Parting isn’t only sweet sorrow — sometimes it is surprising and or downright shocking! TVLine revisits more than 30 of TV’s most unexpected sendoffs, from Arrow to X-Files. Which one caught you most off guard?
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Ruth Wilson, The Affair
The series’ female lead officially left the Showtime drama following Alison’s death in the penultimate Season 4 episode… and then later suggested that there was a “much bigger story” behind her exit, which she is “not allowed” to disclose.
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Emily Bett Rickards, Arrow
The CW drama’s leading lady left the Internet unarguably gobsmacked by sharing on Instagram on March 30, “Felicity and I are a very tight two/But after [seasons] one through seven, we will be saying goodbye to you.” Arrow‘s EPs said they are “heartbroken” by Rickards’ decision to call it quits ahead of the final season of just 10 episodes.
Ruby Rose, Batwoman
Just days after the Season 1 finale, it was announced that the CW series and its leading lady would be parting ways, and that the title role would be recast. “It wasn’t an easy decision but those who know, know,” Rose cryptically said in an Instagram post, while also responding to
that she was overwhelmed by the workload of a broadcast-TV, superhero series lead and/or was no fan of Vancouver, where it filmed: “Don’t believe everything you read by anon sources.”
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Amy Carlson, Blue Bloods
Midway through the CBS drama’s Season 8 premiere, (many confused!) viewers learned that Danny’s wife Linda had died months earlier, off-camera, in a work-related Medevac accident. Carlson, who parted ways with the show during the hiatus but was not asked back for a proper death scene, said, “I never wanted it to end that way, so I feel sad for the fans because everyone wants closure.”
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Stana Katic, Castle
Barely a month ahead of the Season 8 finale, news broke that Katic had not been asked back for any possible Season 9, the victim of a cast shake-up that was designed to help cut costs for the aging procedural. In a tactful statement, Katic said, “Rather then distract from what was an amazing experience, I would just like to say that I’m very grateful to ABC for giving me the opportunity to be a part of a much beloved show”… that didn’t get renewed anyway.
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Sophia Bush, Chicago P.D.
It was “cop, out!” when Bush decided enough was enough and split from NBC’s No. 3 #OneChicago series after four seasons of, as she put it, “tolerat[ing] the intolerable.” Bush claimed to have experienced “a consistent onslaught barrage of abusive behavior” on-set, to the point that she gave producers “23 episodes of notice” to improve the situation by the end of Season 4. Though her complaints were initially dismissed by producers, she was released from her seven-season contract.
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Shemar Moore, Criminal Minds
Having watched original Mandy Patinkin quit after two seasons and endured the double whammy of Paget Brewster and A.J. Cook walking away from Season 6, fans were getting used to the BAU’s revolving door. Still, Moore’s deft exit via a March 2016 episode, as Derek chose a quieter family life, caught many by surprise.
But the biggest shocker was right around the corner….
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Thomas Gibson, Criminal Minds
In the immediate wake of an August 2016 on-set physical altercation with a producer, Hotch’s portrayer was suspended for two episodes. Not 24 hours later, that punishment expanded into a complete ouster. It was explained on-screen that Hotch and son Jack were hiding in WITSEC from Mr. Scratch; when the serial killer was eventually dealt with, the two decided to enjoy a drama-free life.
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Dan Stevens, Downton Abbey
Stevens’ final episode as Matthew Crawley is still spoken of in hushed tones, so devastating as it was to the period drama’s blindsided viewers. Choosing to leave after three seasons “was a very difficult decision,” he said. “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.”
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Nathalie Kelley, Dynasty
Season 1 of the CW sudser had barely faded to black when Cristal’s portrayer blurted to an infotainment channel, “I won’t be returning for Season 2.” (All together now: wut.) Months later, it was announced that Ana-Brenda Contreras was joining the cast as “the real Cristal.”
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Nicollette Sheridan, Dynasty
Eleven months after Sheridan debuted on the CW sudser to much fanfare, TVLine broke the news that the veteran of primetime sudsers would be exiting to deal with “family matters.” Weeks later, Alexis was shoved into the flames of a fireplace, suffering burns that demand major plastic surgery. Hmmm….
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Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Ready to move on from the acclaimed CBS drama after four seasons, Charles signed on for a Season 5 run only to give his character a proper send-off. The result was one of the most outta-nowhere deaths in TV history, as attorney Will Gardner was gunned down by an unhinged client in the middle of the courtroom, and later pronounced dead at the hospital.
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Patrick Dempsey, Grey’s Anatomy
Go ahead and @ us, but of all of the Grey’s exits over the years — and there have been many, from Heigl, Knight and Washington to Leigh/Dane and Capshaw/Drew — none rival the Internet-breaking shock value of Dempsey’s, which was not publicly announced in advance and only came to light when Derek’s car got mowed down by a semi. After Derek was declared brain dead at the nearest ER (where he perhaps didn’t receive the best care), wife Meredith signed the papers to turn off life-support.
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Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim, Hawaii Five-0
The summer of 2017 was a noisy one for Five-0, as word got out that both Park and Kim would not return for Season 8, following a dispute in which they reportedly sought pay parity with leads Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, but only were offered “significant raises.” With both costars suddenly out of the mix, not one but two off-camera exits had to be explained away in the Season 8 opener.
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Lisa Edelstein, House
As Season 7 of the Fox drama neared its end, leading lady Edelstein announced she was exiting the role of Cuddy and “moving onward with a combination of disappointment at leaving behind a character I have loved playing for seven years, and excitement of the new opportunities in acting and producing that lie ahead.” As a result, Cuddy resigned as the hospital’s Dean of Medicine after House, with whom she had just broken up, crashed his car into her home.
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Erinn Hayes, Kevin Can Wait
After wrapping its freshman run as CBS’ No. 2-rated sitcom, Kevin Can Wait… killed off the title character’s genial wife?! It was one of modern TV’s truly bizarre and ill-fated casting decisions (Kevin wound up cancelled after Season 2, which added Leah Remini to the mix), and a situation not helped at all by series lead Kevin James trying to explain Hayes’ firing by saying, “We were literally just running out of ideas” — after one season.
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Diana Muldaur, L.A. Law
Long before the Internet and websites loaded with teasers and spoilers existed, L.A. Law viewers’ jaws were sent plummeting to the floor when the ruthless Rosalind Shays stepped into an elevator that had not quite yet arrived. “I was as shocked as everybody else,” Muldaur told People. “I thought maybe I had asked for too much money!”
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Christopher Meloni, Law & Order: SVU
Benson without Stabler? Who can imagine such a thing? And yet that notion became reality when in May 2011, it was announced that Meloni and the NBC drama could not come to terms on a new contract, and he bowed out ahead of Season 13.
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Clayne Crawford, Lethal Weapon
In May 2018, hours ahead of the Fox drama’s Season 2 finale, TVLine broke the news that in the event of renewal, Crawford would not be returning as Riggs aka the title’s “lethal weapon.” Crawford reportedly had been clashing on-set with costar Damon Wayans, and as such had been accused of “emotional abuse and creating a hostile environment.”
Crawford had earlier acknowledged one “unfortunate event” that occured when he served director and had been described as “unsafe,” and apologized to “all the crew and cast for any negative attention Lethal Weapon is receiving because of these incidents.” Nonetheless, he was out and Seann William Scott was in when Season 3 hit screens.
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George Eads, MacGyver
Midway through Season 3 of the CBS reboot, fans learned that Eads had already vacated the role of Jack Dalton aka Mac’s righthand man, in the wake of temporarily storming off the series’ Atlanta set following an unspecified altercation. Eads — whose employment with CBS’ CSI went through its own hills and valleys — had reportedly been asking to be released from his long-term contract in order to return to Los Angeles, where his young daughter resides.
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McLean Stevenson, M*A*S*H
When Stevenson decided to exit the wartime dramedy after three seasons, the plan was to simply send Henry Blake home. And home he was headed… when Radar burst into the surgical area to report to a shellshocked staff that Blake’s plane had been shot down, with no survivors.
America was stunned by Radar’s words, as was reportedly every cast member in the scene save for star Alan Alda, who was in on the dark twist.
Anna Faris Leaving Mom
Anna Faris, Mom
Ten days before production was set to begin on Season 8 of the popular CBS sitcom, it was announced that co-lead Faris would not be returning as Christy, insteading choosing to “pursue other opportunities.” Christy’s absence will be explained on-screen. (READ MORE)
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Cote de Pablo, NCIS
Not long before production on Season 11 was to get underway — and not long after then-showrunner Gary Glasberg said he felt “confident that things will work out” — de Pablo decided not to renew her deal with CBS’ No. 1 drama. (“We offered… a lot of money, and then we offered her even more money,” said then-CBS CEO Les Moonves. To which the actress later said, “I left under my terms, and that was wonderful.”)
De Pablo did return for the start of Season 11, however, for a storyline in which Ziva David decided to “start over,” far away from NCIS, bidding love Tony DiNozzo a sad adieu. (Some time after that, there was a surprise kid, a presumed death, Tony’s own exit, Ziva’s pretty-confirmed resurrection, etc;)
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David Caruso, NYPD Blue
So stupefying was Caruso’s begging off of ABC’s hit cop drama, it is now part of the lexicon to “pull a Caruso” when one forsakes a very good TV gig. “Caruso felt he was too good for television,” NYPD Blue co-creator Steven Bochco said in his 2016 memoir. “He wanted to be a movie star. And his plan was to alienate the writers, producers and his fellow castmates in hopes that we would dump him from the show.”
Caruso went on to heap tons of diva demands on the producers, in hopes of forcing their hand — which eventually worked, as he was written out four episodes into Season 2.
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Mischa Barton, The O.C.
At the height of the teen drama’s popularity, Barton — who in turn had been christened Hollywood’s new “It Girl” and “The Next Big Thing” — abruptly decided to exit after Season 3. “I think I just got to the point where I was like, ‘I’m not sure I’m enjoying this anymore,’” she explained years later. “I felt like I was in a machine and I couldn’t get off. So it was time to step back.”
Series creator Josh Schwartz has said that Marissa Cooper’s tragic fate, which she met in the Season 3 finale, was “always in the cards,” adding: “Part of the Ryan/Marissa story was him trying to save her from a fate that she couldn’t be rescued from.”
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Steve Carell, The Office
At the end of his initial seven-year contract as Office boss Michael Scott, Carell chose to tender his proverbial resignation and focus on a movie career. The NBC comedy continued for two more seasons with Michael running the Scranton branch.
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Jennifer Morrison, Once Upon a Time
With the fantasy drama’s future very much in the air as Season 6 neared its end, Morrison announced that she was done as a series regular, yet would return for one Season 7 episode. (When all was said and done, she wound up appearing in two.)
Given that Morrison’s status was but one of many in flux at the time (neither did Josh Dallas, Ginny Goodwin, Rebecca Mader nor Emilie de Ravin return as series regulars), the Once bosses used the finale to set up a “reboot” of sorts that accounted for the cast shake-up and crowned Lana Parrilla its new leading lady.
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Emmy Rossum, Shameless
Barely a week ahead of the Showtime drama’s Season 9 premiere, Rossum caught many off-guard by posting a letter that revealed her decision to leave while also hailing “the last eight years [as] the best of my life.” Previewing Fiona’s eventual exit, in the season finale, she said, “Something that was set up… kind of pays off. A door opens and she walks through.”
Months after Rossum’s announcement, Shameless was renewed for Season 10.
America Ferrera, Superstore
Barely two weeks after NBC renewed its No. 1 comedy for a sixth season, it was announced that series lead America Ferrera would not be a part of it. How will Amy bid adieu to Cloud 9? And what does this mean for her future with Jonah? Fans will have to wait until the Season 5 finale, airing April 16, to find out.
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Nicole Beharie, Sleepy Hollow
As the Season 3 finale of Fox’s supernatural drama faded to black, TVLine broke the news: leading lady Beharie was leaving. As she said in a statement, “Abbie Mills has done all she was meant to do.”
Citing a “variety of factors” that led to the parting of ways, Fox CEO Dana Walden said, “It was not a decision that we wanted to make initially. We ended up being put in a situation where that was a decision that needed to be made.”
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Nina Dobrev, The Vampie Diaries
Months after TVD was renewed for Season 7, leading lady Nina Dobrev announced via Instagram that the show would have to go on without her. “I always knew I wanted Elena’s story to be a six-season adventure, and within those six years I got the journey of a lifetime,” Elena’s portrayer wrote.
Following her Season 6 finale swan song, Dobrev lent her voice to a Season 7 episode and then appeared in the series finale.
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Andrew Lincoln, The Walking Dead
Can The Walking Dead lurch and stagger on without its leading man? That question first arose in May 2018, when word first circulated that Lincoln would be hanging up his sheriff’s hat after a handful of Season 9 episodes. Weeks later, EP Robert Kirkman made the exit official at Comic-Con, supporting Lincoln’s decision: “This is somebody that I love [who has] been sweating in Georgia away from his family for so long.”
An emotional Lincoln then opened up about the news, also at Comic-Con, hailing TWD as ” the most extraordinary, amazing and beautiful experience of my career.” Though Rick eventually rode off into the proverbial sunset after Episode 5, he will be seen in again in multiple franchise movies.
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David Duchovny, The X-Files
Following a contract dispute during the series’ original run, Duchovny appeared in only half of Season 8’s episodes, and did not appear in Season 9 until the series finale in May 2002. (In his absences, Scully partnered with Robert Patrick’s John Doggett.) Duchovny of course also returned for Fox’s two revival seasons.