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    13 Actors Who Left Their TV Shows But Eventually Returned And 13 Who Never Did An Episode Again

    Christopher Meloni returned to the Law and Order universe, but Emmy Rossum never came back to Shameless.

    Warning: There are some massive spoilers ahead!

    1. First, Kate Walsh recently returned to Grey's Anatomy as Dr. Addison Montgomery for the first time after last appearing in Season 8.

    Addison telling the new interns, "And you must be the group that's been screwing up the program"
    ABC

    After starring on Grey's Anatomy for several seasons, Kate went on to do Private Practice and still appeared in a few episodes. Kate's first appearance in nine years happened during Season 18 when she arrived at Grey-Sloan for a surgery. Speaking about returning, Kate said, "I was very satisfied and delighted by it. And, honestly, that’s always been [the thought]: you do this for the fans."

    2. But Sandra Oh has stated numerous times she has no intention to return to Grey's Anatomy after leaving in Season 10.

    Cristina telling Meredith, "He's very dreamy. But he is not the sun. You are"
    ABC

    Now, we haven't hit the series finale of this show yet, so I'd never say never, but for now, it looks like Sandra doesn't want to return. While she always thanks Grey's Anatomy for giving her the chance to play Cristina, she's said, "In my mind, it’s gone. But for a lot of people, it’s still very much alive. And while I understand and I love it, I have moved on."

    3. After leaving The Office in 2011, Steve Carell did return for the series finale in 2013.

    Dwight saying, "Michael, I can't believe you came" and Michael responding with, "That's what she said"
    NBC

    In 2011, everyone believed that Steve wanted to depart The Office, but in the recent book The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, several crew members revealed that NBC executives never made an offer to keep him around after his original contract ended. Steve eventually came back for the series finale, which featured Michael attending Dwight and Angela's wedding.

    4. Meanwhile, Donald Glover exited Community in 2014 and didn't appear when the series wrapped in 2015.

    Abed telling Troy he used pigeon DNA to clone him so he'll have to come back and the duo then hug
    NBC

    During Donald's final episode, Troy said goodbye to his friends and left to compete in a sailing trip around the world with LeVar Burton. Reflecting on Donald's departure, Danny Pudi said, "It was kind of nice to be able to grieve in a show where you're grieving about your real-life friend saying goodbye." Donald did reprise his role when the cast reunited for a table read in 2020.

    5. Christopher Meloni abruptly exited Law & Order: SVU at the end of Season 12, and has recently returned as Elliot Stabler in both SVU and his new spinoff series, Law & Order: Organized Crime.

    Elliot and Liv spotting each other at a crime scene
    NBC

    A contract dispute is what led to Christopher originally stepping away from the series. His original final episode featured Stabler simply retiring offscreen. Looking back, Christopher called his original departure "inelegant." Now, he and Mariska Hargitay are frequent scene partners again since both of their characters often cross over into each other's shows. 

    6. But Emmy Rossum, who starred in nine seasons of Shameless as Fiona Gallagher, never made an appearance before the show ended in 2021.

    Fiona asking Lip to take care of everyone when she leaves
    Showtime

    Emmy left the series to pursue other opportunities, so her final episode featured Fiona leaving Chicago. When the show's final season came around, Emmy was expected to appear in the series finale, according to showrunner John Wells; however, strict COVID-19 restrictions prevented her from returning.

    7. Alycia Debnam-Carey's Lexa was notably killed off during The 100 Season 3; however, she returned for two episodes afterward, including the series finale.

    Clarke and Lexa reuniting
    The CW

    Lexa's death on The 100 sparked fan outcry when it occurred in March 2016. Adding to the "Bury Your Gays" trope, Lexa's death was unnecessary and many stopped watching the series because of it. However, for the series finale, Alycia did return as a version of Lexa. Speaking about coming back, she said, "I wanted to do it specifically for the fans and to have a little closure to finally feel like there was a positive spin that had happened. I know it was Lexa as the Judge and it wasn't necessarily Lexa as herself, but I still thought the sentiment was important."

    8. Meanwhile, Ricky Whittle's Lincoln also died in The 100 Season 3, and he never returned to the show for even an episode.

    Octavia crying and Lincoln saying, "May we meet again" before dying
    The CW

    Lincoln's death on The 100 came only two episodes after Lexa's tragic end. Ricky Whittle made the choice to leave the series and accused showrunner Jason Rothenberg of "bullying." He explained that Jason "abused his position to make my job untenable," and Ricky even said Jason cut him out of storylines he was originally supposed to be in.

    9. America Ferrera exited Superstore after Season 5, but she came back during the series finale in order to truly wrap up Amy's storyline.

    Amy telling Jonah that she screwed everything up and will wait for him, then they kiss
    NBC

    In an Instagram post, America said, "The last five years on Superstore have been some of the most rewarding, enriching, and enjoyable years of my career." The show ultimately ended the following season, so America wasn't absent for very many episodes too.

    10. But Tim Rozon, who played Mutt on Schitt's Creek, left the show in Season 4 and did not return for the series finale in 2020.

    Alexis telling Mutt how she's changed since they dated
    Pop / CBC

    The last episode Tim filmed for Schitt's Creek was the Season 4 episode "The Rollout." Speaking about watching the show become such a success, Tim said, "It was so crazy and just wild, especially watching Annie Murphy's career take off. I mean, Dan [Levy], Eugene [Levy], and everyone deserve all the recognition they've gotten, but something about watching Annie become an Emmy winner was...it was so wild."

    11. Chad Michael Murray departed One Tree Hill after the Season 6 finale, but he reappeared for two episodes during Season 9.

    Haley and Lucas hugging in an airport
    The CW

    Chad came back to OTH during Season 9 when Nathan went missing and Haley was looking for him. In recent years, Chad has expressed interest in doing a One Tree Hill reunion or reboot as well. 

    12. Meanwhile, after Hilarie Burton left One Tree Hill alongside Chad in Season 6, Peyton was never seen onscreen again.

    Lucas and Peyton kissing in a car and Peyton calling herself "Peyton Scott"
    The CW

    At the time, there were a lot of rumors surrounding Hilarie's decision to leave the show, including that there were "negotiations based on money" that didn't work out in her favor. In 2017, Hilarie, along with 17 of her One Tree Hill female costars, detailed the sexual and verbal abuse and misconduct they suffered at the hands of series creator Mark Schwahn. This was one of the reasons Hilarie decided not to renew her contract.

    13. After leaving The Walking Dead in 2018, Lauren Cohan returned to the show as Maggie Greene-Rhee, and she is now starring in the final season.

    Hershel saying, "Hey, mom" and Maggie smiling
    AMC

    Lauren left the series after doing a handful of episodes in Season 9 in order to star on the short-lived ABC series Whiskey Cavalier. It also happened while she was trying to negotiate a new contract for The Walking Dead, and it wasn't panning out in her favor. Now, Lauren has returned for the show's final season as Maggie reunites with Daryl, Carol, and the rest of her group.

    14. But Meghan Markle departed Suits in 2018 alongside Patrick J. Adams, and even though he returned for the final season, she did not.

    Rachel telling Mike she can't wait to start their adventure together during their wedding vows
    USA

    Of course, Meghan's exit from the show was announced after she got engaged to Prince Harry in 2017. Meghan's final Suits episode involved Rachel and Mike moving to Seattle for Rachel's new job after their wedding.

    15. Paget Brewster left Criminal Minds after Season 7, but returned as a guest star in two seasons and was even a series regular again for the final four seasons.

    Emily hugging Spencer and JJ and saying she came back to help out after Hotch left
    CBS

    Originally, Paget opted to leave Criminal Minds in order to pursue other projects, which included a comedy pilot in 2012. Then, during Season 12, Paget returned to the show as a series regular once again. At the time, executive producer and showrunner Erica Messer said, "The BAU family has definitely missed her, on screen and off. Having her back on set has been great, it’s like she never left."

    16. However, Mandy Patinkin, who starred as Jason Gideon in Criminal Minds, never came back to the show after he left in 2007.

    Spencer reading a letter from Gideon that details Gideon wanting to find what he believes in again
    CBS

    Mandy's sudden departure early in Season 3 came as a shock to fans of this beloved series. At the time, Mandy said he left the series due to the subject matter, which often included very violent crimes. He continued, saying, "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."

    17. Emily Bett Rickards, who starred as Felicity Smoak on Arrow, left after Season 7, but she did come back during the series finale in 2020.

    Felicity saying she thought the afterlife would look different and Oliver saying it's his mom's office because that's when he first saw her
    The CW

    Emily decided to step away from Arrow¬†to focus on theater and other projects. Talking about ending Felicity's story before the final season, Emily said, "I feel like Felicity has done her time. We knew this was coming for awhile ‚ÄĒ for over a year ‚ÄĒ so the whole thing is exactly what we wanted to happen."

    18. But Arden Cho, who starred on Teen Wolf for 44 episodes, left the series in 2016 and didn't return when it wrapped in 2017.

    Kira telling Scott, "I made a deal with them. I need to. And it's not for my parents. It's not for you. It's for me"
    MTV

    Teen Wolf Season 5 ended with Kira being left in the desert to repay her debt to the Skinwalkers, so it was somewhat shocking when Arden announced her departure ahead of Season 6. In a video, Arden said, "I loved my experience on Teen Wolf. I love the cast and crew. It’s been an amazing almost 3-and-a-half years."

    19. Milo Ventimiglia exited Gilmore Girls as a series regular in 2003, but returned to play Jess in several episodes after, and he even appeared in the Netflix revival.

    Jesse telling Rory "I love you" and then Jess looking at Rory during the Netflix revival
    Warner Bros

    Milo left the show after the episode "Those Are Strings, Pinocchio," and almost got his own Jess spinoff series too. While reuniting on Scott Patterson's podcast, Milo talked about if he'd ever revisit Jess again. He said, "The thing is this, I can't ever get away from it. For me, knowing that like you, Lauren [Graham], Alexis [Bledel], and probably just about everybody else in the show would show up, and on top of it, it'd probably be Dan [Palladino] and Amy [Sherman-Palladino] there writing their asses off, it's like, yeah, why wouldn't I?"

    20. Meanwhile, Adam Brody played the beloved Dave Rygalski on Gilmore Girls during Season 3, and after he left, he didn't return for the rest of the show's run.

    Dave telling Mrs. Kim he wants to take Lane to the prom and Lane smiling
    Warner Bros

    Adam only starred in nine episodes of Gilmore Girls, but he made a lasting impression on fans. Of course, he left the series to go star as Seth Cohen on The O.C. Talking about his Gilmore Girls role, Adam said, "It was a joy. It was phenomenally well written. In hindsight, almost 20 years later, I realize that’s still some of the best written stuff I’ve ever gotten to do and the rarity of it."

    21. Alfred Enoch's Wes Gibbins was shockingly killed off during How to Get Away With Murder Season 4, but he returned for two episodes afterward, including the series finale.

    Christopher saying, "This is Criminal Law 100, or as my mentor liked to call it how to get away with murder"
    ABC

    Finding out Wes was the one who was under the sheet during Season 4 was one of the biggest OMG moments from this show. Speaking about his departure at the time, Alfred said he found out "about a month and a half" before the episode aired, and he was the one to break the news to the rest of the cast. While Wes died, Alfred did return during the final season to play Wes and Laurel's adult son.

    22. But Jason Ralph's out-of-the-blue departure from The Magicians during the Season 4 finale marked the last time he was seen on the series.

    The Magicians cast singing Take On Me and Quentin crying
    SYFY

    Quentin's death in the Season 4 finale caught every single fan of this show off guard, especially considering he was the main character. In fact, Jason kept this massive secret from his fellow cast members for a year. The show even gave the rest of the cast a fake scene at the end of the episode, where it looked like Quentin survived after everyone mourned him during the bonfire. 

    23. Nina Dobrev left The Vampire Diaries after starring as Elena Gilbert in six seasons. Then, she returned for the series finale in 2017.

    Damon and Elena reuniting and kissing during the series finale
    The CW

    After departing The Vampire Diaries before Season 7, Nina made her return as Elena during the final episode when Elena woke up from her magical coma. At the time, Nina announced it on Instagram. She captioned a photo of her script on Instagram with, "I know it's Thursday, but this is not a TBT."

    24. But Seth Green, who starred as Oz on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, left the series in 2000, and never appeared again.

    Oz leaning into Tara and saying, "I tried to warn you" as Willow watches
    Warner Bros

    Seth's last episode was during the Season 4 finale, which featured Oz appearing in Willow's dream and telling Tara he warned her about Willow. Talking about how passionate the Buffy fandom still is, Seth said, "We have had this incredible experience of adults who watched the show while it was on currently, now showing it to their own kids and sharing it with their family, which I think is really cool."

    25. Jennifer Morrison decided to leave Once Upon a Time after Season 6; however, she returned for the series finale in Season 7.

    Emma apologizing for being late to Regina's coronation and saying she wasn't going to miss it
    ABC

    Jennifer said one of the reasons she decided to leave was because she had gone from House to How I Met Your Mother to Once Upon a Time and felt like she needed a break from the long hours a TV show demanded, and she wanted to "not be living away from home." Alongside Jennifer, Josh Dallas, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jared Gilmore, Emilie de Ravin, and Rebecca Mader also left at the same time and then returned during the final season.

    26. And finally, Matt McGorry starred in 25 episodes of Orange Is the New Black before he left during Season 3 and never returned.

    Bennett crying in his truck and leaving a crib on the side of the road
    Netflix

    One of the biggest unresolved TV character arcs has to be when Bennett suddenly left OITNB and we never saw him again. Speaking about Bennett's final episode, Matt said, "Part of me would have wished for death over the way that it happened. Because as someone who's a fan of obviously the show itself and Daya's relationship with Bennett, it was pretty heartbreaking to me how he ended up leaving."

    We can't fit everyone into one post, so tell us which other actors departed a show and returned OR left a show and never came back in the comments below!