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Kevin Can Wait EP: We Killed Off Donna Out of 'Respect' for Erinn Hayes

Kevin Can Wait‘s controversial decision to kill off its leading lady was more than just creatively driven. It was also made out of respect for Donna’s portrayer Erinn Hayes, according to exec producer Rob Long.

“The goal was to give Kevin’s character a real drive and a real predicament [involving] how a family comes back together [after tragedy],” Long says. “Also, out of respect for the character of Donna — and certainly the way that Erinn Hayes portrayed her — it seemed like the only right and fair way to treat her character.”

Asked whether they ever considered reshaping the series in Season 2 to focus solely on Kevin’s professional life (and thus letting Donna live, albeit off camera), Long says that simply was not in the cards. The “nucleus of the idea,” he shares, was “Kevin being a single father… [We] were really attracted” to watching Kevin “learn how to do all of the stuff” that comes with being a single parent to three kids — four if you count Kendra’s fiancé Chale.

TVLine broke the news of Hayes’ departure back in June. The announcement of her exit came just one day after the network revealed that James’ former King of Queens co-star, Leah Remini, would rejoin the show as a series regular.

Confirmation of Donna’s death, meanwhile, came earlier this month at CBS’ portion of the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour, when Thom Sherman, Senior Exec VP of Programming, revealed that the character “will have passed away” when the series returns. CBS’ entertainment president Kelly Kahl later added that the character’s demise “will be addressed tastefully” and “with dignity and respect.”

Kevin Can Wait Season 2 premieres Monday, Sept. 25 at 9/8c.