Television shows don’t always go as the writers, directors, and producers behind them planned. Sometimes the storyline takes them on a path of its own, other times an actor’s likableness and/or talent changes the course of the show, and more often than not the die hard fans dictate the plot’s development. The story direction, the talent and likability of an actor, or the fans can make a room full of writers tear up a completed script and decide to start all over from scratch. The following ten memorable and beloved TV characters survived their planned television “deaths” and prove that nothing in television is ever completely written in stone.
10. Andy Dwyer – Parks and Recreation
Thanks to starring in hit films like Jurassic World and Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt is arguably on the biggest movie stars today. However, there was a time when the small time actor was more than happy to take a guest starring part on the first TV project from SNL alumni, Amy Poehler. Pratt’s Parks and Recreation character, Andy Dwyer, was originally supposed to serve as a device for Anne, played by Rashida Jones, to meet Poehler’s character, Leslie Knope. Dwyer was meant to be Anne’s boyfriend. He would break his legs causing Anne and Leslie to meet and become friends, and as a result, Anne would dump Andy. The audience would never see Andy again after he was dumped. While Anne did breakup with Andy, he never went away – keeping his character alive for the show. According to creator Greg Daniels, after meeting Prat the show runners were so impressed with him that they completely rewrote the character’s arc. Although, Andy Dwyer wasn’t actually supposed to die, in television having a character written off is the same as killing the character.
9. Nurse Carol Hathaway – ER
Three-time Emmy winning actress Julianna Margulies portrayed the character, Nurse Carol Hathaway in the longtime running series, ER. From 1994 – 2009, the show aired for fifteen seasons. Surprisingly, the character of Nurse Hathaway was originally not supposed to survive her suicide attempt in the pilot episode of season one. Luckily, that scenario didn’t test well with audiences. The producers brought the character back to life and gave Margulies the chance to star in an additional one hundred and thirty-five episodes and earn an Emmy for her portrayal of Hathaway. Without Carol surviving episode one, we would have never got to witness the incredible romance between her and George Clooney‘s character, Dr. Doug Ross – and that would have been a real shame.
8. Angel – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The hit television Buffy the Vampire slayer aired for seven seasons from 1996-2003 and went on to become a cultural phenomenon. The show brought us unforgettable characters like Buffy Summers played by Sarah Michelle Gellar and her on again, off again, good again, evil again, vampire boyfriend, Angel played by David Boreanz. In season two’s finale, Angel was supposed to be killed off for good. However, the fans loved him so much that creator Joss Whedon found a way to bring him back. He returned to life in season three with a soul. However, in the season three finale he once again left Buffy behind, but this time to star in his own spin-off series, Angel. Angel lasted for five seasons and throughout the run of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, the two television shows had several crossover episodes.
7. Klaus Mikaelson – The Vampire Diaries
Joseph Morgan’s villainous character, Klaus Mikaelson, has his own spin-off now, but at one point he almost met his demise on the television show, The Vampire Diaries. Co-creator Julie Plec admitted that the character of Klaus was supposed to die at the end of season three. However, the show runners thought Joseph Morgan was just far too good to kill off. Plec revealed to TVLine, “When you have actors who are that good, making such a distinct mark in the roles that they are playing, you have to let your storytelling evolve and wrap around that a little bit. We collectively decided around the middle of season three that we weren’t done with Klaus — or Joseph.” In 2013, Klaus got his own spin-off show, The Originals.
6. Boyd Crowder – Justified
Walter Goggins’ character Boyd Crowder dies in the Elmore Leonard short story that the television show Justified is based on. However, producers opted to deviate from the original plan when they saw how test audiences responded to Walter Goggins’ charismatic performance. The show aired for six seasons from 2010-2015, and in the end, Justified could still not find a way to end Boyd Crowder’s life. Executive producer, Graham Yost told TV Guide, “I still couldn’t see fit to have my hero Raylan Givens end Boyd’s life even in the series finale.”
5. Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead premiered in 2010 and continues to break records with its incredible ratings and viewership. Although the series takes place during a zombie apocalypse, it’s the fully developed and ever-changing complex characters that carry the story forward. In season three, when the zombies raided the prison, the character of Carol Peletier (played by Melissa McBride) was supposed to be killed off. However, the show’s creators thought that her character was just starting to become interesting, so they opted to kill off T-Dog instead of Carol. From a battered wife to one of the strongest and most bada** characters on the show, Carol has come along way.
4. Spike – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The character of Spike played by James Marsters is an example of a villain turned fan favorite. Spike was supposed to get the stake in season two and be gone for good; however creator Joss Whedon opted to keep him around. Spike stayed on the show for all seven seasons and even became an important love interest for Buffy in the later seasons. Marsters later revealed to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “I was poor, and I did not want to be killed off. I was of the opinion Joss could make me do whatever he wanted me to do, but how the audience reacted to me — that was up to me.” Marsters did just that and became a fan favorite of the show, staying alive until the very end.
3. Jack Shephard – Lost
Matthew Fox‘s character Jack Shephard in the show Lost created by J.J. Abrams, survived the entire series. Jack was a main character of the show, so his survival is expected of audiences. Originally, Jack was not supposed to survive the pilot and was supposed to die halfway through solely to shock the audience so they never knew what was coming next. The producers decided that if the audience became too attached to Jack during the first episode, and then he was killed off, they might resent the show. Instead, they opted to save their shocking main character death for Boone Carlyle, played by Ian Somerhalder. Jack went on to lead the group of survivors for the next six seasons.
2. Jesse Pinkman – Breaking Bad
Jesse Pinkman played by Aaron Paul in arguably the best show of all time, Breaking Bad, wasn’t supposed to make it past season one. Paul didn’t learn that until he was invited for lunch with creator Vince Gilligan. Gilligan informed Paul that they had intended to kill off his character but decided not to because he loved the chemistry between Walter and Jesse. Jesse Pinkman quickly became a fan favorite. During filming of the second and third seasons, Paul feared that his character would be killed off at anytime. He told NPR that his cast mates would joke about his character’s demise. “Bryan would come up and give me a hug and say, ‘I’m not going to say anything but it was such a pleasure working with you. It’s been an amazing past year-and-a-half, and you have a huge career ahead of you,” Paul revealed. Jesse Pinkman went on to survive all five seasons and Aaron Paul earned three Primetime Emmy’s for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series.
1. Steve Urkel – Family Matters
When you think of the 90s show Family Matters, you think of Steve Urkel. After all, Steve Urkel is Family Matters. Shockingly, Urkel was originally intended to just be a guest star. The iconic and beloved character played by Jaleel White appeared for the first time in episode twelve of season one. Urkel goes on a date with Laura, she rejects him for being a nerd, and that was supposed to be the end of Steve Urkel. However, the show’s studio audience absolutely loved the character during taping. By season two, Steve Urkel became a series regular and eventually, Family Matters became less about the Winslow family and more about the strange kid next door, Steve Urkel.