Skip To Content

    Pushing Back Against Typecasting, Homesickness, And 13 Other Reasons Actors Walked Away From Major Television Roles

    Dan Stevens felt that he needed to leave Downton Abbey because he had "creative itches left unscratched."

    Warning: Spoilers ahead! 

    1. Dan Stevens decided to leave his role as Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey because he felt well and truly done with appearing in period television series and feared lingering on the mega-popular drama would keep him from appearing in other types of projects.

    Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley

    In 2022, Stevens told the Guardian that when he auditioned in 2009, "I’d done my fair share of period drama by that point. I considered not going up for it or not doing it when I got it. I felt I’d already done them." He ultimately accepted the role but he didn't anticipate that the show would become such an all-consuming phenomenon.

    Crawley in formal-wear with his wife Mary

    So three years later, he decided enough was enough. Stevens explained, "There were definitely creative itches left unscratched, genres I hadn’t worked in. Three years were up. That’s what we’d initially signed up for and the appetite to explore further was too great."

    Matthew was killed off via an abrupt car accident, made even more tragic by the fact that his wife Mary had just given birth to their first child. Stevens said about the public's reaction to him walking away, "Some admire it, others think I was mad: that the part was the greatest thing that could ever happen to me."

    Crawley following his death in a car accident

    But avoiding typecasting was worth the risk to him. Stevens went on, "But the question is what would satisfy you? A bit more money and the same thing for another decade, or the great unknown. The Wild West. An open playing field of potential." He went with the Wild West and has since played a Russian pop star (Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga), a mutant with godlike abilities (Legion), and a robot (I'm Your Man), among a variety of other non-period roles.

    Stevens as a Russian pop star, a mutant, and a robot, respectively

    2. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly Radio, Andrew Lincoln revealed that he left his starring role as Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead during Season 9 because it was becoming more difficult to spend so much time filming in Georgia while his family stayed behind in England, especially as his kids got older.

    Grimes on horseback in post-zombie apocalypse Atlanta

    Lincoln explained, "I have two young children and I live in a different country and they become less portable as they get older. It was that simple. It was time for me to come home."

    Grimes opens a door

    Lincoln said of filming his final episodes as Rick, "Completing the show was like releasing air, finally."

    Grimes and his crew in an abandoned store, post-apocalypse

    3. Crystal Reed hung up her bow and arrow and retired from her role as Allison Argent on Teen Wolf in part because of the age difference between her and her teenage character.

    Allison looks at Isaac

    In an interview with Entertainment Weekly following Allison's death in battle at the end of the show's third season, Reed said of her decision, "I love the art. And I felt like, creatively, there were things I wanted to do differently, and I wanted to explore other avenues of film and TV. I wanted to jump into different characters. You know, I’m 29. So I think the age difference was something I wanted to change as well because she’s 17."

    Allison smiles

    Reed told series creator Jeff Davis about her decision during the early days of filming Season 3 and said that while the conversation was "nerve-racking," Davis is "such a great guy and person." She added, "It’s not always that people will always let you leave the show. So I’m really, really grateful for that."

    Allison dies in Scott's arms

    4. Seth Green said goodbye to his role as the monosyllabic werewolf Oz on Buffy the Vampire Slayer when promised character development didn't surface, making it more and more difficult for him to turn down other opportunities.

    Seth Green posing as Oz in a graveyard

    Green told the A.V. Club, "I felt like the character's potential vs. what we actually were doing were in drastic opposition. And I was getting other opportunities so I asked to be let out, because I spent an entire season as a regular on the show, not doing or saying anything. They'd bound me to a series-regular contract yet the character didn't really necessitate being in every episode and every scene, so I found myself forced into scenes contractually that I really had no place or role in."

    Oz, Xander, and Willow carve pumpkins

    He went on, "So I'd spend 5 days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day, to be in a scene with 9 other people, and hopefully get to say, 'I think Buffy's right!' I was like, 'This isn't what we talked about.'" When he requested six episodes off to film a movie, he and the creative team realized that the break would've "caused too much turmoil" so Oz was written off the show "gracefully."

    Oz, Giles, Buffy, Xander, and Willow pose in a graveyard

    5. Ross Butler left Riverdale, on which he played Reggie Mantle, to properly focus on his performance as Zach Dempsey in 13 Reasons Why.

    Reggie hangs out with other football players in the student lounge

    In an interview with Vulture, Butler explained that prior to 13 Reasons Why's renewal, he had to "make the decision of whether I wanted to focus on one character or split two characters and have a smaller role on both shows."

    Reggie laughs while talking to Archie

    He explained, "I connected with Zach on a much more real level where I didn’t have to create so much of a character for him. Reggie’s more outspoken, like that jock archetype. Zach is too but Zach has more colors, at least from what I saw."

    Reggie makes fun of Jughead while other students look on

    Making the decision to commit to 13 Reasons Why before Season 2 was confirmed left him in a "weird floating space" when Reggie was recast but the renewal came through in the end. Butler later returned to Riverdale in honor of its 100th episode "The Jughead Paradox."

    Butler as Zach in 13 Reasons Why

    6. While we're on the subject of Riverdale, Skeet Ulrich decided to leave the show because he felt the role had diminishing artistic returns.

    Ulrich as FP

    In a 2020 Instagram Live, Ulrich said he wanted to give up the role of Jughead's father FP because he "got bored creatively." He added, "How’s that? That’s the most honest answer.”

    Jughead stops FP from going inside the police station

    7. Regé-Jean Page leaving Bridgerton, and his star-making role as the Duke of Hastings, came as a shock to many but Page's explanation for his decision was straightforward: He signed up for a season so he stayed for a season.

    The Duke and Daphne at a ball

    Page told Variety that when he was approached about playing the Duke, the fact that the show was pitched almost like a "limited series" appealed to him. He explained, "It’s a one-season arc. It’s going to have a beginning, middle, end — give us a year. ... I get to come in, I get to contribute my bit, and then the Bridgerton family rolls on."

    The Duke lounges at a gentleman's club

    He went on, "One of the things that is different about this genre is that the audience knows the arc completes. They come in knowing that so you can tie people in emotional knots, because they have that reassurance that we’re going to come out and we’re going to have the marriage and the baby."

    the Duke and Daphne dance at a ball

    8. Xochitl Gomez needed to leave The Baby-Sitters Club to take on the role of America Chavez in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

    Gomez as Dawn at a summer camp

    Gomez, who played Dawn on the beloved Netflix show, spoke to Entertainment Tonight about accepting the role of America. She said, "I can't even explain how honored I am that I was able to receive such a role and that it was even out there. That, not only a Latina but just a girl, a young girl, a superhero, and it means so much. I'm just so happy I get to be the one who plays that character. I hope that a lot of people look up to America and me, hopefully."

    Dawn hugs another member of the baby-sitters club in the kitchen

    As for The Baby-Sitters Club, Gomez was "really sad" to go, but said that "because of COVID, I couldn't be at one place and then another and then have to just switch all the time." She added that she and the actor who played Dawn 2.0, Kyndra Sanchez, "just clicked" when they met.

    the baby-sitters club during a meeting

    9. In a 2015 interview with the Guardian, Jon Stewart revealed that his decision to leave his iconic position behind the desk at The Daily Show came about because it just wasn't as rewarding as it used to be.

    Jon Stewart hosting a segment about Obama and Romney

    After 16 years of hosting, Stewart said, "It’s not like I thought the show wasn’t working anymore or that I didn’t know how to do it. It was more, 'Yup, it’s working. But I’m not getting the same satisfaction.' These things are cyclical. You have moments of dissatisfaction and then you come out of it and it’s OK. But the cycles become longer and maybe more entrenched, and that’s when you realize, 'OK, I’m on the back side of it now.'"

    Jon Stewart interviewing John Kerry

    In addition to fulfilling his own creative ambitions, Stewart had some doubts about the effectiveness of the show in the modern American political landscape. He said, "Honestly, it was a combination of the limitations of my brain and a format that is geared toward following an increasingly redundant process, which is our political process. I was just thinking, Are there other ways to skin this cat?" He added that getting to see his kids more often was another facet of his decision.

    Jon Stewart behind the desk of the Daily Show

    Stewart described his successor Trevor Noah as "incredibly thoughtful, considerate, and funny."

    Trevor Noah smiles on set

    10. In March 2022, Maia Mitchell announced on Instagram that she would be leaving Good Trouble, the sequel series to The Fosters, because she was homesick for her native Australia. She played Callie Foster on both shows for a total of 156 episodes (and found "a chosen family for life" along the way).

    Callie and her sister drink wine with their feet in the pool

    In her statement, Mitchell wrote, "While I have been so beyond fortunate to have this career and a job that I love, with not an iota of regret, for quite some time I have suppressed an undeniable gravitational pull to return home to Australia to be closer to my nearest and dearest."

    Callie drinks a glass of wine at a party

    She went on, "The past two years have been trying, for everyone. I fully recognize the privilege of being able to work and make our show during a global pandemic but it also meant being separated from my loved ones when we needed each other the most. Thus came the need to create the space to split my time between both countries. So with that, it is time to start a new chapter and bid farewell to Good Trouble."

    Callie and her sister look at each other

    11. Emily VanCamp, who played Nic Nevin on The Resident, decided it was time to leave her show for similar reasons that Mitchell did: She wanted to be closer to her loved ones.

    Nic, in surgical scrubs, looks upset after a phone call

    VanCamp told Deadline, "I loved doing The Resident so much for the four years I was on it. Oftentimes, you hear about someone exiting a show because something bad had happened or there was some bad blood. But in this case, it’s the exact opposite. There’s nothing but love and respect between all of us and this decision was not an easy one for anybody but it was the right one for me, personally."

    Nic cares for an elderly patient

    She went on, "I think there comes a moment in every woman’s life — in every person’s life — when it becomes less about work and more about family. And that’s what happened while I was making the show. Doing that many episodes in a different city, and then you add COVID to that, most of us couldn’t see our families for almost a year. It really solidified for me that family is where my heart is at the moment."

    Nic is escorted down the aisle at her wedding

    12. During an appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Peter Capaldi chalked up his decision to leave Doctor Who to the fact that the British pop culture mainstay, while a "great job," is a "bit of a television factory."

    Peter Capaldi as the doctor

    Capaldi explained, "You do 12 episodes a year and I just worry that I wouldn't be able to continue doing my best work. Because, you know, I like to be able to learn my lines and do some preparation and come in and give it the vigor and fun... So I just thought, You know, while you're enjoying it, leave."

    13. Sandra Oh told the Hollywood Reporter that she decided to leave Grey's Anatomy following Season 10 because she sensed that her character Cristina Yang "want[ed] to be let go."

    Cristina talks to another doctor

    Oh explained, "Creatively, I really feel like I gave it my all and I feel ready to let her go. It’s such an interesting thing to play a character for so long and to actually get the sense that she wants to be let go as well." Oh said that a few decades from now, "when I’m lounging around in my muumuu with a martini," she'll be able to rewatch Grey's Anatomy and "enjoy myself thoroughly and enjoy seeing all those moments and being able to see it with a new perspective."

    Cristina eats popcorn with another doctor

    In another interview with the Hollywood Reporter following her final day on set, Oh said that she gave out 250 gifts to everyone on set, including "my stand-in, the grips, post, production, the writers." She added, "That is why I think the day was joyous. With each person, I was able to have a personal moment and tell them what I thought about them."

    the assembled doctors of Grey's Anatomy out the front of the hospital's emergency department

    The gift, she said, "was this beautiful champagne in a box and on it is an anatomical heart and a '10.' It’s was like, 'Here’s my heart in a box for a celebration. Please take it. This is my gift of thanks.'"

    Cristina speaks to a patient

    Oh got a gift of her own too: her first and last call sheets, which were dated to 2004 and 2014, respectively.

    Cristina leads two other doctors down the hall

    14. Mandy Patinkin chose to leave his starring role as FBI behavioral analyst Jason Gideon on Criminal Minds over his reservations about the show's violent subject matter.

    Jason Gideon during an investigation at a church

    In 2012, Patinkin told New York Magazine, "The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to do Criminal Minds in the first place. I thought it was something very different. I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality. After that, I didn’t think I would get to work in television again."

    Patinkin and his team investigate a murdered priest

    Patinkin added, "Audiences all over the world use this programming as their bedtime story. This isn’t what you need to be dreaming about."

    Gideon speaks to technical analyst Penelope

    15. And finally: Grab your tissues, folks, because it's time to talk about that time Steve Burns, aka the first host of Blue's Clues, returned in 2021 for an in-character video message to explain where he'd gone after he left the show.

    Steve with Blues on the cartoonish set of Blue's Clues

    In the video, which got 2 million likes when it was shared on Nick Jr.'s Twitter, Burns said, "You remember how when we were younger, we used to run around and hang out with Blue and find clues and talk to Mr. Salt and freak out about the mail and do all the fun stuff and then one day I was like, 'Oh hey, guess what? Big news, I'm leaving. This is my brother Joe. He's your new best friend,' and then I got on a bus and I left? And we didn't see each other for, like, a really long time? Can we just talk about that?"

    He went on, "Because I realize that was kind of abrupt. I just kinda got up and went to college. And that was really challenging by the way but great, because I got to use my mind and take a step at a time and now I literally am doing many of the things that I wanted to do. And then look at you and look at all you have done and all you have accomplished in all that time. And it's just, it's just so amazing, right?"

    Steve sits with Blue in the living room

    He ended the video by saying that despite all the time that's passed and the fact that he and his original audience are now dealing with "student loans and jobs and families," he "never forgot" the viewers and is "super glad we're still friends." So that's extravagantly adorable.

    Steve and Blue show off a selection of healthy fruits