From Grey's Anatomy to Breaking Bad: 29+ Stars Who Left their Contracts Early


| LAST UPDATE 03/06/2022

By Scarlett Adler

"I am not coming back!" Pauley Perrette revealed of her time as 'Abby Sciuto.' From brewing tensions on set to heading off to Ivy Leagues, the NCIS actress isn't the only star who once plotted to get off of our screens.

Seinfeld - Jerry Seinfeld

About $100 Million/ Season

Jerry Seinfeld likes the number 9 - and we mean, really likes it. So much so, that as the 9th season of his show wrapped, he refused to accept a 10th - and the $100 million payday that'd come with it, as CNN put it.

Jerry Seinfeld, Leaving ContractsJerry Seinfeld, Leaving Contracts
Bob Riha Jr./WireImage via Getty Images

How did he see it? "It was the perfect moment" to pull the plug. "[When I was] thinking about quitting… People said, 'Why not 10 [seasons]?'… But 9 is my number," the superstitious star explained to Vanity Fair.

Iron Man - Terence Howard

About $100 Million/film

Much like Seinfeld, our next famous exit involved a whole lot of counting. Only this time, instead of superstitions, they called for one messy salary dispute that left Terence Howard running for the door. What went wrong? A "$100 million loss for me from me trying to look after somebody," Howard revealed to Rolling Stone.

Terence Howard, Leaving contractsTerence Howard, Leaving contracts
Alessandra Benedetti/Corbis via Getty Images

It all started when the Iron Man actor was approached to reprise his role as War Machine for Iron Man 2: "'Look, we will pay you 1/8th of what we contractually had for you,'" he recalled being told, claiming Rob Downey Jr. - who Terence helped land the role of Tony Stark - "took the money... supposed to go to me," as he told Andy Cohen.

Breaking Bad - Vince Gilligan

About $75 Million/3 episodes

Granted, you may not be happy about it (we certainly aren't), but Walter White's journey on our screen was brought to a final end back in 2008, with a series finale that still haunts us to this day. But did you know we were almost blessed with another 3 episodes?

Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Leaving contracts Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Leaving contracts
Frederick M. Brown via Getty Images

That's right, the brains behind the show, Vince Gilligan, was actually offered about $75 million from a Disney executive for just 3 more episodes. Unfortunately, though, we all know how that story ends, with Gilligan rejecting the hefty payday, claiming White's journey could only be completed in 62 episodes.

The Chappelle Show - Dave Chappelle

About $50 Million/2 seasons

If there's one person who knows how to crack a smile, it's this guy. Perhaps that's why, back in 2005, the entire world was left speechless, as the Chappelle Show comedian suddenly backed out of season 3's production -instead, hopping on a jet to South Africa. What, exactly, went wrong?

Dave Chappelle, Leaving contractsDave Chappelle, Leaving contracts
Lester Cohen/WireImage via Getty Images

"Fame is a horrifying concept when it's aimed at you," Chappelle told This Morning of his departure. "It didn't feel anything like what I imagined success should feel like." Sure enough, despite walking away from the stage - and the $50 million that 2 more seasons would've given him, as Today revealed, he wouldn't have it any other way.

ER - Anthony Edwards

About $35 Million/contract

Anthony Edwards's time in scrubs was so beloved, it took writers 2 seasons to craft 'Dr. Greene''s perfect farewell. "By the time we got to that goodbye, it was a goodbye that they had been setting up for two years," as the E.R. actor himself explained to Yahoo. What was the reason behind the star's secretly planned departure?

Anthony Edwards, Leaving contractsAnthony Edwards, Leaving contracts
Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Family: "It's been eight years of my family working around my schedule," as Edwards revealed to The Associated Press. Sure enough, eight years, a $35 million contract - as BBC reported - and one emotional on-screen death later, the ER actor's time at County General Hospital will never be forgotten.

Grey’s Anatomy - Katherine Heigl

About $30 Million/season

"You wish you could have it all exactly the way you want it," Katherine Heigl revealed to EW. "But that's not life." Sure enough, the Grey's Anatomy star's scandalous departure from her role as Izzie Stevens, back in 2010, was nothing viewers - nor even she, herself - could have ever predicted. But where did it all go wrong?

Katherine Heigl, Leaving contractsKatherine Heigl, Leaving contracts
Michael Tran/FilmMagic via Getty Images

"I didn't feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy," Heigl stated back in '08, forfeiting a nomination for her role as Izzie - and offending the show's writers in the process. Sure enough, shortly after, she'd be written off from the show - and her $30 million/season salary, according to

NCIS - Pauley Perrette

About $22 Million/season

"There is a 'machine' keeping me silent and feeding FALSE stories about me," Perrette revealed back in 2018, opening a can of worms no one ever saw coming. You see, for anyone who's kept us with the actress during her time as 'Abby,' the NCIS star's on-screen season 15 departure probably left you with a whole lot of questions. 

Pauley Perrette, Leaving contractsPauley Perrette, Leaving contracts
IMDb- NCIS (2003) via CBS

You know, like why it didn't warrant a face-to-face goodbye with her on-screen father figure, played by Mark Harmon? "I AM NOT COMING BACK! EVER!... I'm terrified of Harmon," the star eventually tweeted, revealing why she'd left the show - and her $22 million/season, according to, payout behind. So many questions.

Star Wars - Harrison Ford

About $20 Million/film

For all of you Star Wars fans, we apologize in advance, you might not be too happy about this next little revelation. You see, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away, Hans Solo was actually busy plotting his very own demise. But don't take it too personally: It was actually a long time coming.

Harrison Ford, Leaving contractsHarrison Ford, Leaving contracts
Film Publicity Archive/United Archives via Getty Images

As Harrison Ford - the face behind Hans Solo - told Jimmy Kimmel, he "would've liked to see some complication for the character," and was worried he'd be typecast; Eventually, this led him to ditch the franchise three films later, and the $20 million payout a sequel would've landed him, according to

Batman - Michael Keaton

About $15 Million/film

If you ask Michael Keaton, he wasn't "stupid about it," as he told EW: He knew agreeing to do a third Batman movie would equal big bucks - about $15 million, according to Indie Wire. Nonetheless, all it took was a sneak-peak at the script, and it suddenly became clear to him that there was no way he'd be returning to Gotham City.

Michael Keaton, Leaving contractsMichael Keaton, Leaving contracts
Screenshot- YouTube via What Culture / Batman (1989) via Warner Bros.

Why? The reason's actually quite simple: "[It] sucked. Yeah, it just was awful!" the actor revealed to CBS about the franchise's latest installment, Batman Forever. Oh, but don't you worry, he "was nice" about it. "I said to them, 'This is a really interesting character with a dual personality,'" Keaton joked to EW. How sweet.

American Idol - Brian Dunkleman

About $5 Million/season

Have you ever regretted skipping out on an opportunity once thrown your way? Something tells you're about to feel a whole lot better. That's right, meet Brian Dunkleman. Name not ringing a bell? That's because the former American Idol co-host dipped after just one season, instead, eager to get a start on an acting career.

Ryan Seacrest, Brian Dunkleman, Leaving contractsRyan Seacrest, Brian Dunkleman, Leaving contracts
Kevin Winter via Getty Images

Unfortunately, we all know how that story panned out, with Brian's former co-host, Ryan Seacrest, going on to land himself an estimated $5 million salary throughout the majority of the series, as Reuters put it. "Do I regret not remaining on the show now?... Yes. Especially when I open my bank statements," he joked to Variety.

Transformers & Megan Fox

About $1 Million/film

Unlike a once unimpressed Brian Dunkleman, when it comes to this Transformers star, it wasn't actually her decision to part ways with her famous script. Yep, if you've ever wondered what happens when the cameras stop rolling, brace yourself: According to Fox, it's not pretty.

Megan Fox, Michael Bay, Leaving contractsMegan Fox, Michael Bay, Leaving contracts
Don Arnold/FilmMagic via Getty Images

"He's like Napoleon... a nightmare to work for," Fox admitted to Wonderland Magazine, back in '09, of director, Michael Bay. Sure enough, it wasn't long before her gossip had landed her the ax, bringing her time as Michaela Barnes to an end - 2 films, 1 scandal, and an estimated $1 million loss later, according to

The Walking Dead - Andrew Lincoln

About $1 Million/episode

"Let me clarify something," Lincoln began. "Yes, it's my last season on the TV show," The Walking Dead actor revealed at 2018's Comic-Con, leaving spectators with a whole lot of questions: After 9 successful seasons and an army of fans, why would Lincoln opt to say goodbye to his time as Rick Grimes?

Andrew Lincoln, Leaving contractsAndrew Lincoln, Leaving contracts
Craig Barritt/WireImage via Getty Images

Sure enough, the reason was actually quite sweet. "I have two young children, and I live in a different country," the actor explained to EW of the decision that'd cost him an estimated $1 million per episode, according to "It was that simple. It was time for me to come home."

That ‘70s Show - Topher Grace

About $700,000/episode

Remember when we watched Eric Forman and his friends hanging out down the street (the same old thing, they did last week)? Unfortunately, though, we all know how that story ends, with actor Topher Grace eventually saying goodbye to the Forman household 7 seasons later - but why?

Topher Grace, Leaving contractsTopher Grace, Leaving contracts
Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

"I didn't care [about the size of the role/salary]. It's what I wanted to do with my life," Grace explained to Indie Wire of his sudden exit, back in '05. Sure enough, despite saying goodbye to Wisconsin - and the $700,000/episode he'd be raking in, as put it - we're sure Kitty and Red are super proud of him, right?

Home Improvement - Jonathan Taylor Thomas

About $500,000/episode

You probably remember Jonathan Taylor Thomas as the adorable little boy we watched grow up on our screens. But that's exactly why the Home Improvement star left the show when he did, despite 8 successful seasons and a potential $500,000/episode payout, according to The fame was simply too much.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Leaving contractsJonathan Taylor Thomas, Leaving contracts
Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

"I'd been going nonstop since I was 8-years-old," the child-star explained to People. "I wanted to go to school, to travel, and have a bit of a break;" and, well, that's exactly what he did, come 1998, as he ditched Hollywood for Harvard, hitting the books as he studied philosophy and history. Consider us impressed.

Law & Order: SVU - Christopher Meloni

About $400,000/episode

In New York City, the dedicated detective who investigated all of those vicious felonies was a fan favorite; there's no doubt about it. Perhaps that's why when Detective Elliot Stabler decided to hand in his retirement papers, viewers were not only devastated but were left doing investigating of their own. What happened?

Christopher Meloni, Leaving contractsChristopher Meloni, Leaving contracts
Bobby Bank/WireImage via Getty Images

Sure, Stabler might have been living a life as one of NYPD's finest, but off-screen? Actor Christopher Meloni was simply "open-eyed in going forward and finding new adventures," as he told The New York Post of his 2011 departure from the 16th precinct, and the estimated $400,000/episode he was cashing in, according to Looper.

Grey’s Anatomy - Patrick Dempsey

About $400,000/episode

He may have played the finest surgeon on our screens, but if there's one thing McDreamy will never be able to fix? It's the broken hearts we were left with, back in 2015, as his exit from our screens left us reaching for the Kleenex. Yep, we're still recovering. But why did Dr. Derek Shepherd deserve such a, well, brutal fate?

Patrick Dempsey, Leaving contractsPatrick Dempsey, Leaving contracts
Trago/WireImage via Getty Images

"It had been long enough," actor Patrick Dempsey told People of his decision to hand in the scrubs. "It was [simply] time for me to move on with other things." Sure enough, after 11 seasons, endless operations, and a hefty $400,000/episode payout, according to, McDreamy's time at Grey Sloan will never be forgotten.

Shameless - Emmy Rossum

About $350,000/episode

Back in '19, we watched Fiona Gallagher write out a $50,000 check as she said bye to her time in Chicago. But off-screen, actress Emmy Rossum was actually cashing in a whole lot more - about $350,000/episode, to be specific, as Variety put it. So I guess the only question here is, why exactly did she choose to call it quits?

Emmy Rossum, Leaving contractsEmmy Rossum, Leaving contracts
Mark Davis via Getty Images

"Try not to think of me as gone, just think of me as moving down the block," the actress shared on Facebook of her shocking decision to say goodbye to the Gallagher household. After 8 years, 9 seasons, and endless memories, it was finally time for Fiona to spread her wings. We wonder how Frank feels about that.

Chicago P.D. - Sophia Bush

About $250,000/episode

Detective Erin Lindsay might've been a pro at taking bad guys off the streets, but that doesn't mean it was easy. In fact, it wasn't. That's right, actress Sophia Bush's time on our screen was so grueling that it took not only a potential lawsuit and NY Times expose, but years before the star was finally able to leave the show.

Sophia Bush, Leaving contractsSophia Bush, Leaving contracts
Daniel Boczarski via Getty Images

You see, while you might have been shocked by the actress's season 4 departure from Chicago's PD - and her $250,000/episode payout, according to - it was actually a long time coming: "I quit because… my body was, like, falling apart... I was really, really unhappy," she revealed to Armchair Expert.

Baywatch - Pamela Anderson

About $200,000/episode

Our next famous departure is taking us all the way back to 1996, where we watched our favorite lifeguard, Pamela Anderson, opt to hand in her whistle and float. The reason behind the Baywatch bombshell's shocking exit from our screens? Motherhood. That's right.

Pamela Anderson, Leaving contractsPamela Anderson, Leaving contracts
Kypros via Getty Images

"Giving birth to my son, Brandon, has opened my mind to explore many new personal and professional opportunities," the actress explained, as she retired the red speedo after five seasons. While her decision might have come at a cost - $200,000/episode, according to - the value of motherhood was clearly priceless.

Dynasty - Nicollette Sheridan

About $200,000/episode

Sure, her time as Alexis Carrington might have called for lots of scheming and scandal, but off-screen? The reason behind Dynasty actress Nicollette Sheridan's season 2 departure actually involved zero funny business. In fact, the reality was actually quite heartbreaking.

Nicollette Sheridan, Leaving contractsNicollette Sheridan, Leaving contracts
Jamie McCarthy/WireImage via Getty Images

"Reprising the iconic role of Alexis has been thoroughly enjoyable, but the chance to spend precious time with my terminally ill mother is more important to me right now," the star revealed back in 2019, as she said goodbye to Atlanta - and the estimated $200,000/episode that had come with it, as put it.

The Office - Steve Carrell

About $175,000/episode

There's no doubt about it: He was the world's best boss, and we're not only referring to the words plastered on Michael Scott's coffee mug. After Dunder Mifflin's fan-favorite decided to part ways with his time in Scranton, viewers were left devastated; So why, exactly, did actor Steve Carrell opt to ditch his famous role?

Steve Carrell, Leaving contractsSteve Carrell, Leaving contracts
Screenshot- YouTube via The Office/ The Office (2005) via NBC

Well, it depends on who you're asking. Back in '10, the official story was that after 7 seasons - and a hefty $175,000/episode payout, as Medium put it - Carrell would be clocking out to spend time with his family. But if you ask his former hairstylist, Kim Ferry? "For some reason, they didn't contact him." So many questions.

Breaking Bad - Dean Norris

About $150,000/episode

If you're anything like us, you're probably still recovering from the events that transpired in that New Mexico desert the day we said goodbye to DEA agent Hank Schrader. But don't worry, actor Dean Norris has already made peace with his on-screen demise. As a matter of fact, he actually asked for it.

Dean Norris, Leaving contractsDean Norris, Leaving contracts
Neilson Barnard via Getty Images

That's right, while something tells us Marie won't hate Walter any less after this revelation, Dean Norris practically begged to be killed off from the show. Why? So that he could film his next series, Under the Dome, without any conflicting schedules, costing him an estimated $150,000/episode payout, as put it.

Batwoman - Ruby Rose

About $150,000/episode

"Being the lead of a superhero show is tough - being the lead in anything is tough," as actress Ruby Rose will happily tell you. Sure enough, after a brutal back injury on set, and her premature return, 10 days later, the star finally realized it was ultimately time to hang up the cape.

Ruby Rose, Leaving contractsRuby Rose, Leaving contracts
Charley Gallay via Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

But Rose's recovery wasn't the only factor compelling her to forfeit her lead role - and the estimated $150,000/episode that came with it, as CBR put it - after just one season: "You have time in quarantine... to just think about a lot of different things and what you want to achieve in life," she reflected to EW.

Downton Abbey - Dan Stevens

About $100,000/episode

For any of our Downton Abbey fans, something tells us December 25th has an entirely different meaning; you know, considering that marks the day we said bye to Matthew Crawley - in the form of a tragic car crash, no less. But while his season 3 exit might have left us furious, it actually made actor Dan Stevens, well, very happy.

Dan Stevens, Leaving contractsDan Stevens, Leaving contracts
Mike Marsland/WireImage via Getty Images

"It is a desire for freedom really," the Downton Abbey heartthrob explained to The Telegraph of his decision to be written out of the show, and its estimated $100,000/episode payday, according to As he put it, "I want to do the best work I can in as interesting a range of roles as I can."

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - Janet Hubert

About $100,000/episode

"It's been a real long time," Will Smith revealed as he reflected on actress Janet Hubert's short-lived time as his 'Aunt.' Back in 1993, we watched the Banks mansion lose a very special guest, as the actress, who we once knew as Aunt Viv, walked out that infamous white door and never came back. But why?

Will Smith, Janet Hubert, Leaving contractsWill Smith, Janet Hubert, Leaving contracts
Screenshot- Red Table Talk (2020) via Facebook Watch

"There was some friction [with Will and me]," Hubert revealed. Unfortunately, after two rocky seasons, the on-set feuds, combined with "really bad" budget cuts, finally led the star to say bye to her famous role - and her alleged $100,00/episode salary, as put it. If only we were a fly on those walls...

The Good Wife - Josh Charles

About $100,000/episode

Our next famous face was so adored that not only were fans devastated about Josh Charles' on-screen exit, but his very own costar, Julianna Margulies schemed and negotiated to try and get him to stay. Safe to say, that was one case she didn't win. So, why did the Good Wife actor call it quits?

Josh Charles, Leaving contractsJosh Charles, Leaving contracts
Andy Kropa via Getty Images

"My [$100,000/episode, according to] contract was up, and I was just ready to kind of move on," Charles explained to David Letterman after his character, Will Gardner's shocking demise in season 7. Just don't ask him what, exactly, he plans to move on to: "Oh, I have no plan," he joked.

House - Kal Penn

About $100,000/episode

If you'd have told us that Dr. Lawrence Kutner would one day find his way towards 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, well, we would've thought you were crazy. But back in '09, that's exactly what happened, as the House star was seen trading one house (and its $100,000/episode payout, as put it) for another: The White House.

Kal Penn, Leaving contractsKal Penn, Leaving contracts
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Yep, you read that right. Talk about the crossover you never saw coming. It all started when the House actor was offered the chance to come work in the Office of Public Liaison. Sure enough, the actor jumped on the invite (wouldn't you?), leading to his season 5 death on House and, um, a whole lot of confusion on our end.

The Vampire Diaries - Nina Dobrev

About $40,000/episode

From secret doppelgangers to forbidden romances, Elena Gilbert's time in Mystic Falls was certainly one for the books - a story seemingly destined to last forever, with the ageless vampires to show for it, of course. Perhaps that's why fans were left speechless when the Vampire Diaries star's journey suddenly came to an end.

Nina Dobrev, Leaving contractsNina Dobrev, Leaving contracts
Michael Yarish via Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. via Getty Images

But if you ask actress Nina Dobrev about her shocking departure from our screens, the reason was actually quite simple: "I always knew I wanted Elena's story to be a six-season adventure," she told Instagram of her time on the show, which landed her an estimated $40,000/episode, as put it.

Charlie’s Angels - Farrah Fawcett

About $40,000/episode

Back in the day, long before Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, and Drew Barrymore found their way onto our screens, there was a different angel hanging up her wings for good: Charlie's Angels star, Farrah Fawcett. Ring a bell? But while viewers couldn't get enough of the series, our blonde beauty was actually, well, unimpressed. 

Farrah Fawcett, Leaving contractsFarrah Fawcett, Leaving contracts
Fotos International/Frank Edwards via Getty Images

In fact, as she once put it, "We didn't have, in my opinion, the greatest writers on that show." Perhaps that's why, come 1977, the actress confirmed the rumors that she'd be leaving the hit show, after just one season, and the potential to rake in $40,000/episode, according to "It was time for me to leave."

The O.C. - Mischa Barton

About $25,000/episode

Last but not least, we present to you one of the most shocking plot twists to date: The moment Marissa Cooper was met with a tragic fate, one that left us forced to say goodbye. But guess what? Not only was actress Mischa Barton happy about her on-screen death, but she, "Fought tooth and nail" to make it happen.

Mischa Barton, Leaving contractsMischa Barton, Leaving contracts
Kevin Winter via Getty Images

Yep. "I just don't think sailing off into the sunset's the proper goodbye," Barton explained of her decision to go out with a bang, literally. Sure enough, not even a $25,000/episode payout, as put it, could make her stay, and her season 3 death still haunts us to this very day.