Fans of the popular, long-running serial drama Criminal Minds were still recovering from the loss of original cast member Shemar Moore, who shared his character Derek Morgan’s decision to spend more time with family, this past summer, when news of Thomas Gibson’s shocking exit from the show broke. Gibson, who had portrayed Aaron Hotchner, the unit chief of the Behavioral Analysis Unit, from day one, was fired following a suspension for engaging in a physical altercation with a writer/producer on the show, his second such incident.
The hit CBS series has endured its share of turnover through its 12 seasons on the air, but the stunning and controversial nature of the firing, coupled with Gibson’s lofty stature on the show, made it stand out. While some may wonder what the future holds for Gibson, CM fans have been clamoring for information on the future of the beloved character known as ‘Hotch’. After all, producers of the show have been known to show deep care towards their characters, even devoting an episode to Jason Gideon in recent years despite Mandy Patinkin’s staunch refusal to reprise the role he had made famous.
For now, Hotchner has resigned from the team while being hidden away in witness protection to defend both himself and his son from a previously introduced baddie. With Gibson unlikely ever to see the set again, producers still have the option of going all the way with offing his character. It wouldn’t be the first time that a troublesome actor saw his character killed off a show.
15 Heidi Swedberg
The name Heidi Swedberg probably doesn’t ring a bell to too many fans, save for maybe the most ardent of Seinfeld diehards. And maybe that’s the point. It was Swedberg who took on the pivotal role of Susan Ross, the eventual fiancée of Jason Alexander’s George Costanza who was so integral to the fourth and seventh seasons of the hit sitcom. It was somewhat surprising, then, that the show offed her in as cavalier a way as to have her lick toxic envelopes, thereby turning a key supporting character’s story arc into a punch line.
It was only when Alexander went on the Howard Stern radio show in 2015 that the truth about Swedberg emerged. Although a perfectly nice person, Swedberg put off many Seinfeld regulars, Alexander included, with a distinct lack of comedic timing. In short, Alexander felt that Susan and George didn’t click in a funny way and he dreaded doing seasons with his on-screen wife-to-be. As she slowly became embedded in the fabric of the show, other cast members who began sharing the screen with her more often came to the same conclusion and poor Susan’s fate was– pardon the pun— sealed.
14 Jay Thomas
If you were a fan of any 1980s or 90s sitcom, chances are you’ve seen Jay Thomas. The comedy veteran and current radio host had guest spots on Mork & Mindy, Family Ties, Murphy Brown, Cybill, The Golden Girls and, most notably, Cheers. It was a recurring role on Cheers that probably gained him his most widespread recognition, as he enjoyed a nine-episode stint as Eddie LeBec, the boyfriend and later husband of Rhea Perlman’s Carla.
On a show where stars such as Woody Harrelson and Kirstie Alley managed to seamlessly replace beloved regulars, Thomas’ role as LeBec seemed like an easy road to mainstream stardom. However, then his mouth allegedly got in the way. While on Cheers, Thomas used his radio show as a platform to bash Perlman’s looks, even jokingly suggesting he got combat pay for kissing her. While Cheers producers and even Perlman, herself, deny that as expediting his dismissal, it surely couldn’t have helped and probably isn’t a coincidence that LeBec died soon thereafter.
13 John Rhys-Davies
A 40-year veteran of stage and screen, Welsh actor John Rhys-Davies is best known for his work in the Indiana Jones and The Lord of the Rings series, but also for some openly conservative political views that have lost him some friends in Hollywood. Back in 2004, he told a Welsh news site that he was concerned about the growing Muslim presence in the area, thereby prompting producers and directors to shift away from him on many casting calls.
Long before his anti-Muslim rhetoric, however, the outspoken Rhys-Davies offered some indications that he didn’t know when it was best to keep quiet. He lasted two and a half seasons on the mid-90’s science fiction drama Sliders, but grew tired of what he felt was a poorly written script. Though he was probably bound to leave the show anyway, openly castigating the writers and referring to the script as “incomprehensible gibberish” likely hastened his exit. Those same writers afflicted Rhys-Davies’ Professor Arturo with a fatal disease so that fans of the cult show could say goodbye.
12 Patrick Dempsey
Was McDreamy a McNightmare on the set of Grey’s Anatomy? Long before the on-screen death of his heartthrob surgeon character Derek Sheppard, Patrick Dempsey had been open about being ready to move on from Grey’s and explore other acting pursuits. But while Dempsey’s wishes indicate something of a mutual parting, the sudden and abrupt nature of his character’s demise– killed when a truck t-boned his car as he aided victims of another incident– prompted whispers of a firing.
Speculation suggests that show producer Shonda Rimes grew tired of Dempsey’s diva-like behavior on set, not to mention the messy melodrama stemming from a fling that Dempsey had with a young staffer on the show. The one-time Can’t Buy Me Love star reportedly complained regularly about the story arc of his character and a perceived lack of screen time. Rimes, who has notoriously little patience for off-screen drama, had already suspended Dempsey previously (she also moved the female staffer he was seeing off the show) and had an icy relationship with him at the best of times.
11 Michael Pitt
It was hard for just about any character to stay alive on HBO’s popular gangster drama Boardwalk Empire, so the gruesome death of Michael Pitt’s Jimmy Darmody wasn’t terribly surprising for any regular viewers of the show. After all, he was hardly the only person to find himself down the barrel of the gun of Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson. But it was only after Darmody was fatally shot in the face at the end of season two that reports about Pitt’s on-set behavior began coming to light.
An anonymous source linked to the show went on 4chan to share anecdotes that painted a picture of Pitt as an unprofessional, arrogant jackass who was rarely prepared during production. He would supposedly forget his lines frequently, often show up late and still had the gall to question and criticize the direction of his character. As if that wasn’t enough, he apparently got into a fistfight with fellow cast member William Forsythe during the filming of his own death scene.
10 John Amos
Good Times was a 1970s sitcom best known for serving up, well, just what the title says. But the light-hearted comedy also boasted its share of heart-tugging, poignant moments, none more so than the iconic scene in which Florida Evans reads aloud a letter informing her– and the audience– that her husband, James, has died. Later, the character also had a scene-stealing turn wherein she broke down in a private, emotional moment under the weight of trying to remain strong after her husband’s passing.
Both memorable scenes could not have taken place if not for the objections of James Evans portrayer John Amos over the exploitative and stereotypical themes of the comedy. Amos felt that the predominantly African American show featured too much shucking and jiving and relied too heavily on the signature line of Jimmie Walker’s JJ Evans, “Dyn-O-Mite!”. Even Amos admits that he wasn’t the most diplomatic guy at the time, so one could imagine that his objections may have been vocalized a little too openly.
9 Nicollette Sheridan
Nicollette Sheridan was let go from ABC’s Desperate Housewives way back in 2009, but the drama surrounding her exit managed to outlast even the lifespan of the popular primetime soap opera. The blonde bombshell, who portrayed mouthy housewife Edie Britt on the show, took to the courts after being fired in 2009 during season five. Sheridan launched a $20 million lawsuit alleging that series creator Marc Cherry had struck her in the face and her firing came as a result of complaints she made about the incident.
The dramatic allegations, seemingly ripped from a plotline on the show, painted Cherry as the bad guy, but Sheridan’s account soon came under question. After ABC Studios and the rest of the show’s cast came out in support of Cherry, the courts, after numerous appeals, ultimately ruled that the suit was without merit and had it thrown out. Tellingly, Sheridan has struggled to find any kind of work in the time since seeing her character offed in a car accident. Unsurprisingly, she was one of the few series regulars who didn’t return for the series finale in 2012.
8 Dan Stevens
For many of the British television actors who were fortunate enough to be cast in the popular drama series Downton Abbey during its six-season run, being featured in the ITV series can be considered something of a career highlight. That, however, doesn’t apply to all cast members. For one, Maggie Smith has enjoyed a decorated 50-year career in show business that includes, but is not exclusively defined by, a starring role as Violet Crawley on Abbey.
While most are familiar with the work of Smith, chances are most non-Abbey fans aren’t quite as readily familiar with Dan Stevens. Like Smith, the actor who portrayed Matthew Crawley had dreams and career aspirations beyond the show. The Cambridge-educated thespian was grateful for the fervent fandom around the show, but struggled to embrace the soap opera-ish qualities of a show that called for his character to dramatically rise out of his wheelchair after being paralyzed in war. Two seasons was enough for Stevens and the show bade him farewell by killing Crawley off in a car accident, on a special Christmas episode of the show, no less.
7 Dominic Monaghan
When you’re working as part of a cast the size of the one on smash hit ABC series Lost, there’s bound to be some interesting relationship dynamics in play amongst co-stars. Sure enough, romance blossomed during the show’s early seasons between stars Dominic Monaghan, who had portrayed Charlie Pace, and Evangeline Lilly, who played Kate Austen. Sadly, things didn’t work out between the two and Lilly reportedly found comfort in the arms of the production assistant on the show.
This was apparently the straw that broke the camel’s back for Monaghan, who already had an icy relationship with fellow star Matthew Fox (Jack Sheppard), who he went so far as to allege beat women. It probably isn’t advisable to make enemies out of two of a hit show’s biggest stars, and so even the popular Monaghan wasn’t immune to being deemed a disruptive presence. Monaghan has repeatedly claimed to be at peace with the decision to kill his character off at the end of season three of the show, but it likely wasn’t his decision in the end.
6 Isaac Hayes
As the long-time voice of Chef on Comedy Central’s South Park, the now-deceased soul musician Isaac Hayes lent his vocals to episodes that skewered just about every subject under the sun with the vicious wit of creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. However, when the show’s satire turned its attention to Scientology, the religion with which Hayes identified, it was no longer a laughing matter.
Hayes– or possibly someone in his entourage– took umbrage with the mocking treatment of Scientology in a 2005 episode titled Trapped in the Closet and later asked to be released from his contract as a result. Parker and Stone accommodated the request, but then used the show as a platform for a thinly veiled all out attack on Hayes. In the season 10 premiere, they used a collection of previously recorded sound bites to bring Chef back, only to portray him as a brainwashed shell of himself before killing him off in gruesome fashion. Not the most subtle approach, admittedly.
5 Mandy Patinkin
It bodes well for fans of Aaron “Hotch” Hotchner that Criminal Minds already boasts a well established track record of treating their characters with respect, even long after severing ties with the actor who portrays them. The show was just taking off when Mandy Patinkin abruptly vacated his role as BAU agent Jason Gideon after just two seasons, citing the excessive violence and gore featured on the show. Perhaps keeping the door open for a return, CBS initially declined to off Patinkin’s character in spite of the actor’s widely known reputation for being difficult.
Patinkin, however, never returned to the show. Producers of the show finally gave up all hope of a reunion by deciding to kill off Gideon a full eight seasons after the character’s last appearance. Rather than using the episode as a vehicle to take petty swipes at Patinkin, the show paid tribute to a beloved character by showing the impact he had on some original cast members who were still around come season 10. Predictably, Gideon’s body is never shown, with the character only featured through early flashbacks of him as a young man, as played by Ben Savage.
4 Charlie Sheen
Charlie Sheen’s bewildering public meltdown from the summer of 2011 seems to be better remembered now for the sound bites it bore, terms like “winning” and “tiger’s blood”, than the stunning circumstances that saw him terminated from his role on the smash hit CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men.
After entering a substance abuse program, making derogatory comments about show creator Chuck Lorre and demanding a 50% raise on top of a contract that was already making him the highest-paid actor on TV, Sheen was banned from the Warner Bros’ studio lot where the show was filmed. His termination from the show unleashed a torrent of wild attacks and allegations against Lorre, even as the show moved on with Ashton Kutcher filling in for Sheen. For his part, Lorre and the crew responded through the flippant treatment of Sheen’s character, Charlie Harper. Not only was he killed off once, but twice. Upon being killed in a fatal train accident, rumors started circulating that Charlie wasn't actually dead. So, using a double to portray the back of Charlie's head while he's walking up the steps to his beach house, we see a piano fall from above and crush him just before he rings the doorbell. Harper’s funeral essentially became an extended roast with little in the way of mourning or tributes being paid.
3 Michelle Rodriguez & Cynthia Watros
One can imagine how a role on Lost might have been an actor’s dream. Not only was it a smash hit that helped establish the careers of actors like Evangeline Lilly and Josh Holloway, but the show’s cast got to enjoy the added perk of working on location in exotic Hawaii. For two one-time cast members, however, the scenic island surroundings and readily available party scene proved to be a troublesome recipe for disaster.
Actresses Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Watros became particularly notable for perhaps enjoying themselves a little too much. Both were arrested on drunk driving charges within minutes of each other in December of 2005, thereby creating a very embarrassing situation for the show and for ABC, the network on which Lost aired. Unsurprisingly, both Rodriguez’s character Ana Lucia and Watros’ Libby were killed off in short order after the incidents, which were not the first time that either actress found themselves in trouble with the law.
2 T.R. Knight
Perhaps it’s the “my way or the highway” approach of superstar show producer Shonda Rhimes, but Grey’s Anatomy remains notable for boasting a level of off-screen drama that parallels that which was featured on-screen. In addition to the aforementioned exit of Patrick Dempsey, Isaiah Washington was fired after using a gay slur, and Katherine Heigl left the show soon after withdrawing herself from Emmy contention on account of what she deemed to be poor script material.
Then there was the case of break-out star T.R. Knight, who grew into a fan favorite as Dr. George O’Malley. Knight had been the real-life victim of Washington’s bigoted slur and came out as gay shortly thereafter. In the aftermath, even as Washington was fired, Knight saw his character’s scenes cut. Recognizing the writing on the wall, he opted to quit amidst what he deemed poor communication. Show-runners clearly weren’t impressed, writing him out of the show with a shocking, gruesome bus collision death that left him disfigured to the point of being unrecognizable. To add insult to, well, insult, they even brought Washington back in a later season.
1 Shannen Doherty
The cult hit WB series Charmed centered around the bond between a mystical trio of witch sisters played by Alyssa Milano, Shannen Doherty and Holly Marie Combs. That meant that much of the show’s popularity was driven by the relationships, interaction and overall dynamic between the three female leads. But much of the chemistry shared by the three on-screen didn’t exactly carry over before and after the cameras were rolling.
Doherty, already known as something of a troublesome actress from drama she stirred up on the set of Beverly Hills 90210, apparently couldn’t get along with Milano and feuded on and off with her co-star for the three seasons they shared screen time. The show actually lasted eight seasons, but things got so bad that Doherty was fired– and killed after being blasted away by a demon– in 2001 after season three. Since the show wrapped, Milano has acknowledged without naming names that days on set could feel like high school.
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