We all love to get completely immersed in our favorite TV shows, and sometimes getting obsessed with the latest Netflix series can take over our whole lives. The show stars can often end up feeling like our best friends, spending every day with them on our screens from the comfort of our living room.
But sometimes, even on the most beloved and successful shows, the stars are not so happy with their parts behind the scenes—leaving their fans devastated when they walk away.
Let’s take a look at some of the most surprising departures from our favorite TV shows—and the truth of the reasons behind them.
Dean Norris, “Breaking Bad”
Norris’ turn in the hit series Breaking Bad, playing DEA agent Hank Schrader, gained him fans worldwide. But behind the scenes, his focus was split from his role on the show.
By the final season, Norris was keen to concentrate on a new role in Stephen King’s CBS drama Under the Dome and leave Hank behind.
“I said, ‘Would it be interesting if Hank died in the first eight (episodes of the final series)?'” Norris said on CBS This Morning.
The producers persuaded Norris to stay for the final season but wrote him out for the second part of the season finale.
Dan Stevens, “Downton Abbey”
Downton Abbey fans were devastated when Dan Stevens left the show. His beloved character Matthew Crawley was killed off in the third season, and the names and viewers were equally bereft at a loss.
“I spend a lot of my time apologizing,” he said to the Daily Mail about how his departure broke the fans’ hearts. “It was a tough decision. But like a lot of tough decisions, they’re kind of exciting to make at the same time.”
Since leaving Downton, Stevens has appeared in movies such as Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast and the comedy Eurovision on Netflix.
- R. Knight, “Grey’s Anatomy”
Grey’s Anatomy fans are no stranger to heartbreak and brutal deaths of their most beloved characters. But even the long-suffering viewers were pushed to the brink with the end of T.R. Knight’s character George O’Malley.
Rumor had it that Knight was dissatisfied with his characters’ dwindling appearances on the show and the direction his story arc was taking.
When asked by Entertainment Weekly why he chose to leave rather than raise it with the show’s creators, he said: “My five-year experience proved to me that I could not trust any answer that was given. And with respect, I’m going to leave it at that.” Awks!
Mclean Stevenson, “M*A*S*H”
The Viacom and CBS mega-smash hit show M.A.S.H earned millions of fans worldwide and made stars of all its ensemble cast.
But when McLean Stevenson revealed that he was leaving the show, many people suspected that he was no longer content being part of an ensemble and wanted a starring role of his own.
His co-star Loretta Swit revealed in an interview with the American Television Academy that Stevenson had said to her, “I know I will not be in anything as good as this show, but I have to leave and be number one.”
Sigourney Weaver, “Alien”
The iconic Alien film franchise made Sigourney Weaver a bona fide movie megastar and terrified new movie watchers.
But after starring in two of the iconic movies, Weaver took a step back from her iconic role as Ellen Ripley, not appearing in the further two sequels.
Rumors continue to abound about a return for Sidney in the fifth installment, but Weaver remains noncommittal.
“I don’t know,” she said in an interview with Empire. “Maybe Ripley has done her bit. She deserves a rest.”
Leonard Nimoy, “Star Trek”
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Star Trek fans watched the dramatic and heartbreaking death of one of the most beloved characters, Mr. Spock, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Director Nicholas Meyer revealed that Leonard Nimoy had already wanted to leave Spock behind but was persuaded to participate in the film due to the spectacular death scene.
“Here’s what happened,” he said to USA Today. “Leonard was very ambivalent about doing another Star Trek movie. And Harve Bennett lured him with the promise of a terrific death scene, which (William Shatner) and he played so touchingly.”
Dominic Monaghan, “Lost”
Already a household name thanks to his role as Merry in the Lord of the Rings movie franchise, Dominic Monaghan gained a whole new generation of fans with his portrayal of a one-hit-wonder ex-rocker Charlie Pace in the famously bonkers drama Lost.
Monaghan’s character was a hit, but he was pretty open about his feelings behind his departure in the third season. “It’s a big cast, and you don’t work as much as you would like,” he said to Entertainment Weekly. “You get bored, you get frustrated, you get lazy, and your work suffers. And there are other things out there.”
Ruby Rose, “Batwoman”
Fans were left shocked when Ruby Rose quit The CW’s Batwoman after just one season as the titular character. She later revealed that she made the tough decision due to the role’s pressure and her health issues—she suffered a back injury on set that required surgery.
“Being the leader of a superhero show is tough,” she said to Entertainment Weekly. “Being the lead in anything is tough. It was a lot more difficult in that particular instance because I was still recovering from my surgery. I had my surgery, and then 10 days later, I went to work, which maybe wasn’t the best idea.”
John Francis Daley, “Bones”
Bones fans were devastated when Lance Sweets was killed, just before his child with girlfriend Daisy was born.
However, the truth was that off-screen, John Francis Daley had been made an offer he couldn’t refuse—directing the upcoming movie Vacation.
“The movie was a huge opportunity for me,” he said to Vulture.com. “I was super pumped to do it, but sadly I had to leave the show that I had been on for seven years. I’ve been writing movies simultaneously while I was on the show and was able to manage both schedules, but directing is an all-encompassing job.”
Emily Rickards, “Arrow”
Fans were devastated when Emily Rickards announced that she would be leaving Arrow after seven years, but no one took it more challenging than her beloved co-star Stephen Amell.
Though Rickards kept silent about her reasons for leaving, Amell’s touching tribute hinted to what the real reason might be, suggesting she was concentrating on new opportunities.
“She was a co-worker that became a best friend,” he wrote about her on his Instagram page. “EmBett… We wouldn’t be here without you. I love you. And I cannot wait to see what you do next.”
Christopher Meloni, “Law & Order: SVU”
Christopher Meloni won the hearts of viewers and critics alike with his portrayal of Elliot Stabler on Law & Order: SVU. So the world was stunned when he announced abruptly that he was leaving the show, being written off and never seen again.
In an interview with Andy Cohen, Meloni revealed that he left because his salary negotiations for the upcoming season “broke down.” He went on to tell Cohen that he did not regret leaving the show, “not for a day.” Ouch!
Andrew Lincoln, “The Walking Dead”
British actor Andrew Lincoln made a name for himself in America playing Rick Grimes on the hit show The Walking Dead, but it meant being away from his home country—and family—for up to six months at a time.
So that’s why, after nine seasons in the role, he asked the creators to write him out of the show. “I have two young children, and I live in a different country, and they become less portable as they get older,” he said to Entertainment Weekly. “It was that simple. It was time for me to come home.”
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, “Lost”
not-so-gentle giant Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje delighted fans with his portrayal of Mr. Eko, a terrifying criminal and murderer in a priest outfit smash-hit TV show Lost.
Though many were surprised when he left the show after only one season, Akinnuoye-Agbaje and the show’s creators agreed that the character had already completed a perfect story arc.
“The character was complete,” Akinnuoye-Agbaje said to Entertainment Weekly. “It was such a well-written episode that I knew I would be able to sew him up in a season.”
Josh Charles, “The Good Wife”
The Good Wife’s Josh Charles left fans stunned when he announced that he would be leaving the show after four seasons.
The truth was, Charles had just got engaged to his future wife and was thinking seriously about what he wanted his future to look like.
“Michelle (his wife) and I had a long conversation about it,” he said to Entertainment Weekly. “I just felt a little fried and that I was ready for something different for me. That’s no reflection on how I feel about the show; it’s just more about what I want to do in my life.”
Raymond Cruz, “Breaking Bad”
One of the most memorable characters on the smash hit show, Breaking Bad’s Raymond Cruz shocked audiences with Tuco Salamanca’s violent nature.
After Salamanca was brutally killed off, Cruz revealed that he had had a pretty tough time playing the role.
“It’s a challenging character, not easy at all,” he said to AMC. “It’s not necessarily fun; it hurts, man. You get drained physically, emotionally, and mentally. You get exhausted, just doing one scene. There is no finesse. And I’m not that kind of person at all. I’m pretty quiet and easy-going.”
Connie Britton, “Nashville”
Nashville fans were devastated when star Connie Britton announced that she was leaving the show after four seasons.
The news came at the same time that the hit show was moving channels, from ABC to CMT—and with that move came some creative changes.
Creator Marshall Herskovitz revealed why this was behind Britton’s decision to leave. “She felt that creatively, she wanted to move on from the show, and she was very torn because she loved the show,” he said. “After four years, she felt she needed a different challenge, which is something I really understand as an artist.”
Harrison Ford, “Star Wars”
Of course, Harrison Ford is one of the biggest stars of the entire Star Wars franchise, but did you know that he asked several times for his character to be killed off?
He explained to Conan O’Brian that he felt the character arc had run its course.
“I thought the best utility of the character would be for him to sacrifice himself to a high ideal,” he said. “Give a little bottom, a little gravitas to the enterprise—not that there wasn’t some already—but I just wanted in on some part of it.”
Patrick Dempsey, “Grey’s Anatomy”
Everyone’s favorite hunky doctor, Patrick Dempsey, won hearts across the world with his portrayal of swoonsome Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd.
So fans were devastated when the dreamy doc was killed off, but he revealed that the heartbreaking decision had been made jointly with the show’s creator Shonda Rhimes.
“I think after a certain period of time, no matter how much money you make, you want to control out of your own schedule,” he said to People magazine. “It had been long enough. It was time for me to move on with other things and other interests.”
Sasha Alexander, “NCIS”
NCIS never shied away from showing the gritty side of life on the police force, but even the most hardcore fans were shocked by Sasha Alexander’s brutal departure from the show.
After her character Caitlin Todd’s grim demise, Alexander revealed that the strict filming schedule had gotten too much for her.
“People don’t realize that on a network show, you make 24 episodes a year,” she said to *TV Guide Magazine. “That’s 10½ months a year, 17 hours a day. It’s hardcore.”
Justin Chambers, “Grey’s Anatomy”
Another Grey’s Anatomy star on our list, Justin Chambers, was a fixture on the long-running show for a whopping fifteen years.
In what must have been an incredibly hard decision, and most definitely a surprising one, Chambers felt that it was time for him to move on and try other roles.
“There’s no good time to say goodbye to a show and character that’s defined so much of my life for the past 15 years,” Chambers said to the Los Angeles Times. “For some time now, however, I have hoped to diversify my acting roles and career choices. And, as I turn 50… now is that time.”
Steve Carrell, “The Office”
One of the most famous faces in Hollywood today, Steve Carrell, got his big break playing infamous boss Michael Scott in the smash-hit show The Office.
So when he left the show in season seven, rumors began to spread about the reason why.
Carrell has remained tight-lipped about his reasons, but his colleagues say this is due to humility rather than secrecy.
“He’s very modest,” creator Greg Daniels said to Entertainment Weekly. “He really wants the show to continue after he’s gone. Part of it is because he’s very fond of everybody who works there.”
Mischa Barton, “The O.C”
During its heyday, classic teen drama The O.C. made superstars of all of its lead actors, but none more so than Mischa Barton, who played troubled socialite Marissa Cooper.
Barton’s character was killed off at the end of season three, and fans—and names were devastated.
Though many assumed that Barton was leaving to pursue a movie career, she revealed that the character arc had taken its course.
“My character has been through so, so much, and there’s really nothing more left for her to do,” she said to Access Hollywood.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas, “Home Improvement”
One of the most promising young stars of 90s TV, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, shocked fans worldwide when he announced that he was leaving Home Improvement, the classic sitcom that made his name.
“I’d been going nonstop since I was 8-years-old,” Thomas explained to People Magazine. “I wanted to go to school, to travel, and have a bit of a break.”
Thomas ended up leaving acting altogether, but he still has fond memories of his time on TV.
“It was a great period in my life… When I think back on time, I look at it with a wink.”
Amy Carlson, “Blue Bloods”
Blue Bloods fans were devastated when Amy Carlson’s character Linda was killed off—not just because they lost a beloved character, but because she died off-screen and was only mentioned indirectly. Why did the fans not get to say goodbye to Amy Carlson correctly?
We are unsure why Carlson departed the show, but she admitted that she wasn’t happy with her off-screen death. “I never wanted it to end that way,” she said to Deadline. “I feel bad that she dies the way she dies. I did not know they would do that; I was surprised. I wouldn’t have done that.”
Mandy Patinkin, “Criminal Minds”
Hollywood leading man Mandy Patinkin starred in the hit CBS crime series Criminal Minds for two seasons before announcing that he would not be returning for a third.
He revealed the New York Magazine that the show was too violent for him, and he had not realized when he signed up just how harrowing it would be.
“The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to make Criminal Minds in the first place. I thought it was something very different… It was very destructive to my soul and my personality.”
Megan Fox, “Transformers”
Megan Fox starred in two movies in the iconic and mega-successful Transformers franchise, but she didn’t shy away from revealing her reasons for not appearing in any further installments.
She said to Entertainment Weekly that although she appreciated the fame she had gained from it, “people are well aware that this is not a movie about acting.”
Sure, she probably wouldn’t win any Oscars for her role, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a massively popular series and put Fox firmly on the Hollywood map.
George Clooney, “E.R.”
George Clooney is one of the greatest and most respected actors of his generation—so much so that many fans forget he got his big break playing Dr. Doug Ross in E.R.
The medical drama series made an instant star out of Clooney, with all of Hollywood wanting him to star in their movies. And while he did end up leaving after five seasons to pursue a film career, Clooney insisted on seeing through his five-year contract with E.R. to the end, earning great admiration from his co-stars and producers.
Producer John Wells praised Clooney to SFGate, saying that he had “lost literally millions of dollars by staying on the show.”
Topher Grace, “That ’70s Show.”
Noughties classic That ‘70s Show gained millions of fans across the world, making stars of the cast.
And the lead actor, Topher Grace, also admitted that it made them a great deal of money—so much so that he decided not to return for the final season.
“I was fortunate to have been on a sitcom for a lot of years,” he said to Indiewire. “I realized then that I didn’t need a lot more money.”
Does that mean he only did it for the money in the first place? We hope he enjoyed it, too!
David Caruso, “NYPD Blue”
David Caruso had tongues wagging when he walked away from mega-successful cop show NYPD Blue four episodes into the second season.
The show’s producer Steven Bochco revealed in his memoir the real reason behind Caruso’s departure.
“He never said it to me directly, but the simple truth was, Caruso felt he was too good for television,” he wrote. “He wanted to be a movie star. And he planned to alienate the writers, producers, and his fellow castmates in hopes that we would dump him from the show.”
Sandra Oh, “Grey’s Anatomy”
Another Grey’s Anatomy star on our list, and possibly the most famous of all, Sandra Oh went on to become one of Hollywood’s hottest properties after departing from the hit show.
Oh revealed to the Hollywood Reporter that she felt it was time to say goodbye to the character. “Creatively, I really feel like I gave it my all, and I feel ready to let her go,” she said. “It’s such an interesting thing to play a character for so long and to actually get the sense that she wants to be let go as well.”