It’s unexpected and it hurts. You’re sitting at home attached to what you see on TV. Then boom! You’re left awestruck as your favorite character just dies. There was nothing in the show that let you foresee this happening. The writers made you feel that these characters were invincible and that the actor’s jobs were safe. Of course if you watch Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, you know what we’re talking about. But admit it, you still feel betrayed when it happens. What if this betrayal is not the fault of the producers, but the actors themselves? Then is the feeling of betrayal and shock worse? Sometimes it’s the actors that want to quit their jobs, and like many of us out there, they just can’t quit. Everyone else’s job is on the line. So the producers, writers and directors, have to figure things out before they let you go. For those actors loved by their peers, the death is traumatic and mind-blowing. If people hate you, well it is quite the opposite and your character’s death is going to be humiliating (or very satisfying). The article lists actors who asked to leave the show they were starring in, thus necessitating their character’s death.
15. Dean Norris: Hank Schrader, Breaking Bad
Everyone must die on Breaking Bad, after all it’s a show about immoral drug dealers. Having said this, no one wants the main characters to die. Whether they were good or bad or somewhere in between, we all wanted them to live. It was not just a shock, but a sad moment for all fans when Hank Shrader was killed. It turns out that Dean Norris wanted it this way and was begging for his death to come earlier. During the final year of Breaking Bad, Norris was under contract with CBS to star in Under the Dome. The actor didn’t think he could do both.
Dean tried to convince the show’s executives, telling them: “Would it be interesting if Hank died in the first eight?” The show’s hosts responded: ”No, we kind of need you for the last eight. We’ve been building that up for the last five years.” In the end Norris was glad they did. “It’s perfect,” Norris said. “Every little detail in that show is perfect.” Luckily the character didn’t get melted in a vat of acid and Dean was able to film both shows.
14. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje: Mr. Eko, Lost
His character wasn’t there for long on the show. Initially the actor was promised a grand role, but that never came about. Coupled with the fact that the actor’s parents died while he was on set, this prompted the actor to ask for his character to be killed so that he could go back home to London. Executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, respected Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s wishes and killed off his character at the beginning of season three. Nevertheless, they were sad to have him leave. “Our Mr. Eko plans very quickly derailed,” Lindelof explained. “Adewale’s unhappiness was almost instantaneous. On his second episode, he was expressing extreme dissatisfaction. Originally he was going to be someone who challenged Locke for the spiritual leadership of the castaways.”
13. Michelle Rodriguez: Ana Lucia, Lost
When Ana Lucia first appeared in Lost during season 2, everyone was expecting sparks to fly and predicting a power struggle between her and Jack. Both happened soon enough. Then she gets killed before the season ended, leaving audiences confused. It turns out that Michelle Rodriguez wanted it that way. According to the show’s producers, Damon Lindelof wanted a ”Latina woman who would be conceived as a romantic foil for Jack. We wanted her to be in her mid-thirties and be a detective from the LAPD.” So in comes Michelle Rodriguez who is perfect for the role. Problem was that when the producers met Michelle, she ”made it very clear in that meeting that she’s sort of a nomadic spirit and she did not want to commit to doing any more than [one season]. She wanted to do one kickass arc, as she described it.” The producers and writers complied and gave her exactly what she wanted.
12. McLean Stevenson: Lt. Col. Henry Blake, M*A*S*H
He was nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe, but after three seasons on what ended up being one of the most successful TV series ever, McLean Stevenson wanted out. Loretta Swit (who played Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan) said it was because he was tired of being in an ensemble and wanted to be “number one.” He decided to start his own show which was not successful. The actor later reminisced that, “When I left the show, the mistake was not in leaving,” he said a few years before he died, in a 1991 retrospective called Memories of MASH. “The mistake was that I thought everybody in America loved McLean Stevenson. That was not the case. Everybody loved Henry Blake. So if you go and do ‘The McLean Stevenson Show,’ nobody cares about McLean Stevenson.” The writers cleverly dispatched the character in a heart-wrenching moment that brought tears to viewers, as his plane got shot down over Japan on his way back home to the USA for good. At the time, this storyline was all too common for real-life veterans.
11. Jimmy Smits: Bobby Simone, NYPD Blue
Something eventful happened on one of Jimmy Smits‘ more recent shows that was almost as big as the day he left NYPD Blue. On the 15th Anniversary of Bobby Simone’s death, Ron Perlman‘s character, Clay Morrow, got killed on Sons of Anarchy, a show that Jimmy Smits recently starred in. The fact that there is an anniversary for the character’s death demonstrates just how big of a deal it was when Jimmy wanted out of his contract with NYPD Blue, in order to pursue bigger dreams. The death was never a surprise to fans, as it was announced five episodes prior to the eventful day. It was nevertheless a gut-wrenching ending, as the detective dies after a failed heart transplant.
10. Sigourney Weaver: Ellen Ripley, Alien
The entire Alien movie trilogy was so well received by critics and fans that executives wanted to continue the franchise forever and ever, with various spin-offs. Sigourney Weaver found out about this and just said, no way, I’m out. When asked if it was her idea to kill off Ellen Ripley at the 2015 London Film and Comic Con, Weaver responded, “Well, yes, because I heard that Fox was gonna do Alien vs. Predator. Which really depressed me because I was very proud of the movies.” Because of this Ellen Ripley’s death was written into the film. It was a heroic ending as Ripley sacrificed her life to save the planet from a Xenomorph. The success of the franchise had a lot to do with Sigourney, and it just was not the same without her.
9. Isaac Hayes: Chef, South Park
In 2006, Isaac Hayes wanted to leave South Park after voicing The Chef for nine years. He quit after being involved in a show that offended every faith and race imaginable. According to Isaac, “There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends, and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins,” Hayes said in a statement. “As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices.”
The show’s creators had a different view point, accusing the actor of hypocrisy. “This has nothing to do with intolerance and bigotry and everything to do with the fact that Isaac Hayes is a Scientologist and that we recently featured Scientology in an episode of South Park,” Matt Stone said. “In 10 years and over 150 episodes of South Park, Isaac never had a problem with the show making fun of Christians, Muslims, Mormons and Jews. He got a sudden case of religious sensitivity when it was his religion featured on the show. To bring the civil-rights struggle into this is just a non sequitur. Of course we will release Isaac from his contract and we wish him well.” The actor passed away two years later from a stroke.
8. Jill Hennessey: Assistant District Attorney Claire Kincaid, Law & Order
The show has been around forever, and in the 1996 finale, Kincaid was in a car accident. Apparently there was some miscommunication between her agent and executive producer Dick Wolf. The producer wanted her back the next season for a short stint. Hennessey was not interested in returning. In the season finale, Kincaid had to pick up a drunk Lennie Briscoe from a bar, only to get hit by a drunk driver herself. Briscoe exited the car unharmed, but found Kincaid dead in the driver’s seat. We’d all have nightmares if we were the passenger.
7. T.R. Knight: Dr. George O’Malley, Grey’s Anatomy
George O’Malley was loved by fans. Unfortunately for those who love the show, the actor who played him, T.R Knight, was not a happy camper. He found it hard to work with the producer of the show. In an Entertainment Weekly interview, the actor stated that there was a gradual “breakdown in communication” and that he became frustrated with seeing his screen time dwindle at the beginning of season five. Knight asked to leave the TV show as a result, and Dr. O’Malley was subsequently hit by a bus. The actor further explained that: “My five-year experience proved to me that I could not trust any answer that was given [about the character George], and with respect, I’m going to leave it at that.”
6. Kal Penn: Dr. Lawrence Kutner, House
5. Dan Stevens: Matthew Crawley, Downton Abbey
“We were always optioned for three years,” Stevens explained to The Telegraph. “And when that came up, it was a very difficult decision. But it felt like a good time to take stock, to take a moment. From a personal point of view, I wanted a chance to do other things. It is a very monopolizing 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.”
4. John Francis Daley: Dr. Lance Sweets, Bones
No one on this list thus far has left a cushy acting job to sit behind the camera and become a director. However, this man did just that, leaving his regular gig on a pretty successful show in order to direct the Vacation reboot. The producers were kind enough to oblige the man by fatally assaulting his character. Daley said that, “The directing job was not something that I could walk away from. It was such a huge opportunity. It feels like a good next step in my career and my life; I always dreamed of being a director. So to be able to do something like this on such a huge scale—it’s a huge studio movie—it’s definitely not something I could turn my back on. It was a sacrifice for sure.”
3. Josh Charles: Will Gardner, The Good Wife
In the middle of season 5, fans were shocked and upset. Will Gardner was fatally shot in the courtroom by his client. What fans didn’t know is that this secret was successfully kept under wraps for over a year. Simply put, Josh Charles did not want to renew his contract for season 6. “I had a very short-term deal,” Charles told Deadline. “It was renewed a couple of times over, and at the end of the fourth year my contract was up, and I chose not to renew. It was just a creative decision for me wanting to go and explore new stuff—in my life, in my career.” The death was so tragic that the creators of The Good Wife had to write an open letter to fans justifying it.
2. Harrison Ford: Han Solo, Star Wars
By now many people know that Harrison Ford wanted his character to die in Star Wars. What many people might not know is that he’s been asking for this death even before Return of The Jedi was made over thirty years ago. George Lucas however, declined for a pretty good financial reason, stating that he “didn’t think there was any future in dead Han toys.” So Harrison Ford stuck around.
More than thirty years later, the actor got his wish in The Force Awakens, with the actor admitting that his character’s death was better placed here as it became the defining point of what made the movie. The legend had this to say: “I think it’s a fitting use of the character. I’ve been arguing for Han Solo to die for about 30 years, not because I was tired of him or because he’s boring, but his sacrifice for the other characters would lend gravitas and emotional weight.” As George Lucas might say, there was probably no future in Han Toys at the age of 70, either.