We all have our favorite on-screen characters, but sometimes saying bye to them can be pretty hard. From Shameless to Gossip Girl, here's a look at why these stars left their famous roles. Warning, *spoiler alerts* ahead.
Christopher Meloni: Contract Negotiations
Fans were devasted to hear the news of their favorite New York City cop leaving Law & Order: SVU. Elliot Stabler, played by Christopher Meloni, was suddenly written off the NBC show in the season 12 finale.
During the season 13 premiere of the show, it was unveiled the detective had decided to retire from his position in the Special Victims Unit. It was said there were some contract issues with the network after season 12. But recently, Meloni has returned to the series, giving us fans the Stabler and Benson crossover we need!
Patrick Dempsey: Long Overdue
Since Dr. Derek Shepherd died on Grey's Anatomy, television has never felt the same. McDreamy was killed off of the long-standing television series in 2015 after he was in a car accident, leaving him brain dead. Fans everywhere were in absolute shock to see their favorite doc killed off - but the actor felt otherwise.
Although his exit from the show was an abrupt one, according to Patrick Dempsey, he was ready to move on to new things. "It had been long enough. It was time for me to move on with other things and other interests. I probably should have moved on a couple of years earlier," he told People in 2016.
Sophia Bush: Tough Working Conditions
Chicago P.D. said goodbye to their lead character, Sophia Bush, after four seasons on the fan-favorite show. Detective Erin Lindsay left the NBC show in 2017 after her character left her unit to join the FBI's counter-terrorism unit in New York. However, Bush kept it on the hush for quite some time as to why she really left.
During an interview with Dax Shepard on his podcast, Armchair Expert, in 2018, she finally revealed why she decided it was time to go. She confessed it was "a consistent onslaught barrage of abusive behavior" and that her "body was, like, falling apart, because I was really, really unhappy," working in the climate.
Dan Stevens: Exploring Other Offers
Another tragic death that left Downton Abbey fans absolutely devasted was the death of Matthew Crawley. Played by Dan Stevens, Crawley died in a horrible car accident after just three seasons in 2012, right after his wife, Lady Mary, gave birth to their child.
Stevens told The Telegraph he decided not to renew his contract to work on new projects. He was legally bound for three years, "And when that came up, it was a very difficult decision. 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."
Steve Carell: Network Issues
After seven hilarious seasons, it was a heart-breaking goodbye to see Michael Scott leaving The Office. Steve Carell, who was also one of the writers on the show, left viewers in complete shock after his sudden departure from Dunder Mifflin - but apparently, there's more to the story...
At the time, it was assumed Carell had decided to cordially part ways with the long-standing comedy. But apparently, there was a bit more going on. According to editor and director Claire Scanlon, Carrell would have come back, but the network "dropped the ball" and "just never even bothered" to get him back. Consider us speechless.
Kal Penn: Shifting Careers
During the reign of the successful medical drama House, viewers saw a rotation of fellows coming in and out of the hospital under Dr. House himself. In season 4, Dr. Lawrence Kutner was one of them. But after only a season and a half, the lovable doctor passed away, leaving House himself and the viewers flustered and confused.
The actor behind it all, Kal Penn, left the show for a somewhat different reason than most! Penn accepted a job at the White House under the Obama administration as an Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement (Woah), giving the writers behind it all a short time span to write him off.
Daniel Dae Kim: Pay Equality
As the news broke of Chin Ho Kelly's departure from Hawaii Five-0, fans everywhere were saddened to hear their favorite cop would not be returning for season eight. It was discovered in the season eight premiere that Chin accepted an offer to run the Five-0 Task Force in San Francisco.
Daniel Dae Kim, unfortunately, left the show due to unequal pay with his co-stars Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan. "As an Asian American actor, I know first-hand how difficult it is to find opportunities at all, let alone play a well-developed, three-dimensional character like Chin Ho," Daniel said. "I will miss him sincerely."
Grace Park: Pay Equality, Take Two
It got way worse for Hawaii Five-0 fans when another lead character, Kono Kalakaua, also left the task force at the end of season 7 to move to Nevada. Grace Park later revealed her reasoning for exiting the long-standing show was the same as her co-star's, Daniel Dae Kim.
In 2018, the actress opened up to Entertainment Weekly about why she ended up leaving the CBS show. "There were a number of factors spanning the show that affected the non-renewal of my contract," she said. "I'm grateful for the lessons learned, but I chose what was best for my integrity."
Brett Dier: Telenovela Twist
In true telenovela fashion, Jane the Virgin's Michael Cordero was killed in the middle of season 3 and brought back to life the following season. Brett Dier, who plays Cordero, was killed off (or so we thought) after suffering complications from a gunshot wound. So what happened?
It was first speculated that Dier had left the show by choice, but later a true plot twist was revealed. The writers behind the show had actually planned Michael's fate all along and knew from season 1 he would be killed off and later brought back to life!
Justin Chambers: Diversify His Roles
The most recent original cast member to leave Grey-Sloan Memorial was Dr. Alex Karev. And fans everywhere were absolutely devasted to see him go after 16 seasons. However, when we heard his character moved to Kansas to be with Izzie Stevens after having secret kids, we felt a little better about his departure.
Justin Chambers decided it was just his time to leave after playing such a career-defining role. "For some time now, however, I have hoped to diversify my acting roles and career choices. And, as I turn 50 and am blessed with my remarkable, supportive wife and five wonderful children, now is that time," he told Deadline.
Donald Glover: Heart Wasn't in It
Troy Barnes, played by Donald Glover on the hilarious sitcom Community and left at the beginning of season 5 to sail around the world and go on a journey of a lifetime. However, when Glover announced he was leaving the show in 2013, there was some BTS drama after the show creator Dan Harmon and actor Chevy Chase were fired.
As for Glover, once he left Community, he continued to work on his music while producing his F.X. comedy show, Atlanta. "I asked to leave [Community] because my heart really wasn't in it," he told VIBE Magazine. "I feel like if I stayed there, I'd be doing my life a disservice."
Josh Charles: Ready to Move On
In the middle of season 5 of CBS legal drama, The Good Wife, William Gardner, played by Josh Charles, was suddenly killed off the show, leaving viewers dazed and confused! The lawyer was shot by his own client in the courtroom and pronounced dead later on. So what happened?
It was later confirmed that Charles was the one who was ready to leave the show at the end of season 4 when his contract was up. "It's been one of the greatest gigs for me in my entire career, but at the end of last year, my contract was up, and I was just ready to kind of move on," he later confessed.
Natalie Dormer: Juggling Other Projects
To all the Game of Thrones fans out there, we know there were a lot of goodbyes over the long-running television show - especially to some fan favorites. Natalie Dormer, AKA Margaery Tyrell, joined the HBO show in season two until her character was written off in season six. But apparently, it was upon her request….
Although her abrupt exit surprised GOT fans, she requested to leave the series earlier than projected. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, she stated, "in true Natalie Dormer-style, I tried to fit a million projects into a single year," and the writers had her stay on for a couple more months before they wrote her off.
Nina Dobrev: Six-Season Adventure
One of the most adored teen dramas of all time, The Vampire Diaries, starred Nina Dobrev as the one and only Elena Gilbert. It was a total shock to fans when she was written off at the end of season six and put into a magically-induced coma that could only be broken when her best friend died - just some classic vampire stuff.
Dobrev revealed to followers via Instagram in 2015 in a post writing, "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." Luckily for fans, Dobrev returned as a guest star in the series finale to close out her time on the show and give fans a proper goodbye.
Samira Wiley: Writer's Choice
Orange Is The New Black grew an instant cult following from the second it aired, so when the beloved inmate Poussey Washington was killed off the show, fans were devastated and confused. Washington was killed by a C.O. during a peaceful demonstration. But unfortunately, it wasn't the actress's choice to leave the show.
Samira Wiley later revealed it was the writer's choice to call it quits for her character. "When I first found out, I was devastated. I was shocked, I was confused. I knew about it for over a year. It was really, really, really difficult to not be able to talk to the rest of my cast about what was going on," she told the New York Post.
Columbus Short: Trouble With the Law
Another Shonda Rhimes' classic, Scandal, featured some of the best actors and characters in Hollywood - including litigator Harrison Wright. Played by Columbus Short, Wright was shot in season three and pronounced dead at the beginning of season 4. But what was happening, BTS?
Unfortunately, the actor got into trouble with the law, which got him fired. Following his exit from the show in 2014, he said, "I'll be candid. I was struggling with [substance abuse]," he shared. "I had a lot on my plate... I was using unhealthy ways to kind of self-medicate and deal with a lot of heavy-duty stuff in my life."
Kate Mara: Two-Season Agreement
It was a relatively short run for Zoe Barnes' character in the political thriller series House of Cards. At the end of season two, Kate Mara was dramatically killed off the show when Frank Underwood pushed her in front of an oncoming train, leaving viewers wildly confused.
However, Mara knew her character would have a short run on the show when she first signed on. "I knew from the moment I accepted the role that I was only contracted for 14 episodes and would have a grisly death at the start of the second season," she told Daily Mail's You Magazine." I probably wouldn't have signed on otherwise."
Kevin Spacey: Assault Allegations
In addition to Kate Mara being written off House of Cards, the main character, Frank Underwood, had a long-time relationship with the show. But season 8 was the end. Kevin Spacey was killed off the show by his go-to guy, Doug Stamper - but why was he kicked off?
Spacey was ultimately fired from the political thriller after a number of sexual assault allegations were made against him in late 2017. The show ended up continuing without him after he was fired, as his character was killed off, leaving Robin Wright as the lead character.
T.R. Knight: Producer Drama
The first Grey's Anatomy death that made us realize no matter how much we love these characters, their destiny is not in our hands: George O'Malley was very abruptly killed off at the beginning of season 6 after jumping in front of a bus to save a stranger, making us love and miss him more.
T.R. Knight's departure from the show was not such a clean one. When he announced his exit in 2009, he said, "My five-year experience proved to me that I could not trust any answer that was given [about George]." He continued, "And with respect, I'm going to leave it at that," also referring to his relationship with Shonda Rhimes.
Charlie Sheen: Struggling Off-Screen
Charlie Harper of Two And A Half Men was not only killed off the show once but twice! The series lead was violently killed off of the comedy sitcom when he was hit by a train in Paris, but then was fine somehow, and then again died again after being crushed by a falling piano. So why was he killed off - twice?
In 2011, Sheen faced substance abuse problems and had some pretty memorable public meltdowns - contributing to his exit from the sitcom. The actor verbally criticized the show creator Chuck Lorre in two interviews, causing him to get fired. But the show continued without him, and Ashton Kutcher was brought in.
Mischa Barton: Bullied, Overworked & More
Oh, The O.C. - a classic early 2000's series that devasted the hearts of many when Marissa Cooper suddenly died in the season 3 finale. At the time, Mischa Barton didn't open up as to why she really left the show. But in 2021, she alleged to E! that she was overworked, bullied on set, and turning down big roles.
The producer eventually gave her a choice. To have her character "sail off into the sunset and potentially you can come back in the future in some bizarre T.V. scenario, or we can kill your character off, and you can go on with your career," she recalled. And, well, option number two is what apparently sold!
Conleth Hill: Ambushed
Varys on GOT was violently killed off the series in Season 8 when Daenerys Targaryen had her dragon burn him alive. Conleth Hill opened up to Entertainment Weekly, explaining, "At the time, nothing could console me. I kept thinking: 'What did I do wrong?' There wasn't any pre-warning. This was just reading cold hard copy."
Hill continued, "I took it very personally. I took it as a person, not as an actor or an artist… You can't help feeling that you failed in some way, that you haven't lived up to some expectation that you didn't know about. The only thing that consoles you is people who worked a lot harder than you are in the same boat."
Daniel Gillies: Acting in Two Countries
Daniel Gillies was leading a double-acting life as he was playing Dr. Joel Goran on the Canadian series, Saving Hope while he was playing Elijah Mikaleson in the American series, The Originals. It was exhausting for the actor to be playing two roles, in two series, in two countries... so he requested to have Joel killed off.
After three seasons of playing Joel, it was his time. He told T.V. Junkies, "They delivered it, and I said, 'Well, thank you. Thank you for having me here. Thank you for this experience.' I mean, what else can you say? Everybody was just dead silent, it was odd. But I wouldn't change it for anything."
Suzanne Somers: Fired
Three's Company dominated the sitcom game in the '70s due to its hilarious writing and cast. But when Suzanne Somers, who played Chrisy Snow on the show, asked for a raise, she was fired. Somers requested an additional $120,000 per episode to match her male costars, but ABC returned to her with an offer of only $5,000.
When Somers missed filming for two episodes due to an injury, she was written off the show. Over 30 years later, Somers admits to the Television Academy, "To this day, I feel a sadness not being able to finish out Three's Company. I see that it was important," and "I still have a heartache that it ended so badly."
Meghan Markle: Becoming a Duchess
Before she was the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle played Rachel Zane on Suits, the drama series, for seven seasons. Her character was written off the show after she got married and moved away to pursue a new job offer when in actuality, she would be leaving for a very different engagement to a certain royal family member.
After Markle left the show due to her engagement to Prince Harry, she told the BBC, "What's been really exciting, as we talk about this as the transition out of my career… is that the causes that have been very important to me, I can focus even more energy on." We definitely do miss her on-screen, though!
Taylor Momsen: Quit Acting
Jenny Humphrey stirred up the drama during her short time on Gossip Girl, but her character was put on "indefinite hiatus" in 2010. Taylor Momsen decided to leave the Upper East Side altogether and would occasionally make a few appearances here and there throughout the show's six seasons.
Momsen told Elle the following year the reason behind why she left Gossip Girl. "I quit acting, actually. I quit Gossip Girl and now tour and am in a band, and that's pretty much all I want to do. Hopefully, I'll be able to only do that for the rest of my life," she said. XOXO, little J.
Katherine Heigl: Family First
From the beginning of Grey's Anatomy, Katherine Heigl was a fan favorite. Still, unfortunately, her character as Dr. Izzie Stevens only lasted for 6 seasons out of the show's current 18. Stevens was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic melanoma, and viewers were devastated. But why the sudden boot?
Despite the rumors about her feud with Shonda Rhimes, the reality is that Heigl was becoming a first-time momma. "I started a family, and it changed everything," she said. "It changed my desire to work full-time. I went on family leave and just got to be a [mom], and it changed my whole perspective," she assured.
Ian Beattie: A Painful Goodbye
Another brutal death for Game Of Thrones fans everywhere was the final goodbye to Ser Meryn Trant. Arya Stark killed the character in season five - which took the cast and crew 13 hours to film and was one of the most expensive scenes to film for the show.
Ian Beattie told the Washington Post in an interview, "It absolutely broke my heart. It hit me psychically, and thank goodness I was wearing prosthetics because nobody could actually see that I was crying." The actor wore prosthetic wounds over his eyes for ten hours.
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje: Passion Projects
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje played Mr. Eko during his time on ABC's mystery adventure series, Lost. The character was only involved in the show for a short time when he joined the cast in season 2. He shockingly died in season 3 after he was killed by Lost's smoke monster.
The actor was the first Lost cast member to ask to be killed off the series, and his wish was granted! Akinnuoye-Agbaje found his exit "joyous" as he wanted to direct and star in a movie based on his own life. In 2018, this project, Farming, came true, with Akinnuoye-Agbaje as the writer and director!
Emmy Rossum: Unequal Pay
Fiona Gallagher has become one of the most famous names in television after nine long seasons of playing the older sister in Showtime's successful series, Shameless. Fans were devasted to hear Emmy Rossum leave Chicago and the Gallagher family after being a main character for so long. So, what was happening?
Outlets reported Rossum faced contractual issues involving her making significantly less money than her male co-star. But the actress stayed on through season nine and, in 2018, said her goodbyes. Emmy later said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, "it did feel like it was time for the character to spread her wings."