Taking a risk is not something many people like to do. What if there’s a lot at stake, such as your career or income? Leaving those things to chance is like placing a $100,000 bet on a hand of blackjack with two cards totalling eighteen. Should you play it safe and hope the dealer busts, or go for it and pray you get a card that will give you 21?
As scary at that sounds, there are people who could care less about the outcome after taking a risk, such as the celebrities below who decided to leave their hit television show. The reasons range from wanting to pursue other career opportunities, not wanting to deal with sexual harassment any longer, or simply getting fed up with being a part of the program. Regardless of what inspired them to leave, the outcome is different for each person–some sky rocketed to fame and fortune while others stayed out of the limelight.
Here’s a list of 10 celebrities who left their hit television show right at its peak.
10. Janet Louise Hubert
Actress Janet Louise Hubert played Vivian Banks on the hit sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air from 1990-1993. She allegedly left the show after she violated her contract by becoming pregnant. However, it wasn’t a secret that Janet never got along with the show’s star, Will Smith. Years later, Janet said in an interview that the contract negotiations with NBC didn’t go well because they expected her to turn down other work outside of the show, resulting in a huge income loss for her. She also went on to say, “It was a negotiation that should have come back like most do. We were a very successful show and I felt like I was an integral part of that, and felt valuable, but you cannot feel valuable in Hollywood.”
Since the show has ended, the cast has reunited multiple times, but Janet is never present. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air lasted until 1996 and received critical acclaim as well as high ratings throughout the world. The show has also had multiple syndication runs, most recently airing on TBS. Since leaving the show, Janet hasn’t been able to work as much as she would have liked due to medical issues. According to Radar Online, the actress filed a lawsuit in 2014 against the American Federation of Television and Radio Acts and the AFTRA Health Fund. She was suffering from “intense spasms” and “strange chattering”, which her insurer refused to cover. She hopes to reunite with Will Smith and the cast one day, although that seems like a long shot according to many reports.
9. Dave Chappelle
In 2005, Dave Chappelle decided to leave in the middle of the third season of his comedy series–Chappelle’s Show. It was a smash hit on Comedy Central and he was even offered a $50 million contract to continue doing more seasons. However, after Dave went on a trip to Africa, he decided not to accept the contract. It was unclear to his fans and the media why the funny man turned his back on so much money.
Years later, Dave started to open up about his decision and told People Magazine: “I never stopped being onstage. What I did was step off of the main stage.” He also confessed that he wanted to spend more time with his wife and two kids. Dave is now doing more stand-up comedy and sold out nine shows earlier this year in New York City.
8. Steve Carell
The Office is an American television show that aired on NBC from 2005-2013. It was an adaptation of the BBC series, which has the same exact name. The show was a smash hit after the first season and eventually became the top rated scripted series on the network, with Steve Carell as the star. The Office also received numerous awards and an Emmy in 2006 for best Outstanding Comedy Series.
Some say Steve decided to leave his role of the quirky boss in The Office to focus on film roles. However, in an interview with USA Today, the actor makes it clear that having more family time was the reason why he left. Shortly after leaving the show, Steve went on a few trips with his wife and two kids, Elisabeth and John. He mentioned that it felt great to spend Spring Break with them since he was never able to in the past. Currently, Steve is focusing on his film career, but still remains in contact with many people from The Office.
7. Dan Stevens
Actor Dan Stevens left Downton Abbey, the most-watched series in PBS history, at the end of season three to pursue other career opportunities. Fans of the show and even its creator begged him to stay, but it was no use. Dan was already preparing to star in a play on broadway and also the movie, Summer in February, which came out in 2013. The audience was heartbroken when Dan’s character on the show, Matthew Crawley, died so suddenly; even his wife couldn’t bare to see him go. Dan said in an interview with The Telegraph about making the tough decision to move on: “It is a very monopolising job. So there is a strange sense of liberation at the same time as great sadness because I am very, very fond of the show and always will be.”
6. Christopher Meloni
Christopher Meloni played the hard-nosed detective, Elliot Stabler, on Law & Order : SVU for thirteen years. He starred in over 270 episodes and refused to do more after a contract dispute. NBC didn’t make proper adjustments to the agreement, so Christopher decided to leave with the possibility of coming back to do a guest appearance.
Since leaving the show, the 53-year-old has stayed busy. He appeared in the show True Blood as well as Veep. In terms of films, he had roles in 42 and Man of Steel. Plus, in 2014 he will appear in four more films. That’s not including the television work he’s also nailed down.
5. Tisha Campbell
Actress and singer Tisha Campbell is mainly known for her role in the FOX series, Martin, in which she played Gina Waters-Payne from 1992-1997. The show received great ratings and received numerous awards such as the “People’s Choice Award” for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1994.
Tisha left the show due to feeling harassed by her co-star, Martin Lawrence. They were romantically involved at one point, but the actress didn’t feel the same way Martin did about her. When she got engaged to Duane Martin, that’s when things became too much for her to handle and she ultimately made the decision to leave. Since departing from Martin, Tisha has been able to land more work, such as the role on the ABC sitcom My Wife and Kids.
4. T.R. Knight
T.R. Knight played Dr. George O’Malley on the hit drama series Grey’s Anatomy for five years, but things began to get rocky after he clashed with another actor and the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes. The actor also told Entertainment Weekly that he had an issue with his screen time being drastically cut during one season, feeling like it had to do with ‘coming out’ to the public.
T.R.’s decision to leave the hit show and high pay was one he felt was necessary, and has no regrets according to many reports. In an interview with The Daily News, the actor said: “There are a lot of people who would like to be in my position. But in the end, I need to be fulfilled in my work — that’s more important than the money.” Since leaving Grey’s Anatomy, T.R. was in the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 and also had a small role in the show The Good Wife.
3. Paula Abdul
Paula Abdul left the hit show American Idol in 2009 after a big contract dispute. She was apparently upset that she was making much less than Ryan Seacrest, the show’s host, who was able to land a $45 million contract deal. The Times reported that the singer rejected a 30 percent salary increase and multiyear deal worth more than $10 million. She then went to Twitter and told the world she was leaving American Idol after eight seasons. Since leaving the show, Paula has been on numerous television shows such as So You Think You Can Dance Australia, Live to Dance, and The X Factor.
2. Michael J. Fox
Michael J. Fox decided to quit the popular sitcom Spin City in 1998 after a four year run due to having Parkinson’s disease. He said in an interview, “I feel that right now my time and energy would be better spent with my family and working toward a cure for Parkinson’s disease.” Michael told People magazine that he was diagnosed with the degenerative neurological disorder in 1991. Although he had surgery to alleviate some of the tremors and also took medication, the actor wasn’t healthy enough to continue working on Spin City.
Since leaving the hit show, Michael played parts in Scrubs as well as Boston Legal. He also received an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his work in the television series Rescue Me. He’s also written several books and starred in his own show in 2013 called, The Michael J. Fox Show.
1. Rob Lowe
The West Wing is a political drama television series that aired on NBC from 1999-2006. The show received high ratings and numerous Emmys as well as Screen Actors Guild Awards. Lowe played Sam Seaborn from 1999-2003 and garnered numerous nominations for his part. However, he decided to leave The West Wing and later said on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2011 that he left because he didn’t feel respected. Also, the actor mentioned other lead characters receiving a raise when he wasn’t given one.
Rob continues to get work in television shows as well as movies. He also wrote a memoir and landed a recurring role on Californication. Also, he will star in the satirical thriller Pocket Listing in addition to a pilot for a single-camera comedy.