Nothing lasts forever, and that includes our favorite TV shows. That’s easy enough to accept, but it can be difficult to get past the sudden departure of a beloved character.
A successful TV show turns into a multi-year commitment for any actor. It can be difficult for them to stay with it when better opportunities, creative differences, or other issues come up.
The actors may not have it in them to keep going as long as the showrunners want. They may even have to quit.
Keep watching to learn about actors who demanded to be written out of their shows.
Josh Charles played Will Gardner in The Good Wife. His character’s death seemed sudden, but it turned out that it was planned well in advance.
He’d been considering leaving the show for a year before his contract expired after season four and he decided not to renew it. He admitted during a CBS screening in 2014 that he still loved the show but was feeling burnt out and had to move on.
Dean Norris asked Breakin Bad’s creator Vince Gilligan to kill off his character in the first half of its fifth season. It was split into two sets of eight episodes, and he died in the first half. This gave Dean more time to work on other projects, including a comedy pilot.
Lance Sweets was one of the most beloved characters on Bones, and he stayed around for 10 seasons. The actor who played him asked to be killed off when an opportunity to direct the National Lampoon’s Vacation remake came along.
Derek Shepherd died in a sudden car accident in season 11 of Grey’s Anatomy. The reason was kept quiet so that it seemed as sudden as possible.
Grey’s Anatomy was one of the longest-running shows on TV, and Patrick Dempsey was ready to move on. He wanted to try other projects and starred in Bridget Jones’s Baby soon after.
T.R. Knight played George O’Malley on Grey’s Anatomy. He stayed on for five years and then began to have a “breakdown in communication” with showrunner Shonda Rhimes. He asked to leave, feeling he couldn’t trust any answer she gave about his character.
George Clooney was one of the first ‘hot doctors” on TV as Dr. Doug Ross on ER. His dreamy presence on ER couldn’t last forever, and he was written out at the end of season six. He wanted to pursue a film career, and that may have been one of the best decisions he ever made.
Another sudden medical drama death was the loss of Dr. Joel Goran on Saving Hope. He pulled out a bomb from a patient and died when it exploded.
Actor Daniel Gilles asked for the change to lessen his busy schedule. He was filming Saving Hope and The Originals at the same time. He made 40-42 episodes a year instead of the average 18-22. He was filming in Toronto and needed more time with his wife and two children in Los Angeles.
Kal asked to leave House for a new opportunity but one like few other actors would ever see. He was offered a place in President Obama’s administration. He had an “incredible time” on the show but couldn’t pass the new job up. His character Dr. Lawrence Kutner was killed off in season five.
Steve Carrell joked in an interview that it would be his last year as Michael Scott on The Office. The response he got made him seriously consider the idea.
He resigned from the show after season seven. Fans assumed he wanted to pursue a film career, but that wasn’t the whole truth. His contract was up, and NBC didn’t offer up any negotiations to keep him on, so he decided to walk out.
This Downton Abbey star left after three years in 2012. He was optioned for three more but wanted to pursue other roles. His character Matthew Crawley died in a car crash, and he says he’s “still apologizing” for ruining fans’ Christmas with the scene.
Rob Lowe’s career got a boost when he began playing Sam Seaborn on The West Wing. He was one of the most popular characters, but there was one major problem. He only made $75,000 per episode while Martin Sheen made $300,000.
He left the show in 2002 after three years and 16 episodes when this disparity caused a pay dispute. He thanks the producers for letting him leave gracefully and doesn’t regret being on the show, saying it was a part of television history that he’ll never forget.
Connie Britton began considering leaving Nashville when it switched networks from ABC to CMT. She began feeling “inner conflict” halfway through the fifth season. Her character Rayna James was killed in a car crash but is seen in flashbacks in the final season.
Donald Glover landed one of his first major TV roles as Troy Barnes in the sitcom Community, but his music career took off soon after. Even his castmate Danny Pudi realized he had talent when he heard him on set and realized “oh, you’re gone.”
Troy Barnes was written off after five seasons with his character going around the world on a boat. A later episode hinted that he was captured by pirates. Donald is now an award-winning musician and showrunner.
Andrew Lincoln played Rick Grimes, a central character on The Walking Dead. He’d been there since the beginning of the hit zombie show, and fans were surprised when he was killed in season nine.
He’d asked to be written off to spend more time with his family. Fans were pleased when the ambiguous ending his character was given allowed him to return in the spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead.
Like and subscribe for more on the progression of your favorite TV. Keep watching for more on actors who demanded to be written out of their shows.
For a normally unemotional character, Sheldon Cooper was the heart of The Big Bang Theory. It earned Jim Parsons a Golden Globe and an Emmy. It also made him one of the highest-paid TV actors of all time, but he was willing to give it up
He asked for Season 12 to be his last. CBS tried to get him to stay and even offered him a $50 million contract for 2 more years of work. He declined the generous offer, and the show ended when he left.
Mandy Patinkin was upset with the way his character, Jason Gideon, was handled on the show Criminal Minds. When his creative differences with the showrunners couldn’t be solved, he stopped showing up to work. The writers had no choice but to have him shot to death off-screen.
Actors often have their own opinions on how long a show should go, and David Duchovny always thought that five seasons of The X-Files was enough. He ended up staying for seven but decided to quit after that. The writers, true to the show’s themes, had his character Fox Mulder abducted by aliens.
Chad Michael Murray
Chad Michael Murray played Lucas Scott, the main character of One Tree Hill. He almost stayed with it until the end, but he left when he couldn’t negotiate a pay raise with the studio and didn’t appear in season seven.
The final season of That 70’s Show went on without one of its major characters, Eric Foreman. After six seasons, he was written out by going on a yearlong trip to Africa.
Topher Grace was ready to move from TV to film. He’d already landed a part as Eddie Brock in Spider-Man 3 and wanted to roll with the change in his career path.
Alyssa shined as the lead in the drama Mistress, and fans were sorry not to see her in season three. The reason was a family affair. She wrote on her website that moving to Vancouver, Canada to film wasn’t worth it because it would force her to be away from her family. In her own words, “being a mother and wife comes first.”
Shannen Doherty and Madeline Mantock
The role of Shannen Doherty in this witch drama almost seems to be cursed. Shannen Doherty played her in the original run and asked to be written out after three seasons. Madeline Mantock did the same thing in the reboot.
There was reportedly drama on the original Charmed set, but not on the reboot. Madeline called it an “immense privilege” to play the part and that it was a “difficult decision to leave.”
Henry Blake was part of M*A*S*H, one of the most popular 70’s sitcoms of all time. He was killed off in the season three finale.
The actor who portrayed him wanted to build a name for himself outside of the show. He realized that no one knew him outside of his character and that he needed to take on other roles to develop a full career.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Randy Taylor was a popular character on Home Improvement but left before its final season to go on an environmental study program in Costa Rica. It confused fans but mirrored the desires of actor Jonathan Taylor Thomas.
He explained that he’d been working since he was eight years old. He needed to experience the world and go to school like a “normal” child. Leaving the show gave him a chance to do that.
What’s the most shocked you’ve ever been by a character being written out of a show? Let us know in the comments.