sense. It's the last thing in the world I would do."
He also claimed that Fontana "promised to bring [him] back for three episodes; then he fired [him] the next day," but Fontana refuted these claims.
However, Polito later regretted the way he handled his exit, made amends with Fontana, and returned as Crosetti's ghost in Homicide: The Movie. He told Groucho Reviews, "I never agreed with my death, and I never watched the show until they called me years later, and we had sort of patched it up and he said, 'You'll come back as a ghost,' which I did. Out of respect for them because I realized how right they were in certain ways — and I was wrong to fight them — but I didn't trust the situation and I was very hurt."
8.Lauren Graham played Joan on Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist until a scheduling conflict forced her to leave early in Season 2.
COVID-19-related shutdowns led to major production delays for The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, which she was already committed to as a lead actor and executive producer. Because both shows ended up having to film at the same time, Graham had to choose the one she had a bigger commitment to.
She told Live with Kelly and Ryan, "We intended to do more, and hopefully in another season, in a different time, I can do that." Unfortunately, however, the show was canceled after the second season, and she was unable to return for the revival movie.
9.When Matthew Lintz played Henry on The Walking Dead, he followed Carl Grimes' storyline from the comics, so fans thought he was going to replace zombie-bitten Carl.
However, after only 11 episodes, Henry was beheaded alongside several other prominent characters. Lintz wasn't told about his character's impending demise until the episode before.
He told Metro.co.uk, "I think every character that is killed off is always a missed opportunity. ... I think Henry definitely had a lot of story to tell."
10.John Francis Daley played Dr. Lance Sweets on Bones from the third season until the character was killed in the first episode of Season 10.
Initially, the actor asked for four months off so he could direct the National Lampoon’s Vacation remake. He told TVLine, "I had spoken to [producer] Stephen Nathan about it all, and he said it would be more satisfying for the fans to conclude Sweets in a dramatic way rather than for it to be up in the air and have him come back midway through the season."
He said, "I really did feel like I was losing a part of me. I had so much compassion for him. He was such a good person. … He had gone through so much, and to see him die in such a grim way was shocking."
11.Ian Beattie played Ser Meryn Trant on Games of Thrones until Arya Stark killed him in Season 5.
The death scene — which was also the final scene he filmed — took around 13 hours to film. For the last 10 hours, he had to wear prosthetic wounds over his eyes.
He told the Washington Post, "It absolutely broke my heart. It hit me psychically, and thank goodness I was wearing prosthetics because nobody could actually see that I was crying."
12.Sibel Kekilli expected Shae, her GoT character, to die in Season 3. When she survived, she asked show co-creator David Benioff if he planned to go against the book series and keep her alive.
However, he told her no, and Tyrion Lannister killed Shae in the following season. Kekilli told the Washington Post, "That day, it was just me who had that last scene, and there was no time to really say goodbye and I felt, actually, really alone."
She wasn't able to watch the show for a long time after leaving. She said, "Everyone was saying, 'Hey Sibel, a dragon died.' And I was like, 'What? Really?' It’s like the whole world is watching Game of Thrones, and you are the only one who is not part of this religion."
13.Fellow GoT alum Richard Madden played Robb Stark until the Red Wedding in Season 3.
After wrapping his final scene, he got on a plane and "cried the whole way" to London.
In a 2013 interview with Access, he said, "It was really hard shooting the end of it, but still very difficult for me to process that I’m not going back, that it is completely gone. ... And it’s funny, because I’m still very close with all the crew and I’ve been talking to the hair department and the other actors who are all gearing up and going back into it and it’s really strange for me."
14.Aidan Gillan played Petyr Baelish/Littlefinger on GoT until Arya Stark killed him in the Season 7 finale.
He told Entertainment Weekly, "You're left a little bereft — for your character and for your experience. It also immediately makes you quantify the hugeness of what that experience has been over the last seven years, which has been massive."
Before his final day on set, he made it known that he wanted to take Littlefinger's mockingbird pin home with him. So, production let him have two — one for him and one for his son.
15.And finally, Conleth Hill played Varys on GoT until Daenerys Targaryen had her dragon burn him alive for betraying her in Season 8.
He told Entertainment Weekly, "At the time, nothing could console me. I kept thinking: 'What did I do wrong?' There wasn’t any pre-warning. ... This was just reading cold hard copy."
He also said, "I took it very personally. I took it as a person, not as an actor or an artist. ... You can’t help feeling that you failed in some way, that you haven’t lived up to some expectation that you didn’t know about. The only thing that consoles you is people who worked a lot harder than you are in the same boat."
And now, here are 13 actors who got written off the show because they were ready to move on:
16.Meghan Markle played Rachel Zane on Suits for seven seasons, bidding the show farewell after her character got married and moved away to accept a job offer.
Markle announced she would be leaving the show shortly after sharing the news about her engagement to Prince Harry.
She told the BBC, "What’s been really exciting, as we talk about this as the transition out of my career...is that the causes that have been very important to me, I can focus even more energy on. You realize that as you have access, or a voice that people are willing to listen to, [it comes with] a lot of responsibility, which I take seriously."
17.Patrick Dempsey played Dr. Derek Shepherd on Grey's Anatomy until the character's death in 2015.
The actor struggled with finding time to spend with his family, so when he left the show, he felt "it had been long enough." He told People, "I think after a certain period of time, no matter how much money you make, you want control out of your own schedule."
He continued, "I probably should have moved on a couple of years earlier. I stayed a bit longer than I should have."
18.Taylor Momsen played Jenny Humphrey on Gossip Girl until she was put on "indefinite hiatus" in 2010.
The following year, she told Elle, "I quit acting, actually. I quit Gossip Girl and now tour and am in a band and that's pretty much all I want to do. Hopefully I'll be able to only do that for the rest of my life."
Since then, Momsen hasn't returned to acting, instead focusing on the Pretty Reckless, the band she's fronted since 2009.
19.Dan Stevens played Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey until the character's death in Season 3.
When his three-year contract ended, he decided to leave the show and pursue other things.
He told the Telegraph, "It is a very monopolizing job. So there is a strange sense of liberation at the same time as great sadness because I am very, very fond of the show and always will be."
20.Jake T. Austin played Jesus Foster on The Fosters for two seasons, then Noah Centineo took over the role.
On Twitter, he said that he "just wanted to do roles with more substantive content."
He also said that he left because he "was only asked to return for three episodes and wasn’t going to be able to work on anything else."
21.Mischa Barton played Marissa Cooper on The OC until the character died in the Season 3 finale.
However, she didn't really speak about her reasons for leaving until 2021. She told E! News that she was overworked and bullied by several men on set. She also didn't like having to turn down all the big film roles she was being offered.
Eventually, production gave her a choice — "Do you want your job and to sail off into the sunset and potentially you can come back in the future in some bizarre TV scenario, or we can kill your character off and you can go on with your career that you want and what you want to do?"
She said, "Honestly, 15 years on, I do think it's sad that there wasn't a better way that it could've been handled. ... But I also do really love that she had this epic death and that it ended like that because it's memorable and it's not just another flash in the pan. People still come up to me to this day and they're like, 'I remember where I was when your character died!'"
22.Dean Norris played Hank Schrader on Breaking Bad until the character was killed midway through the final season — a suggestion the actor made to series creator Vince Gilligan.
Knowing that the season was going to be 16 episodes long, Norris booked a pilot to film beforehand, thinking he could do the new series after Breaking Bad wrapped. However, when the final season was split into two half-seasons, he was forced to drop out of the pilot.
He told the National Post, "I couldn’t force him to do it because I have a contract I’d have to get out of, but I asked him very seriously to kill me. ... It was either do eight episodes or do 24, and I’ve got five kids, man."
23.Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje played Mr. Eko on Lost from the "Tailie" invasion in Season 2 until the character's death in Season 3.
He was actually the first Lost cast member to ask for his character to be killed off, and he found leaving "joyous" because it left him free to pursue his dream of directing and starring in a movie based on his own life.
That passion project — Farming — finally came to fruition in 2018 with Akinnuoye-Agbaje as its writer and director.
24.Daniel Gillies played Dr. Joel Goran on the first three seasons of the Canadian series Saving Hope. At the same time, he was also playing Elijah Mikaelson in the American series The Originals.
Balancing his time between two series and two different countries left him exhausted, especially with his second child on the way. So, as the third season of Saving Hope began, he requested to have Joel killed off.
He told the TV Junkies, "They delivered it, and I said, 'Well, thank you. Thank you for having me here. Thank you for this experience.' I mean, what else can you say? Everybody was just dead silent, it was odd. But I wouldn’t change it for anything."
25.Connie Britton played Rayna James on Nashville until the character's death in Season 5, which coincided with the show's transition from ABC to CMT.
When the show switched networks, Britton told the showrunners that she was feeling conflicted. While she loved the show, she felt it was time to move on so she could challenge herself.
Showrunner Marshall Herskovitz told Variety, "We had to come up with a storyline that made sense and did justice to the character and to the fans’ connection to the character. We spent a lot of time thinking, 'Does she really have to die? Is there some other way we can do it?' And the answer was no."
26.Regé-Jean Page played Simon Basset in the first season of Bridgerton but, having only signed on for one season, he declined to return.
He told Variety, "It’s a one-season arc. ... 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."
Executive producer Shonda Rhimes told Variety that, though he was invited back after so many fans expressed their disappointment, "Rightfully, he said, 'I signed up to do this one lovely story, this closed-ended storyline. I’m good!'"
27.Anna Faris played Christy Plunkett on Mom for seven seasons, but she left the show before the eighth season.
She told Us Weekly, "While my journey as Christy has come to an end, allowing me to pursue new opportunities, I’ll be watching next season and rooting for my TV family."
Warner Bros. decided against recasting her, but the show was canceled after the next season.
28.And finally, George Clooney played Dr. Doug Ross on ER for five seasons.
In 1999, he left the show in order to focus on his film career — which was considered a big risk at the time.
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