Most Devastating TV Star Departures — So Much For Our Happy Endings…
Hard as it is to accept, TV stars are not the prisoners of our favorite shows. They are human beings who sometimes move on to other jobs and sometimes get fired, like people of any other profession.
That said, some exits are more graceful than others. The following departures were especially abrupt — and, in some cases, contentious — leaving fans baffled and bereft. Here are the most shocking vanishing acts from the past couple of decades of TV.
The reasons around Patrick Dempsey’s departure midway through Season 11 of Grey’s Anatomy remain murky, and only eagle-eyed tabloid readers realized that creator Shonda Rhimes might be writing Derek out of the show. Still, no one expected the dreamy doc to die, depriving MerDer fans worldwide of a happily-ever-after.
When Nina Dobrev decided she was done with The Vampire Diaries at the end of Season 6 — only giving fans a month’s notice via Instagram — her character, Elena, entered a deep sleep so that Bonnie (Kat Graham) could live out her life. It’s a long story, but at least Elena and Damon (Ian Somerhalder) have a chance at a happy ending whenever Bonnie dies.
Midway through the first season of The Originals, Claire Holt ended her tenure as one of the “original” series regulars when producers reportedly decided she was no longer needed on the show (per TVLine) and had her character, Rebekah, abruptly leave New Orleans.
Amid accusations that he had threatened his wife, Columbus Short lost his gig as Harrison Wright at the end of Scandal’s third season, per TVLine. The season ended with him being held at gunpoint, and the next season picked up with the news of his off-screen death.
After the Season 2 finale, just after his character and Allison William’s worked out their relationship baggage, Christopher Abbott left Girls because he no longer felt his character was “relatable,” as he told The New York Times — leaving creator-star Lena Dunham to script an off-screen breakup for Charlie and Marnie in the following season.
Breaking the hearts of Mary-Matthew shippers everywhere, Dan Stevens chose to leave Downton Abbey at the end of Season 3, with Matthew Crawley dying in a car accident only moments after the birth of his and Lady Mary’s son. Dan wanted a chance to pursue other projects, per The Huffington Post, and immediately booked a Broadway turn opposite Jessica Chastain in the play, The Heiress.
After a rehab stint and a barrage of insults directed toward the Two and Half Men creator, Charlie Sheen lost his cushy gig as the highest-paid actor on TV when CBS fired him from the sitcom and cancelled the rest of its eighth season. His character, also named Charlie, was purportedly killed by a train but was later revealed to be alive just in time to be crushed by a falling piano.
Frustrated with the amount of time the demanding Grey’s Anatomy shooting schedule left her to be with her family and newly-adopted daughter, per The Wall Street Journal, Katherine Heigl left inelegantly midway through Season 6, never returning for some closure for her character, Izzie.
Disappointed with his diminished screentime and a “breakdown of communication” with Shonda Rhimes (per Entertainment Weekly), T.R. Knight chose to leave Grey’s Anatomy at the end of Season 5. But his decision was only made public after George succumbed to the injuries he sustained saving a pedestrian from a bus, shocking fans in the season finale.
Wisteria Lane lost one of the Desperate Housewives toward the end of Season 5 when Edie was electrocuted. In an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit filed the following year, Nicolette Sheridan claimed the show’s creator, Marc Cherry, fired her when she accused him of assault.
Isaiah Washington was not invited back to Season 3 of Grey’s Anatomy after he used a homophobic slur in reference to T.R. Knight in an on-set argument with Patrick Dempsey. His character, Burke, left Cristina at the altar in the season finale and fled Seattle, though he did return in Season 10 to close out the couple’s storyline.
Seaborn out! Rob Lowe vacated his role as Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn midway through The West Wing’s fourth season, later revealing that chose to leave when the other main cast members received raises and he didn’t, the New York Post reports.
Shannen Doherty abruptly left shows twice. Amid reports of feuds with co-stars, as well as alcohol and drug use (per Xfinity), Shannen left Beverly Hills, 90210 at the end of its fourth season, with her character, Brenda, departing the zip code to pursue acting in London. And after reportedly feuding with co-star Alyssa Milano (per TV Guide), she left Charmed at the end of its third season, with her character, Prue, dying at the hands of a demonic assassin. #WitchProblems