When a favorite character is written out of a TV show, it can be frustrating for invested fans. But when the behind-the-scenes reason for the character’s sudden departure is revealed… that can be even more frustrating. For instance, these 20 actors all left their shows early, and the reasons why form an interesting view of what happens in writers’ rooms. In fact, some of these stories could make for pretty interesting TV episodes in their own right.
20. Columbus Short
Columbus Short played series regular Harrison Wright in ABC drama Scandal from 2012 to 2014. However, he’d probably have remained on the show longer if not for his own scandals. Indeed, after real-life incidents involving assault, domestic violence and drug abuse, Short’s on-screen alter ego was murdered.
19. David Yost
The story behind David Yost – a.k.a Billy Cranston/Blue Power Ranger – leaving Power Rangers Zeo is a disturbing one. In 2010 the homosexual Yost alleged that he was “called f*ggot one too many times” by crew on the franchise that he fronted from 1993 to 1996. So, after his character dropping out of the story, Yost, so he later claimed, tried to change his sexuality with conversion therapy. Yost’s doing fine now – but his story definitely puts the ever-popular TV show in a new light.
18. Maggie Roswell
Every true Simpsons fan remembers the episode where Maude Flanders dies. But it didn’t need to happen! Apparently, actress Maggie Roswell, who’d worked on the show voicing Maude and others from 1990 to 1999, had her request for paid travel expenses turned down. Therefore, she quit – and that T-shirt cannon hit poor old Maude as a result.
17. Mandy Patinkin
Patinkin joined Criminal Minds in 2005 as lead character Jason Gideon. But – as he explained to New York magazine in 2012 – he soon found the show’s violence against women “very destructive to [his] soul and [his] personality.” So he quit after just two seasons, leaving notes explaining his decision to his fellow cast members. It might not have been great for the show, but it is an impressive demonstration of putting principles before profit.
16. Chevy Chase
Star Chevy Chase had a vicious feud with Community creator Dan Harmon, publicly dissed the show and had on-set rants that involved racial slurs. He left the series “by mutual agreement,” and his character, Pierce Hawthorne, was written out in 2012. So there you have it.
15. Kal Penn
Kal Penn quit the show House for a very different house – the White House. Yes, after joining the medical drama as Lawrence Kutner in 2007, Penn had to quit in 2009 to go and work as a liaison officer under the Obama administration. So as Lawrence Kutner died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Penn got to start a new career.
14. Northern Calloway
Sesame Street continues to be one of the most beloved children’s shows of all time, but sadly there was tragedy behind the scenes. In 1971 Northern Calloway joined the show as David, and he would hold the role for 18 years. However, as the show went on, Calloway’s mental health gradually disintegrated. Then he bit someone in 1989 and was later written out of the show. Sadly, Calloway died of exhaustive psychosis, aged just 41.
13. Taylor Momsen
Beginning in 2007, Taylor Momsen played Jenny Humphry in Gossip Girl. That was until her volatile behavior became too much for her co-stars to handle. For instance, guest star Tim Gunn called her a “diva” and a “brat.” Gradually, then, Momsen’s appearances on the show reduced – until she ended up on “indefinite hiatus” in 2010. She did show up briefly in the last ever episode, but that was it.
12. Steve Burns
For years, poor Steve Burns of Blue’s Clues had to put up with constant outlandish rumors about why he left the show, which he fronted between 1996 and 2002. But the truth is much more ordinary, according to him. “I left the show because it was just simply time to go. I was pretty much playing a boyish, older-brotherish kind of character on the show. I was getting older; losing my hair,” Burns told The Huffington Post in 2016.
11. Scarlett Pomers
Scarlett Pomers played Kyra Hart on Reba from 2001 to 2007. However, she missed the show’s fifth season because she was seeking treatment for anorexia. In fact, at the time her weight had plummeted to just 73 pounds. Luckily, the treatment was successful, and when Pomers returned in the sixth season, it was to applause.
10. Tommy Chong
Fiction met cold, hard reality on That ’70s Show. Yes, Tommy Chong, who had played stoner Leo on the show since 1999, was suddenly arrested in 2003 for distributing bongs via the internet. In fact, a judge sentenced him to nine months in jail, seemingly more to make a statement than anything else. Therefore, Chong missed seasons five and six, though he returned for the final two.
9. Janet Hubert
Janet Hubert played Aunt Vivan on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air from 1990 to 1993 before being fired and replaced with Daphne Reid. At first, people thought it was because she had gotten pregnant in violation of her contract. However, it was actually because she and Will Smith didn’t get along. “Hubert wanted the show to be The Aunt Viv of Bel-Air Show,” Smith told a radio station in 1993. And, decades later, they’re still feuding.
8. Michael O’Hare
Michael O’Hare had to leave Babylon 5 to seek treatment for his mental health problems. Luckily, the matter was handled with sensitivity. O’Hare starred as Jeffery Sinclair in the first season in 1994, but he was written out of the next two and appeared only as a guest actor. Show creator J. Michael Straczynski did not disclose the real reason why until after O’Hare’s death in 2012.
7. Robert Downey Jr.
Right after getting out of prison in 2000, Robert Downey Jr. joined the cast of Ally McBeal. And while it seemed like a new start for him, it just wasn’t to be. In fact, the following year police found him wandering around Culver City without shoes and high on cocaine. The subsequent arrest caused the showrunners to write his character, Larry, out last minute. It therefore took a good few more years before Downey Jr. got his actual new start.
6. Isaac Hayes
In 2006, after almost a decade of being the voice of Chef in South Park, Isaac Hayes quit and apparently cited the show’s intolerance of Scientology as the reason. Soon after, the South Park showrunners took revenge by subjecting his character to an incredibly gruesome animated death.
5. Lisa Robin Kelly
From 1998 to 2003, Lisa Robin Kelly played Laurie Forman on That ’70s Show. Then, suddenly, her character left to “attend beauty school.” In truth, she’d been written out of the show because of her drinking and addiction issues. Sadly, these only got worse and worse – until she died in a rehab facility in 2013.
4. Jay Thomas
Jay Thomas joined Cheers in season five as Eddie, boyfriend to Rhea Perlman’s Carla. But, unfortunately, he couldn’t resist mocking Perlman’s looks on his radio show, and it seems this was too much for the producers. People have disputed the story over the years, but bear in mind that Thomas’ character wasn’t just put on a bus. No, a Zamboni ran over and killed him.
3. Thomas Gibson
In August 2016 ABC and CBS studios released a statement explaining, “Thomas Gibson has been dismissed from Criminal Minds. Creative details for how the character’s exit will be addressed in the show will be announced at a later date.” However, it turned out that he’d actually assaulted staff members more than once. Consequently, his character, Aaron Hotchner, ended up in witness protection that he’s probably not returning from.
2. Yvette Nicole Brown
Yvette Nicole Brown played Shirley on Community ever since its 2009 inception, and she seemed to enjoy every minute of it. But, unfortunately, circumstances still made her leave. Yes, in 2014 she exited the show to care for her father. “The idea of being away 16 hours a day for five months, I couldn’t do it. It was a difficult decision for me to make, but I had to choose my dad,” she said.
1. Selma Blair
Given a choice between Charlie Sheen and Selma Blair, you’d choose the latter, right? Not so for the producers of Anger Management. In fact, in 2013, after just one year of the show, Sheen and Blair fell out, with him threatening to leave the show if she didn’t. Therefore, she did.