How many times have you been watching your favorite show, and then suddenly, a character leaves or is killed off for what seems to be no reason at all? Sometimes, it even happens to a central character that you can’t even imagine not being on the show in the first place. Don’t those times leave you thinking WTF?
It can truly be frustrating when we see some of our favorite characters leave the show, and it’s natural for us to ask why — why would a character leave a popular show, especially if he or she is a central character?
However, although it may seem like characters sometimes leave a show for no reason, there's usually a pretty interesting story behind the departure. There are usually some really good reasons why these characters get the boot. Sometimes, the departure has been planned for a while, and the show just chooses to be hush-hush about it. But of course, some of the reasons why characters leave shows just might surprise you.
It usually has a lot to do with disagreements onset or conflicts between castmates. Sometimes, an actor gets a big head and starts asking for more money than the producers feel the actor deserves. In some cases, the characters are written off the series because they just don’t serve a purpose on the show anymore. And then there are other reasons that are just completely shocking.
If you’ve ever wondered about the departures of your favorite characters from your favorite shows, then look no further for the answers. We’ve compiled a list of the reasons why some actors just up and disappear from our favorite shows.
15 Lisa Robin Kelly on That 70’s Show
A ton of actors left That 70’s Show even though it was a really great show, but maybe it just went on longer than it needed to. In the case of Lisa Robin Kelly, who played Eric's older sister, Laurie, she left for health reasons. She used to be the girl that teased Kelso sexually, but offset, she had a lot of problems with alcohol. For such a young girl, she was battling severe alcoholism and left the show to go to a rehab facility. It may have been too late for her, however, because in 2013, the actress died in the rehab facility. She was found one morning, and the coroner concluded that she had died in her sleep “due to accidental unspecified oral multiple drug intoxication.” In Lisa’s case, it was a really sad story of how fame can get the best of someone who isn’t ready for it.
14 Steve From Blues Clues
Many of us grew up on Blues Clues, and it was one of those shows that got us through the days of our little lives. It’s hard on children to lose central characters on their shows because they get used to them, and change is not always good when it comes to children’s programming. In the case of Steve, he was written off the show for baldness. They told the children, of course, that Steve was getting older and was off to college. Children all over the world said their goodbyes, and off he went. What really happened was the actor didn’t want to go bald on a children’s show, though he also had some musical ventures he wanted to explore. “Mostly because I refused to lose my hair on a kid’s TV show, and it was happening fast.”
13 Robert Downey Jr. in Ally McBeal
I had totally forgotten that Robert Downey Jr. had even starred in Ally McBeal once upon a time. It was a fairly popular TV show that launched the characters of many actors, including the lead that was played by Calista Flockhart. Robert Downey Jr. got booted from the show during his "bad boy" days when he was arrested for drug possession. The writers of the show didn’t believe that he was a good fit for their wholesome show. It made writing him off the show difficult, however, because he was supposed to marry the lead in the season 4 finale. They had to rewrite a few episodes so that Downey's character didn't propose to Calista’s. Robert Downey Jr. ended up revitalizing his career after he got out of jail and went on to be one of the biggest names in Hollywood -- a status which he still enjoys to this day.
12 Tommy Chong from That 70’s Show
Tommy Chong was another actor that left That 70’s Show, but he did eventually return. He left the show because he was arrested for selling bongs -- not really a surprising fact at all. It seems, though, that his going to jail helped out someone else in the meantime. In a funny turn of events, when Chong went to jail, he ended up becoming cellmates with Jordan Belfort, the man that Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed in Wolf of Wall Street. It turns out that Chong was the one that convinced Jordan to finally write the story that brought about a bestseller and a movie. I guess some things happen for a reason. Chong went back to That 70’s Show after he got out of jail. It makes you wonder if Jordan’s book would have been written had he not met up with Chong in a jail cell.
11 Scarlett Pomers in Reba
Sometimes it’s for the good of the actor that they leave a show. Scarlett played Kyra on the show, and she ended up leaving the show because she was dealing with anorexia and decided to go and get some help. At the time of her departure, she only weighed 73 pounds at 5’2”. She had the full support of her castmates, and when she left in 2005, it was in the middle of the season. She returned, however, after her treatment was finished, and she was in a healthier state of mind. She was able to get her life back together as well, and they let her come back on the show. They decided to add some humor to Reba when Kyra returned. Her character just walked back into Reba’s home, and when someone asked where she had been, she responded with a sly "I went to get something to eat!"
10 Lost’s Dominic Monaghan
I was one person that was not happy at all when they decided to kill Charlie off in Lost. He was one of the main characters, and he had been there from the beginning. But it was Dominic’s choice to leave the show because he wanted to free up some more time to pursue other projects. “Obviously, there are huge positives to being involved in a show like Lost. We film in Hawaii, and the lifestyle there is a really fantastic thing. But, to be honest, as an actor, I've been kind of frustrated for a while. I've wanted to do a little bit more. The difference between how much the audience got to see Charlie in Season 1 as opposed to how much they got to see Charlie in Seasons 2 and 3 was significant. It's been kind of frustrating for me for a while. So, I think it's time for me to move on, you know.”
9 Mandy Patinkin in Criminal Minds
Many characters will leave a show because they no longer believe in it or the writing behind it. When it came to the popular series Criminal Minds, you would think that an actor would be crazy to leave a show like that, but when it came to Mandy Patinkin’s departure, he decided to leave because the show was becoming too dark for him to deal with. "The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to do Criminal Minds in the first place. I thought it was something very different. I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality. After that, I didn't think I would get to work in television again." It’s saying a lot about the show when an actor states that staying in a role was “destructive to my soul.”
8 Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher from That 70’s Show
It was pretty shocking when two of the main characters from That 70’s Show decided to leave. Both Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher left the show, and it was a wonder why the show even decided to continue without them. The show made both of their careers, but after a while, they both felt like their careers weren’t going anywhere and were tired of the show. They left to pursue other projects; Ashton Kutcher went on to make many movies as well as took over Sheen’s role in Two and a Half Men. Topher Grace appeared in Spider-Man 3, though we haven’t seen much else from the actor over the years. The show wrote the two off as Eric going off to college and Kelso moving away to explore a job in Chicago. Sometimes it works out for an actor to leave a show as it did for Kutcher, but not always, as was the case for Grace.
7 Kal Penn on House
When Kal Penn decided to leave the show House, he believed that he was moving on to bigger and better things. He also went on a whole new career path. He ended up going to work with President Obama at the White House! Talk about a career change. Kal Penn went on to be Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. His goal was not really to retire from acting; he just wanted to have a short stint in public service because he believed strongly in it. "It seemed like something I would enjoy doing," Penn said. "I figured it was something to do." He didn’t have the option to return to the show, however, as the writers knew he would be gone for a few years at least. They decided to kill his character off in a suicide. Kal said he felt bittersweet shock at the loss of his character.
6 Jay Thomas on Cheers
Jay Thomas played Eddie, Carla’s husband on Cheers, but he turned out to not be a very nice human. While he played Eddie, he also was a disc jockey for a radio station called 99X in New York. While on the radio show, he would often make rude comments about having to kiss Carla on the show and believed that he deserved “combat pay” to do so. He said something along the lines of “It’s brutal. I have to kiss Rhea Perlman.” After that, he was never seen on the show again. Rhea Perlman wanted him gone, and the powers that be agreed with her. He was written off the show by killing him off via Zamboni. Thomas said this of being fired, “I’m doing Cheers, having the greatest time of my life, and one day I get a phone call from Jimmy. I knew they were deciding [about] whether to add me or Bebe to the cast full-time, and I thought he was calling with good news. He said, like in a movie, 'Are you sitting down?' And he goes, 'Look, we’re not going to have you back on the show. And it has nothing to do with Rhea.'"
5 Jared Padalecki on Gilmore Girls
Things were going well for Jared Padalecki when he was on Gilmore Girls, and people were really surprised when he left because they thought Dean and Rory were going to end up together. Jared had other plans, though, and that meant better opportunities in the form of a lead role in the very popular TV series Supernatural. He clearly made the right decision because the show is still going and is more popular than ever. When Gilmore Girls returned, however, for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, he did make a guest appearance for some closure. "I will say probably a lot more than I'm supposed to," he said at a convention appearance. "[Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino] basically said, ‘Listen, we're going to write you a really cool scene, and if you get a day off, let us know; we will just put your scene on the schedule for that day.' She was like, 'It's a set that we already run and own, [and] it's an actress that already is working every day, so let us know.'”
4 David Yost from The Power Rangers
Many people thought that David Yost was fired from The Power Rangers, but it turned out he had left on his own accord. He was receiving a lot of flack from the crew about his sexual orientation -- shocking behavior to be sure. During a confusing time in his life, he didn’t need the negativity from the crew that should have been supporting him, and he allegedly almost committed suicide over the ordeal. Instead, he decided to walk off the set during a lunch break and never go back. He felt that the crew was harassing him for years, and even after he left, he suffered a psychological breakdown. He went through a conversion therapy program for two years before accepting his sexual orientation. Our heart goes out to him as he definitely went through a lot and could have used some much-needed support.
3 Punky Brewster
Punky Brewster was one of my favorite shows growing up, and many people were surprised when the show was taken off the air. Why would they end a show that was popular? It was due to the fact that the main character played by Soleil Moon Frye developed too quickly. The girl ended up with 38DD breasts at the age of 16 due to a condition called gigantomastia and even underwent a breast reduction surgery. Even though her breasts were a more manageable size, the show determined that they would not be able to portray her character in an age-appropriate way and deemed that the show had to be canceled. The show could no longer go on without Punky herself. It must have been sad to have to leave a popular show for a silly reason like that. Soleil hasn’t had the most successful career since the show either.
2 Heidi Swedberg on Seinfeld
We always wondered why they decided to kill off Heidi Swedberg’s character, Susan. She was George’s wife to be, and she died by licking envelopes and getting poisoned. It was one of the most ridiculous deaths in TV history, and no one knew why they killed her off. Apparently, she was a hard person to work with, according to Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss. When Larry David heard about the problems on set, he decided to kill her off. Jason Alexander said on multiple occasions that he found Heidi impossible to work with and that they had bad chemistry when they acted together. "They go, 'You know what? It's f—ing impossible. It's impossible,'" said Alexander, who stressed that he had nothing against Swedberg personally. "And Julia actually said, 'Don't you want to just kill her?' And Larry went, 'Ka-bang!'" That was the moment they decided to kill off Heidi's character.
1 Nicollette Sheridan in Desperate Housewives
Desperate Housewives was a very populate show that was all about drama and scandal. It was what inspired all the Real Desperate Housewives reality series that are in various cities throughout the world. Nicollette Sheridan was one of the main divas of the show, but she also brought a lot of drama on set when she was working. She had a conflict with the showrunner Marc Cherry, and their severe disagreements caused a lot of problems. They ended up killing off her character from the show in 2009, and the news did not go well with the actress. It’s a wonder that all these actors act so terrible on set because most of them get terminated for doing so. Sheridan was pissed about the dismissal and sued for wrongful termination, but she didn’t win. In the end, she had to move on to different things, which wasn’t much.