Being part of a hit TV show can easily get to one’s head. After all, one minute you can be a nobody and the next thing you know you are walking the red carpet with mountains of fans screaming your name. It can be an addictive feeling. Not that I know, but imagining that lifestyle is enough for me to get a little high. Celebrities will take that sudden splash of fame, one of two ways. They will either be grateful and humble, accepting praise with grace or they will allow their egos to rule and become almost intolerable on set. It’s often surprising when an actor chooses to leave a TV show that is hugely popular, especially since most people would ride that gravy train as long as they could. But instead, these actors think that they can take their popularity someplace else and do even better. It’s usually a terrible idea, but it doesn’t seem to stop actors from doing it over and over again.
Some actors have claimed that the characters on the show are beneath them or they disagree with the writing involved on the show. They can’t just be happy to have a job on a show that fans can’t get enough of. When it comes to these actors, their egos get the best of them, and they feel that they are now too big for the show and have to move on to bigger and better things. Unfortunately, it rarely works out, and some of the actors have completely tanked their careers over it. They've essentially become irrelevant in the eyes viewers at home and in movie theatres.
Here are 15 formerly huge stars who tanked their own careers.
15 Brian Dunkleman
If you remember when American Idol first aired it had two hosts, Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman. Ryan Seacrest has made quite a name for himself because he stuck with the show and now he hosts many different programs. Brian, on the other hand, wanted to be an actor, and with the popularity of American Idol, he thought he could just leave the show and start making movies. He had regrets however because he ended up tanking his career and going nowhere. “I wanted to have an acting career, and I knew that leaving when I did would give me the best shot of accomplishing that,” he said in a piece for Variety. Unfortunately, he probably should have given it a little more time before making that huge jump. “Do I regret not remaining on the show now that it’s coming to an end? Yes, especially when I open my bank statements.”
14 Angus T. Jones
We know Angus T. Jones as the kid from Two and a Half Men. It’s the hit TV show that made many careers what they are today with the help of Charlie Sheen. Angus started on the show quite young and actually grew up into a man while on set. He grew to huge popularity, and many people were shocked when he decided to leave the show, after all, wouldn’t it be weird that he was no longer there? He made a huge amount of money per episode, reportedly $300,000. He started trashing the show saying it was immoral and filthy. He had religious views, and the show was going against everything that he believed in. He didn’t think that he could continue on the show as he felt like a hypocrite. He still has a recurring role on the show because they really didn’t know what to do with his character, but he hasn’t been able to do much else with his acting career since he left the show.
13 Rob Lowe
Rob Lowe has always had a rocky career, it seems to go up and down, but when he was cast on The West Wing, his career seemed to skyrocket. Most of the trouble he had in his career was the result of partying and substance abuse. But he became a hit in 1999 when the show rose in popularity. His mistakes didn’t seem to be over however because he stayed on the show for only three seasons before he left due to what he called a salary dispute. His career never went anywhere for many dark years until he found a role on Brothers & Sisters in 2006. He only had a few off and on roles as well as a few TV movies in between so he probably wished he would have just stayed on the show. Shows such as Grinder and You, Me and the Apocalypse were the ones to revive his career.
12 Dave Chappelle
Dave Chappelle made quite the name for himself in 2003 when he got his comedy show on Comedy Central. Chappelle’s Show became one of the most successful sketch shows of that time, and Dave seemed to have his career just where he wanted it. The show was only on air for two seasons before Dave decided to pack it up. Comedy Central offered him $50 million dollars to produce two more seasons of the show, but to everyone’s shock he turned it down to travel to South Africa. In the past 10 years, we really haven’t heard much from him considering any new developments in his career. “I felt a variety of ways in the last 10 years. There’s nothing anyone can say. You do what you feel like you need to do at any given time.” Had he stayed for two more years he would have had the freedom to do a lot more with his career or retire forever.
11 Charlie Hunnam
It’s not always a hit TV show that an actor regrets leaving. Sometimes there comes a film opportunity that an actor turns down only to find out that the movie they turned down became a huge success. In the case of Charlie Hunnam, he was already on a hit TV show called Sons of Anarchy when the option to play Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey came up. He turned it down mainly to schedule conflicts as he had a show as well as the film Crimson Peak. At the time he didn’t think anything of the BDSM cult sensation especially since most people assumed he didn’t want to be the butt of the joke if it failed. It didn’t fail, however, in fact, the newest installation of the franchise is due out on Valentine’s Day. Charlie has had some regrets since then considering he’s not sure where his career would have gone had he taken the role. “It was the most emotionally destructive and difficult thing I’ve ever had to deal with professionally.”
10 Katherine Heigl
Katherine Heigl is notorious for being difficult while being on set due to her massive ego. It’s hard to understand because she’s not that great of an actor to begin with; most of the movies she starred in didn’t do well at the box office. Back in the day, Katherine was one of the lead characters on Grey’s Anatomy, one of the hottest dramas on TV at the time. Her ego grew so big that when she received a Golden Globe nomination, she turned it down because she didn’t believe that the show had a good story that season. Talk about a slap in the face. If that wasn’t bad enough she trashed her role in Knocked Up, begging to get out of the contract because she felt her character was insulting to females everywhere. Her career eventually tanked because no one wanted to work with her anymore.
9 9. David Caruso
David Caruso practically became a household name on NYPD Blue; he was recognizable everywhere that he went. It could have been that red hair or the fact that he always had a stoic expression on his face. On NYPD Blue he played Detective John Kelly, and it made him into a huge star. Sadly, he only stayed with the show for one season due to his ego. As soon as the movies started calling for him, he bailed on the show which caused an uproar with fans who felt betrayed by the actor. The problem was that all his movies did terribly at the box office and he was forced to go into obscurity until 2002 when he found himself on another cop drama, CSI: Miami. He was back to playing a lieutenant wearing the same stoic expression and thankfully for him he learned his lesson.
8 Suzanne Somers
For anyone that remembers the hit comedy TV series Three’s Company, you will remember Suzanne Somers played the ditzy roommate Chrissy. She was cute as a button, and everyone was shocked to see that she left the show for bigger and better things. She was replaced on the show, and even though we all missed her, the fact that her career plummeted was her own fault. She went from having a hit TV show to doing infomercials for the Thighmaster. I’m sure you remember that terrible device that I can attest to doing nothing for my thighs. We understand that she had a passion for fitness, but she probably could have easily pulled off doing both things. These days she is authoring fitness and anti-aging books, but we can bet she has some regrets about leaving the show at the height of its success.
7 Chris Meloni
Law and Order: Special Victims Unit is easily one of my favorite TV shows, and it was heartbreaking when Chris Meloni left the show. It just didn’t make sense for his character to leave, and it was never really the same after he left the show. How could you continue without Detective Stabler? The reason for his departure was reportedly due to a contract negotiation. He wanted more money and the powers that be turned him down so off he went. He has never stated whether or not he regretted leaving the show, but he has never had a better role. He spent most of his time in small roles in 42 and Man of Steel. I can bet he’s having regrets as the role in SVU certainly brought him in quite the paycheck. Greedy actors rarely get ahead.
6 Dan Stevens
You may remember Dan Stevens on the hit TV show Downton Abbey, which was the show that made his career. Sadly, after three seasons he wanted to leave which shocked the producers on the show. He suggested to the creator of the show, Julian Fellowes, that his character should be killed off, which seemed nonsensical to everyone else since the character had just been married and was having a child with Lady Mary. However, Dan wanted to leave and insisted that he had bigger things on the horizon. His career flopped however when he starred in The Guest, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and The Cobbler, all of which did terribly at the box office. Since then his career hasn’t done much better. He will be returning to the big screen this year in the Beauty and the Beast alongside Emma Watson.
5 Marg Helgenberger
Marg wasn’t one of the actors that left the show immediately; we have to give her credit for sticking it out for 12 years. But when it comes to a popular TV show such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation which is making her a ton of money, why not stick with it? She was after all the highest paid CSI actor on the network, and no one could really understand why she left. She said that she wanted to try out Broadway which is totally bizarre because it’s not like it’s going to skyrocket her career. If anything, it’s going to help it into total obscurity. I don't think she has been in any movies since, the last time I remember her being in a movie was Erin Brockovich, so enough said. It’s just another example of how celebrities ruin their careers with very little effort. In the end, maybe she just got bored of the role.
4 Jason Priestley
Remember the heartthrob from the popular TV series Beverly Hills 90120? He was the one guy that was not only smoking hot but a genuinely nice guy as well. Trust me, it’s rare. The show was insanely popular, and it lasted a whopping 10 years which is certainly hard to do for sitcoms, but after awhile Jason grew bored of playing the nice guy from Minnesota. He spoke about his time on the show when he wrote his memoir in 2014. He made the decision to leave after season eight, and they wrote him off the show for season nine when Kelly Taylor turned down his proposal of marriage. Despite his reasons for leaving, the actor has had some regrets about not staying the extra year. “Understanding what I do now about story and character, I believe that [creator Aaron Spelling] was pushing the story in a direction that would have had Brandon and Kelly end up together at the end of the show and I think I probably should have stuck around to its fruition.”
3 T.R. Knight
Another actor that got too big for his britches on the set of Grey’s Anatomy and his career took a fall for it was T.R. Knight. There is a lot of speculation as to why he left the show; though all he will say at this point is that there was a “breakdown of communication.” But a lot of people thought it might have to do with Isaiah Washington who he always had a conflict with onset. Either way, he made the decision to leave the show at the height of its popularity. Unfortunately for T.R. Knight, we haven’t really seen much of him since, so chances are he should have stuck with the show for as long as possible. There just seems to be something about the TV show Grey’s Anatomy that has its actors thinking they deserve better.
2 Chevy Chase
Chevy Chase was only on Saturday Night Live for a year despite the fact that he made a legendary career out of it. He was the one after all who coined the phrase that the show still uses to this day, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” Despite the fact that Chevy was doing well on the show, he fell in love and decided that he was going to move away with his girlfriend at the time. Saturday Night Live has certainly been a show that has launched many careers especially for actors who want movie careers. It was a breakout role for him, and he probably left it too soon. He did have some success with movies such as National Lampoon’s Vacation as well as Caddyshack, but he always felt that he could have done so much more if he didn’t leave. “I tried to pretend everything was great…It was all nuts looking back on it. But I did regret it.”
1 Shannen Doherty
Shannen Doherty is well-known for causing conflicts on sets. She has not only left one popular TV series, but two! She started off on Beverly Hills 90210 but eventually left during season four because she couldn’t get along with any of her co-stars. Rumor has it that Tori Spelling eventually got her fired. The next series that she found herself on was Charmed, which was another hit, but that one didn’t last for her either. She was only on the show for three seasons before she told them she wanted to pursue other interests. Producers stated, "We have had a long and prosperous relationship with Shannen, and we didn't want to hold her back from what she wanted to do.” Rumors, of course, swirled that none of her co-workers could get along with her and they found it exhausting to work with someone that they had to fight with all the time.