- Actors often choose to leave TV shows due to the need to pursue other projects and passions.
- The departure of a major character can impact the quality and chemistry of a show.
- Some characters are written out or killed off to accommodate the actor’s departure or the end of their contract.
When a TV show continues for many seasons, it can become difficult to hold on to its core cast, but characters and actors need to move on, and many do. When an actor books a successful TV show, it can end up being years of their lives working on a single series, with little time to pursue other projects and passions. Just like anyone else in employment, some actors choose to move on and leave a series after a few years, while others are written out to best suit the story.
However, when a major character from a series leaves, it can impact the quality of the show and change the chemistry of the remaining cast. Some TV shows can thrive beyond an actor choosing to depart, but not every show is so successful in reformatting and adapting to major character departures. Despite this, more often than not, there is a firm reason why actors left the role, or the character disappeared from the show altogether.
10 Cisco Ramon – The Flash
Time Was Up For Vibe
Cisco Ramon was a beloved member of Team Flash from the beginning of CW’s The Flash. Thanks to his genius intellect and eventually developing his vibe powers, Cisco was an integral part of the team. However, during season 7, the actor, Carlos Valdes, felt the need to step away from the role and take a break. He has since returned to acting, but when the season 9 series finale rolled around, he was unfortunately tied up with a busy schedule and unable to return to close out the show (via Screen Rant).
9 Rick Grimes – The Walking Dead
Setting Up A Spin-Off
Rick Grimes, played by actor Andrew Lincoln, was written out of The Walking Dead in the first half of season 9. Rick is picked up by a mysterious helicopter which has since been the source of much speculation, but he does not return to the main series after this moment. As the show progressed, his wife, Michonne, also decided to go after Rick and try to find him. Neither came back, but they are both set to appear in a spin-off series, The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live.
8 TV Shows That Abandoned Their Original Premise & Were Better For It
TV shows risk everything by ditching their original premises. It often ends poorly, but sometimes new ideas are just what a show needs to stay fresh.
8 Eric Foreman – That ’70s Show
Teaching In Africa
Topher Grace, who plays Eric Foreman in That ’70s Show, decided to move on to work in film towards the end of the show’s run, thanks to opportunities like landing a major role in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. However, despite his season 7 departure, Grace did return for the finale and concluded the series by getting back together with Donna. His absence was sorely missed throughout season 8, and the series was wrapped up and laid to rest once the season ended. However, Grace has since returned to cameo in the Netflix spin-off, That ’90s Show, so the legacy continues.
7 Matthew Crawley – Downton Abbey
Killed In A Terrible Accident
Downton Abbey enjoyed rave success throughout the series’ run. However, from the beginning of the series, there was one couple who stood out among the rest and captured fans’ attention; Matthew Crawley and his wife, Lady Mary. Through the first three seasons, their relationship is constantly in flux, but when they do tie the knot in season 3, Matthew dies a short time later due to a car accident. The actor, Dan Stevens, had come to the end of his initial contract and simply wanted to explore new opportunities, which meant the character had to be written off (via Screen Rant).
6 Charlie Harper – Two And A Half Men
A Brutal Off-Screen Death
The falling out between actor Charlie Sheen, and creator of Two and a Half Men, Chuck Lorre, was widely publicized when it happened. However, the two appear to have patched things up since with a new collaboration on the way (via Deadline). In the case of Two and a Half Men, Charlie was unceremoniously written off the show, never to appear again. Charlie’s gruesome death, being hit by a train in Paris, was revealed in the season nine premiere, and the show continued for three more seasons with Ashton Kutcher replacing him for the rest of the series.
Death By Dehydration
Chevy Chase ran into some issues with the cast and crew of Community which led to him being fired ahead of season 5 (via Screen Rant). During season 5, his character was revealed to have joined a cult and filled several containers with his own seed… This led to Pierce Hawthorne tragically dying, and his last effects were then delivered to his friends and distributed. The character often clashed with the other members of the study group, and he was the least self-aware, so his absence was slightly less sorely missed.
10 TV Show Storylines That Were Completely Abandoned
Some TV shows set up storylines that appear promising and important, only to drop them at a later date with no clarification about what happened.
4 Elena Gilbert – The Vampire Diaries
Enchanted Into A Deep Sleep
The Vampire Diaries ran for 8 seasons, but during season 6, the central protagonist, Elena Gilbert, was placed into a coma-like enchantment to extend her friend Bonnie’s life. Nina Dobrev, the actress behind the character, had grown tired of playing a teenager, so the writers cleverly included this element at the end of season 6, allowing Dobrev to pursue other things while the show continued with Stefan and Damon as the leads (via CBR). Dobrev did return to appear in just the final episode of season 8 for the series finale, giving Stefan and Elena a happy ever after.
3 Michael Scott – The Office
Michael Wanted A Family
Michael Scott was the dysfunctional manager of a mid-range paper company in The Office. The character relied on recognition and appreciation from his staff, but due to his quirks, things didn’t always go according to plan. However, Michael had a significant arc on the show and when it came time for him to leave in season 7, Michael Scott got one of the best send-offs on TV. The Office then tried to find someone else to fill the role of manager, but ultimately, the series wrapped up with season 9, and Michael made a brief uncredited cameo appearance in the finale.
2 John “JD” Dorian – Scrubs
The Final Series Was A Secret Sequel
Season 8 of Scrubs concluded with a two-part episode titled, “My Finale.” The episodes were a beautiful send-off for the beloved character of JD, played by Zach Braff, but when the show continued and aired a ninth season, with JD appearing in a handful of the first episodes and then disappearing, the series lost momentum. The final season was set up with a new format and new core cast, with some of the former cast returning, but it would have done better if it was set up as a spin-off, rather than a complete overhaul of the main series.
1 Emma Swan – Once Upon A Time
Emma Swan Sort Of Left
Once Upon a Time ran for seven seasons, weaving together fairytales, mythology, and classic children’s stories before finally wrapping up. After season 6, the star of the show, Jennifer Morrison, decided to leave Once Upon a Time and pursue other creative endeavors. This resulted in the show being canceled and set to end with season 7. In order to give Emma Swan a proper goodbye, Morrison chose to return for three episodes during the final season, but her absence made a big difference, with the show opting to switch focus to the former villain, Regina Mills.