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Actor Leaves, Character Dies

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Sometimes, when an actor decides to leave a show, the character they play is then killed off. As for why a TV show might do this rather than simply putting the character on a bus, recasting them or having them disappear completely, there are generally two reasons:

  • For Drama: The odds of the actor returning to the show are next to nothing, and killing them off gives the writers a chance to inject the series with some drama.
  • For Revenge: Relations between the actor and the show people are somewhat contentious, often as a direct result of the actor leaving, and the writers kill the character off either as an act of "revenge" more final than being Put on a Bus to Hell or as a way of preventing the actor from ever being able to return to the role (though it could still fail to do so if the situation changes, due to the First Law of Resurrection).

If the death is particularly awkward, anti-climactic, or mean-spirited, it's a case of Dropped a Bridge on Him. When it happens off-screen (especially after the character was already written out in a non-deadly manner), it's a Bus Crash. If the actor specifically requested to be killed off rather than written out in some less permanent way, it's Killed by Request.

If the actor has not simply left the show, but life altogether, then this becomes The Character Died with Him and the way the character is written out is generally very respectful. The opposite of Character Outlives Actor.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Clash of the Titans remake has Io being resurrected at the very end to live Happily Ever After with Perseus...only for Wrath of the Titans to open with him at her grave. Gemma Arterton did not want to return for the sequel and rather than creating The Other Darrin for a second lead character (Rosamund Pike had to replace Alexa Davalos as Andromeda), they just killed her off.
  • Nurse Mary Lamont, in Dr. Kildare's Wedding Day (1941). Laraine Day, who'd played the character in several films, told MGM she was tired of the role and asked to be written out of the series. So they had her die in a car accident after marrying Kildare.
  • This wound up happening twice to Laurie Strode in the Halloween films.
    • First, when Jamie Lee Curtis (by then a successful 'mainstream' actress) declined to return for Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Laurie was written out and mentioned as having died in a car accident.
    • When Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later declared everything after the second film to be non-canon, they were able to bring Curtis back to reprise her role as Laurie... on the condition that it be a Grand Finale without a Sequel Hook. Since longtime Halloween producer Moustapha Akkad's contract barred him from letting the writers permanently kill off Michael Myers, this naturally led to a sequel, Halloween: Resurrection. Curtis, who was contractually obligated to appear in the film and was not at all happy about that, insisted that Laurie be killed in the opening. The producers obliged this request, and thus a new protagonist named Sarah was used for the film after Laurie’s death.
  • Word of God is that Will Smith's character from Independence Day, Steven Hiller, died in an accident with the alien-tech fighter jets before the events of Independence Day: Resurgence. (Will Smith didn't want another Sci-Fi Father-Son story after After Earth.)
  • Jean-Claude Van Damme refused to return in the Kickboxer sequel because he wanted to do other projects and the money wasn't right enough to change his mind. In response, his character Kurt was killed off by franchise villain Tong Po in the film's opening, setting the stage for another martial arts actor, Sasha Mitchell, to play the role of the youngest and last remaining brother out for revenge.
  • Terminator: Sarah Connor, Linda Hamilton's character, was killed off off-screen, in between Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, due to her preferring not to be involved in future sequels since she felt Terminator 2 was how it was supposed to end. However, about 25 years later she changed her mind and returned in her most iconic role in Terminator: Dark Fate, a heavily time-skipped but direct sequel to Judgment Day that renders all other installments from Rise of the Machines onward non-canon.
  • The actor who played Fox in The Warriors had such tense relations with the director and the rest of the cast that the role of The Hero was given to Swan, and a Fake Shemp being used for his death scene, in which he's run over by a train.
  • xXx: State of the Union has Augustus Gibbons calmly acknowledge the news of Xander Cage's death and then nobody mentions him for the rest of the film. This has been retconned now that Vin Diesel reprised his role. An alternate opening (included with the DVD as a short film) shows Xander (who is Fake Shemped using a stunt double) being blown up by the film's villain, with a bloody piece of skin showing his trademark "XXX" tattoo as the only thing left. The villain proceeds to insult the departed Mr. Cage and comment on how much of a moron he was, making it seem like a bit of a Take That!.
  • When Sean Connery decided not to come out of retirement for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it was decided Henry Jones, Sr. had died in the years since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
  • Top Gun: Maverick: Meg Ryan didn't return as Carole Bradshaw from Top Gun. Carole is simply mentioned to have died from cancer in between the two films.
  • Men in Black 3: Due to Rip Torn's legal issues, Zed is mentioned to have died shortly before the film.

    Live-Action TV 
  • After Ernest Borgnine left Airwolf, the writers decided to kill off his character by way of showing Ernest's stunt double - filmed only from behind, natch - being killed in a helicopter explosion (using Stock Footage from an entirely different episode, filmed in an entirely different location).
  • Archie Bunker's Place: After All in the Family ended, the writers struggled to explain Edith Bunker's constant absence in the spinoff. Eventually they wrote an episode entitled "Archie Alone" that explains that Edith had died of a stroke, and Archie was actively in denial and trying to keep news of her death from reaching his friends. This was for drama, as Jean Stapleton merely wanted to pursue other options instead of returning to occasionally guest star as her sitcom character.
  • Arrowverse: Victor Garber decided to leave Legends of Tomorrow when Season 3 started, wanting to go back to theater. His character Martin Stein ended up performing a Heroic Sacrifice during the Crisis on Earth-X crossover.
  • Babylon 5 is unique in that J. Michael Straczynski went out of his way to prepare these ahead of time. While planning the whole series out ahead of time, JMS acknowledged the very real possibility that actors might want or need to leave the show. As such, he prepared what he called a "trap door" built into each character's storyline, a way to discretely end their arc and fill their intended role with somebody else. Luckily, these trap doors only needed to be used a few times:
    • Andrea Thompson, who played the telepath Talia Winters, got a bit demanding on the set. Notably, she wanted to appear in more episodes than she was, in fact in more episodes than most of the regular cast but the lead. She left the show in the ensuing discussions and was taken back to Psi Corps headquarters by Bester. In a later episode, Al Bester lets slip that they found out things about the crew in the course of her debriefing and examination. This one's notable in that Talia was always intended, right from the start to be sent back to Psi Corps. They even wrote in the mechanism that would enable her to return. The only thing that changed is that, unlike the original plan, she never came back.
    • This was also done with the recurring character General Hague. He had played a major role in season 2, and it was anticipated he would show up in a major episode of season 3. When that episode was about to be taped, he was unavailable. Because of the circumstances, J. Michael Straczynski killed off General Hague—partly out of vindictiveness and partly to add drama — and put Hague's subordinate in charge. One Hilarious Outtake puts the situation best:
      Captain Sheridan: Where's General Hague?
      Major Ryan: General doing Deep Space Nine. Apparently he was double-booked by his agent and there was nothing to be done. So you'll have to deal with me, sir.
    • B5 also had one of the most insane cases of this with a very important and critical role to the plotline. Namely the role of the temptress to lure the protagonist to Z'ha'dum at the climax of Season 3. At first, the role was given to the character of Carolyn Sykes in "The Gathering" but Sykes' actress, Blaire Baron, then declined to join the series as a regular. JMS course corrected by saying that Sinclair and Sykes had broken up and introduced Catherine Sakai, played by Julia Nickson-Soul, who played the role throughout Season 1. However, at the end of Season 1, Sinclar was written out of the show because of Michael O'Hare's mental illness so Sakai could no longer be the temptress as the person she was tempting was, of course, no longer the lead character of the show. Enter John Sheridan as his missing, presumed dead wife, Anna Sheridan. Anna in her first appearance was played by Beth Touissant, who was unable to reprise the role of Anna, and thus, JMS cast Bruce Boxleitner's actual then-wife, Melissa Gilbert to play the role throughout Season 3 through to her character's intended death at Z'ha'dum.
  • In the 2004 rendition of Battlestar Galactica, Billy Keikeya's actor Paul Campbell wasn't under contract and was constantly unsure whether he wanted to stay on the show, preventing his character from being involved in any significant plot arcs. The writers eventually got fed up with this and killed off his character. Unfortunately, because the build-up of the third leg in the Love Triangle, involving Billy's love interest (Dee) and The Ace (Apollo), kept ending up as deleted scenes, this came across to many viewers as an especially abrupt Murder the Hypotenuse in favor of the pretty boy over the awkward geek; with Dee dumping him out of nowhere and suddenly jumping into a relationship with Apollo all in the same episode where Billy got shot (perhaps marking the beginning of the Hate Dom which grew for Dee's character).
  • Baywatch was notorious for a high cast turnover, though most departures were handled with either a simple Chuck Cunningham Syndrome disappearance or Put on a Bus. However, two cast departures were used as ratings stunts and featured a major character death to signal their exits from the show.
    • Shawn Weatherly apparently hated how little Jill was given to do on the show, often having one-line or no-line appearances and she was ready to move on. She left the show in the middle of Season 1 so the creators had her die in a shark attack.
    • Alexandra Paul ended a long run on Baywatch in Season 7 by getting a straight-up Dropped a Bridge on Him moment, almost literally. Stephanie Holden gets crushed by a collapsing boat mast, during a major storm at sea, on her honeymoon. She even dies in the arms of her on-again, off-again love interest Mitch and her new husband Tom (now new widower!) David Hasselhoff claimed in his autobiography that Paul was not enjoying her time on the show and begged to be written off, though in a later interview with Paul in 2017, the actress said she simply felt it was time to move on, legitimately enjoyed the job, and was heartbroken about leaving. The show ended up working some Stephanie-related appearances for Paul into the remainder of the show anyway, so there were clearly no hard feelings. She did a single episode of Baywatch Nights in its infamous final season playing Stephanie's ghost, then returned for the Hawaiian Reunion movie to play a character named Allison Ford where a major plot point is her resemblance to the late Stephanie Holden.
  • Aidan Turner's character in Being Human was killed off when he was casted for The Hobbit.
  • Blake's 7:
    • Jan Chappell was both unable and unwilling to return for Series 4. It was planned that she'd return for the first six episodes, then three, then finally just the first, in which Cally is hastily killed in an explosion without ever appearing onscreen.
    • Gareth Thomas actually insisted on this as a condition of coming Back for the Finale, hence the unusually graphic blood effects used when Blake gets shot. In the end, it turned out to be academic, as the mooted fifth season never happened.
    • Speaking of the finale, the series ends with the characters being shot in slow-motion. The actors were told that if they wanted to stay on for the next season, their character would be stunned and if they didn't, then their character's dead. Josette Simon, Steven Pacey, and Glynis Barber all later said that they wouldn't have returned for a fifth season, so this trope would have applied to Dayna, Tarrant, and Soolin if the show had continued.
  • Blue Bloods: it's not entirely clear why actress Amy Carlson left the show, but Linda Reagan was killed in a helicopter crash between seasons 7 and 8.
  • In Bones:
    • Mr. Nigel-Murray was shot and killed by Sniper Broadsky to add drama which led to the wham ending for the sixth season. The actor left to be a main character on Alphas.
    • The death of Sweets in the tenth season's premiere. Drama: the actor has a burgeoning behind-the-scenes career, and the writers believed that having the character just leave DC didn't feel like a satisfying conclusion.
  • Breaking Bad killed off Tuco Salamanca in "Grilled", concluding a four-episode arc, because Raymond Cruz had difficulties portraying such a volatile character. Cruz did return to reprise the role in Better Call Saul, a prequel taking place before his death. Even there, he appeared for only three episodes before Tuco is sent to prison.
  • The 1980s Brit Com Brush Strokes did this when Gary Waldhorn, who played the protagonist's Pointy-Haired Boss Lionel Bainbridge, left the show at the end of the third season. The first episode of the fourth series described how he had died in embarrassing circumstances during a drunken hazing ritual of his Brotherhood of Funny Hats, which apparently involved climbing out of an upper window while beating himself over the head with a tin tray.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: A very weird example occurred in the last episode. Emma Caulfield wanted to take her career in other directions so explicitly asked to be killed off so that her character Anya could never be used in any of the spinoffs.
  • Charmed:
    • A show in which every major character has been killed, some as many as nine times over eight years (including Prue once, she was brought back by a genie), explained that Prue was "dead for good" when Shannen Doherty was kicked off the show. (And unavailable as a Spirit Advisor, unlike every other female member of the Halliwell family who was still dead.) Death was suddenly tragic, to the characters at least. The Handwave for Prue's unavailability is that her death is still too recent for her sisters. For the several years' worth of time the rest of the shows takes place over. The comic continuation, of course, has no actor availability problem, so Prue is able to appear as a spirit advisor.
    • Rumoured to be the reason for Andy's death in the Season 1 finale. A major rumour was that Shannen Doherty didn't get along with TW King and wanted him off the show. Another said that he wanted to pursue other projects. A third camp says that he wanted more screen time but writers had no ideas for him.
    • In the 2018 reboot, Macy Vaughn is killed off at the end of the third season because Madeleine Mantock quit the show - eerily mirroring its parent show where the eldest sister too died at the end of the very same number of season and also because the actress wanted to leave.
  • Cheers did it with Jay Thomas's character Eddie LeBec, Carla's (Rhea Perlman) husband. Hollywood legend has it that Jay Thomas mouthed off about Perlman on a radio show, Perlman later went to the writers and wanted him gone. Eddie was later killed by a Zamboni at an ice show.
  • Yuki Yajima, the actress who played Mika Koizumi, the original Yellow Four in Choudenshi Bioman, abruptly left the show after only nine episodes due to circumstances that are yet to be known. After one and half (the actress was gone by the second half of episode 9) episodes of the character appearing in suit only and having her voice dubbed by another actress, Mika was killed off by one of the villains in Episode 10 (even being buried in her uniform!), leading to the introduction of the second Yellow Four, Jun Yabuki.
  • When Chevy Chase left Community, he returned for a single scene in the Season 5 premier, where it was explained why his character Pierce Hawthorne was Put on a Bus. A few episodes later, Mood Whiplash ensues when Shirley informs the group that Pierce has died. The following episode at least proves to be an oddly touching sendoff, rather than a spiteful one which also set up Troy's Long Bus Trip (in this case the bus is a boat) during the reading of Pierce's will.
    • Although often presumed to be for revenge based on Chase's vocal dissatisfaction with the show and his public feud with Dan Harmon, Harmon stated in an interview that he and Chase had buried the hatchet before Chase had quit the show. However, the terms of Chase being released from his contract apparently forbid him from ever returning to the Community set under any circumstances.
  • Cracker: DCI David Bilborough and DS Jimmy Beck were killed off when Christopher Eccleston and Loran Cranitch wanted to leave the series.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • An interesting retroactive example with the show's original main character, Jason Gideon. This trope was originally not the case, as when Mandy Patinkin left the show due to being disturbed by its content in Season 3, Gideon was just Put on a Bus but very clearly alive, despite Patinkin quite obviously having no intention of returning. Seven seasons later, he undergoes a Bus Crash and the team investigates his murder for a purely "Drama" example.
    • After Thomas Gibson's Role-Ending Misdemeanor resulted in him being fired in the middle of Season 12, Damon Gupton was hired by the network to replace him as SSA Stephen Walker. Walker was intended to remain on the show for Season 13, but when Gupton decided to leave the series, his character was killed off in the Season 13 premiere in another "Drama" example.
  • CSI-verse:
    • Warrick Brown on CSI was not killed as many believe because of Gary Dourdan's arrest, but the actor's personal issues had led to Warrick's death being planned just before it happened and played out just after.
    • Rory Cochrane's character Tim Speedle was killed off on CSI: Miami when he wanted to leave.
    • CSI: NY had one that was a subversion: Vanessa Ferlito left, and Aiden Burn was fired by Mac for starting to tamper with evidence. But near the end of the season, she was Stuffed in the Fridge.
  • Dallas: When Patrick Duffy left for a film career in 1985, the producers killed Bobby Ewing in an auto accident. When they had to bring him back to save the show, they decided that the accident and the season's worth of episodes that took place after it were All Just a Dream.
  • Happens to protagonist Inspector Richard Poole at the start of series 3 of Death in Paradise. It served double duty as a callback to the first episode — the first case Inspector Poole was involved with on the island was the death of a British detective, and so was the last. It was just that this time he was involved as the victim. In this case it was because the actor wanted to leave to spend more time with their family.
  • When Ryan Cooley wanted to return to school, the writers on Degrassi decided the best way to do this was to have J.T. Yorke (his character) stabbed in the back and killed. Driving several characters to different forms of depression over it. This wasn't out of animosity; the death of a friend was not a trauma the series had properly covered yet.
    • Later when Jordon Todosey left the show, the creators decided to kill off Todosey's character, Adam Torres, to deliver An Aesop about texting and driving. Since at the time Adam was the only transgender character on the show and the first trans teenager on TV, both fans of the show and members of the LGBT+ community were upset with this decision.
  • Desperate Housewives: After the highly public disputes between Nicollette Sheridan and Marc Cherry, he decided to kill Edie off in an over-the-top manor. After discovering her new husband's devious intentions against the neighbors of Wisteria Lane, Edie in a fit of anger and tears storms out of their house, after being physically assaulted by Dave, wrecks her car after swerving to miss a man, Orson Hodge, in the middles of the street, and is electrocuted by a downed power line. To add insult to injury, he made Nicollette narrate the event, as the now-deceased Edie took over the narration for that episode.
  • On Dexter, Julie Benz's character Rita is killed off at the end of season 4. In what may have been a surprise move, Benz stars in a new show, No Ordinary Family, which started the season after Rita was killed. There was no hint of antagonism between Benz and the crew, and she's made at least one flashback appearance so it's a pretty clear "drama" example. It certainly was dramatic.
    The writers confirmed in an interview just after that finale that she was saddened by the news and definitely didn't want to leave, but understood why it was necessary plot-wise and handled it graciously. She then went on to poke fun at herself on The Soup, pretending to be drunk and bitter about getting canned, but then getting a phone call with an offer to replace the lead on Community because the first actor (Joel McHale) sucked so much.
  • Doc Martin: Aunt Joan was killed off after Stephanie Cole chose not to return for Series 5. The character was a fixture in the setting and Martin's life, so killing her off was probably the most plausible explanation for her sudden disappearance. It was for drama, as Cole has a personal preference for not staying with any show for more than four series.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The concept of regeneration is based around applying this trope on a regular basis. Whenever the Doctor's actor leaves the program, he regenerates into a new incarnation played by a new actor, with the Doctor describing the process as like dying and being born again. Almost every incarnation of the Doctor regenerated due to the actor making a voluntary decision to leave the program: the exceptions were Colin Baker, who was fired by BBC executives, Sylvester McCoy, who sat through the cancellation of the show in 1989 and was only brought back for the 1996 TV movie to regenerate into Paul McGann (who himself was replaced when the Revival Series started), and actors whose incarnations were specifically designed as guest characters rather than regular cast members (e.g. John Hurt and Jo Martin). This doesn't even prevent previous actors from doing guest appearances, since it's a show about Time Travel.
    • The basic premise of The Nth Doctor first came up in "The Celestial Toymaker," and the trigger came this close to actually being pulled. The Toymaker's rendering the Doctor invisible was written to get rid of the ailing and increasingly difficult William Hartnell, with the idea that he would be a different actor upon becoming visible again.
    • The Sixth Doctor's regeneration into the Seventh was believed to be because BBC head Michael Grade hated Colin Baker's performance. Baker, for his part, did not want to do only one final serial, instead insisting on being given a final season culminating in Six's regeneration note . He was Shemped for the Cold Open of Season 24, where he was offed by a mere bonk on the head. Eventually, Big Finish gave him the sendoff he deserved. Though they couldn't outright undo the death itself note , they were able to retcon the vindictively stupid manner of death into something more appropriately heroic.
    • When the Ninth Doctor regenerated, Christopher Eccleston stated that behind-the-scenes politics played a role in him deciding to leave after only one season.
    • Happened with Clara Oswald, but in a very unconventional way. When Jenna Coleman decided to leave Who to topline Victoria (having stayed on Who longer than initially planned), Clara was Killed Off for Real at the end of "Face the Raven", the opening episode of the three-part Series 9 finale, and she then briefly appeared as a figment of the Doctor's imagination in "Heaven Sent". Then, in the Season Finale "Hell Bent", the Driven to Madness Doctor manages to pull her out of time at the moment just before she dies, rendering her Only Mostly Dead but also risking a Reality-Breaking Paradox. At the end, she and the Doctor agree they must part ways for good (with him losing his key emotional/physical memories of her) and she decides to use a second TARDIS stolen in the course of events to return to her death "the long way 'round", having new offscreen adventures as a functional immortal, though her "Face the Raven" death remains a fixed point in time that she'll have to go through eventually. Two years later, though it was shot in a studio and green-screened in due to her Victoria commitments, Coleman made a cameo appearance as a Testimony avatar of Clara in the Twelfth Doctor's Grand Finale Christmas Episode "Twice Upon a Time". As the Testimony works off of the memories of the dead, this confirms Clara returning to her death.
  • On Downton Abbey, first Lady Sybil died in childbirth, though she'd moved away, and then Matthew died in a car crash after their respective actors decided to leave to pursue film careers. Fandom fury ensued, particularly in the latter's case.
  • ER: Lucy Knight was murdered by a schizophrenic patient when her actress Kellie Martin wanted to leave the show, wanting to pursue other projects as she'd never really fit in during her time on the show.
  • The Expanse: Cas Anvar, who plays main cast member Alex Kamal, was fired after the fifth season finished filming for sexual misconduct. Though Alex is still alive in the books on which the series is based, there was no realistic way to non-fatally write him out of the series for the final season as the series was already done and no one wanted him back on set to do re-shoots, so the writers adapted the death of a semi-important book character and killed him with a g-force induced stroke in the season finale, adding some drops of blood to a still image of Alex piloting the ship, and then using CGI to edit him out of the final scene of the season.
  • Fame had one of the more unusual examples. During Season 6; the show's writers were putting together a Very Special Episode on drunk driving but felt there would be more impact with a main character at the center. Around the same time, Nia Peeples (who played the role of Nicole Chapman) was planning to depart to launch a music career, and Peeples agreed to have the writers kill off her character... which they did (and according to the 2009 book Inside Fame on Television, they regretted doing so later).
  • The character Zhaan from Farscape died because her actress developed health problems due to the makeup they used, as well as several other outstanding issues.
  • The third season of British drama Footballer's Wives opened with the funeral of major character Chardonnay Lane-Pascoe when actress Susie Amy didn't return to the series. Her character is mentioned to have died of anorexia in-between seasons.
  • FBI: Most Wanted: In one that was a shock to viewers/fans of the show, Special Agent Jess LaCroix is unexpectedly shot and killed while on assignment in the Season 3 episode "Shattered". Behind the scenes, LaCroix's actor, Julian McMahon, wanted to pursue other creative projects and requested that his character die in the line of duty.
  • Forever Knight did this with Schanke, killing him in a plane crash so they could replace him with Tracy Vetter for more Fanservice. John Kapelos was offered a scenario of Schanke making captain, but he didn't want reduced screen time.
  • An in-show example takes place on Friends. In a parody of the L.A. Law incident, Dr. Drake Ramoray, the character played by Joey in the Show Within a Show version of Days of Our Lives, falls down an elevator shaft (reluctantly) after Joey claims in an interview that he writes his own lines (he merely changes the wording of the lines at times in an inconsequential manner), with the in-show "tragedy" being that the only doctor who could have saved Drake was Drake himself. Years later, Joey was able to return to the show as Dr. Drake Ramoray when the character played by Susan Sarandon's character was killed off in the same manner as well (in a horse-riding accident, even though the character was established to be afraid of horses), and according to soap-opera logic, Drake received her brain and fully recovered. By the next "episodes", the brain transplant thing was dropped.
  • A rare cameo example: Singer Ed Sheeran appeared on Game of Thrones as "Eddie" in the premiere of Season 7. Though the character was never intended to return, the Fandom's reaction was so negative that his fate is mentioned offhandedly by prostitutes in Season 8: His face melted off by dragon fire.
  • Jeff Garlin left The Goldbergs during its ninth season due to increasing friction on the set. In the tenth season's premiere, it was revealed that his character Murray Goldberg had died suddenly.
  • When John Amos was fired from Good Times in 1975 for complaining about the quality of the show in Ebony magazine, his character James Evans was promptly killed in yet another auto accident (this one was particularly tragic since James was planning on moving to Mississippi).
  • The Good Wife used this for maximum emotional impact when the de facto male lead Josh Charles wanted to leave. Although the writers initially considered writing his character, Will Gardner, out by having the ethically challenged attorney disbarred, they instead killed him off when his unhinged client went on a shooting spree in their courtroom, about two-thirds of the way through Season 5. Between killing off arguably the most important male character and having no precedent for such violence on the series, it made for quite the Wham Episode.
  • Bart Bass was killed off on Gossip Girl when actor Robert John Burke wanted to leave. (He turned out to be just hiding.)
  • Grey's Anatomy:
  • A controversial fourth occurred when Patrick Dempsey decided to leave in season eleven. This resulted in Derek getting hit by a truck, suffering heavy trauma that resulted in him being declared brain dead
  • Heroes:
    • When David Anders left to film Children of the Corn, Adam Monroe was quickly killed off to make way for a new villain. They brought him back for Hiro's dream trial a year and a half later when Anders was available.
    • When they brought the show back as Heroes Reborn (2015), a number of the original actors were unable to return thanks to commitments to other projects. Hayden Panettiere was among those not to come back, so Claire Bennett was Killed Offscreen and regulated to Posthumous status.
  • When Alexandra Vandernoot wanted to leave Highlander due to the commute between France and Vancouver and family issues, Tessa was killed off. The writers had established that she'd never leave Duncan while she was alive, but it appears they also saw it as a good chance for a Wham Episode.
  • The Hogan Family: After a long dispute with producers over creative control and salary, Valerie Harper left the cast of Valerie; her character was promptly killed in a car accident and replaced by Sandy Duncan, and the show was renamed twice, to Valerie's Family: The Hogans and finally The Hogan Family.
  • When Patricia Richardson wanted to leave Home Improvement, the producers suggested to Tim Allen (who didn't want the show to end) that they could kill Jill off. Allen hated the idea and chose to end the series instead.
  • Homicide: Life on the Street:
    • Steve Crosetti. Originally Jon Polito was Put on a Bus because network executives felt he wasn't particularly photogenic and the cast needed more women characters, so they wrote out Crosetti and brought on Isabella Hofmann as Megan Russert. Then Polito said bad things about Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson, the show's producers. So they decided to kill Crosetti off instead.
    • Daniel Baldwin left (along with Ned Beatty) in Season 4, so in Season 5 the producers chose to kill Beau Felton off for good.
  • When Kal Penn left House to serve in the Obama administration, the producers had his character Kutner commit suicide. Though this was due to the first reason, not because of any friction with the rest of the cast. They just wanted some drama and a Very Special Episode. The director later joked that if he'd left for another acting role, the death would have been autoerotic asphyxiation.
  • Actor Kevin Spacey's Villain Protagonist character, Frank Underwood, was killed off-screen at the start of what became the final season of House of Cards (US), because of the actor being accused of sexual assault and other bad behaviors over the years had surfaced not long after the end of Season 5.
  • Kevin Can Wait: Erinn Hayes who played Kevin's wife was fired after the first season. As such, the second (and last) season's premiere mentions that her character has been dead for over a year.
  • L.A. Law: Diana Muldaur's departure resulted in her character Rosalind Shays walking into an open elevator shaft. Muldaur didn't even know her character was being killed off before reading the script. It should be noted that this was not because of dislike of Muldaur, but rather because the writers hated the character, who was very harsh and bitchy, and they thought the character was ruining the show. Alternatively, however, then executive producer David E. Kelley claimed in an "Emmy TV Legends" interview that he actually loved the character very much and actually had Rosalind killed off because he was actually leaving the series, and he didn't want her to get mishandled in the hands of another writer.
  • Law & Order:
    • Prosecutor Alexandra Borgia was kidnapped, brutally beaten, Bound and Gagged, locked in a car trunk, and choked to death on her own vomit. Word of God says she wanted to leave so she could act in more movies, and the reason the writers killed her character is that it had been ages since they'd killed off a major cast member (as part of a crime, at least).
  • Across the pond, Law & Order: UK's Matt Devlin was killed in a drive-by shooting when Jamie Bamber finished his contract with the show. Much like on the other versions of L&O, the writers probably wanted to kill off a major character, especially since Bamber was now the third actor to depart the series and the other two had left without much fanfare. It's a pretty classic example of Reason #1 — the following episode was one of the series' best as the team struggled to deal with their grief while doing their best to ensure that his killer was brought to justice. Still, one wishes it would have occurred to the writers that this would be the umpteenth of Bamber's characters to be killed off and find another way to write him out.
  • When the actress who played Alice Garvey on Little House on the Prairie wished to move on to other projects, Alice ended up dying in a fire in the two-hour "May We Make Them Proud."
  • Lost:
    • When Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje left the show, Eko was killed off and the arc they had planned for him was mostly pushed onto other characters, with bits being lost forever.
    • Caesar seemed to be an important character and was advertised as such, then was killed abruptly on his fourth episode without contributing anything critical to the plot. It was done because Saïd Taghmaoui decided not to stay for the next season and the planned character arc was apparently passed on to Bram, who debuted just minutes after Caesar met his demise.
    • Contrary to popular belief, Michelle Rodriguez's character Ana Lucia Cortez was not killed off due to her DUI arrest. According to Word of God, Rodriguez had only ever been interested in appearing in one season, so Cortez's brutal death was planned from the beginning.
    • Elizabeth Mitchell left at the end of the fifth season to star in another ABC series, V (2009).
  • Mad Men has only killed off one major character in its entire run: Lane Pryce, who hanged himself near the end of Season 5. Lane's death was admittedly the result of Jared Harris deciding he had to leave in order to honour his other acting commitments, particularly playing Professor Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and the writers and Harris agreeing that the series could continue without Lane (his financial/management wizardry role being transferred to Joan). There were also no bad blood between him and the production, as he returned to direct the 7th season Episode Time & Life.
  • This used to be named after McLean Stevenson, and the death of his character Colonel Henry Blake after he left M*A*S*H. This event was not primarily about retaliation, although the production staff was annoyed by Stevenson's leaving even while co-star Wayne Rogers was wriggling out of his own contract.note  The main reason was to bring home the idea that war can take anyone at any time and to evoke a strong and unrehearsed response from the cast, most of whom would first hear of the character's fate minutes before the scene was being shot. This isn't to say that the exact manner of Blake's death wasn't just a bit vindictive. The backlash led the writers to decide no one else would be written out of the series that way.
  • McMillan & Wife: Sally, the titular wife, dies offscreen in a plane crash between the fifth and sixth seasons thanks to a contract dispute between Susan Saint James and Universal.
  • The fourth series of Merlin was kick-started with the deaths of not one, or two, but three major characters, all of whom went on to star in other projects. All the departures seemed amiable enough and the deaths themselves were immensely dignified and fitting for the characters involved.
    • Emilia Fox went first, with Morgause sacrificing herself to open the veil between worlds, (so that Fox could feature in Upstairs Downstairs and concentrate on her regular role in Silent Witness). She returned for a posthumous appearance in the spirit world, but the scene was cut from the aired episode. Silent Witness is still going strong.
    • She was followed by Santiago Cabrera who also sacrificed himself in order to close the veil (so that Cabrera could take a role on Alcatraz). Cabrera's role on Alcatraz was dropped, leaving him available to return for one more episode of Merlin, which unfortunately seemed to veer into revenge given the circumstances: Lancelot reappeared as a mindless tool of Morgana, manipulated into destroying the relationship between Arthur and Guinevere, and promptly killed off again.
    • In the next episode, Anthony Stewart Head's character King Uther was killed off by an assassin, so that Head could star in Free Agents...which was cancelled after four episodes.
  • Happened to Larry Zito in the Miami Vice episode "Down for the Count," since John Diehl was sick of living in Miami, felt he was underused, and wanted to expand into theater.
  • In The Musketeers, Cardinal Richelieu was killed off by (probably) natural causes between the first two seasons, after Peter Capaldi left to play the Twelfth Doctor in Doctor Who.
  • Played for Laughs in Mystery Science Theater 3000: after Trace Beaulieu left the show, it was revealed at the beginning of Season 8 that his character Dr. Clayton Forrester was killed offscreen by his own mother. This was done as a sort of parody of the trope, and not out of any real bitterness - Trace continues to be good friends with much of the cast, including his Crow replacement Bill Corbett, to this day. They were able to set this one up in advance since they knew Beaulieu would be leaving; the finale of Season 7 has Forrester get turned into a star child and his mother gushing over being given a second chance to raise him right. When Pearl shows up in Season 8, she remarks that despite her best efforts, Clayton still went evil, so she killed him.
    • Similarly, there was Frank Conniff's departure at the end of Season 6. As he decided to leave the series after the season ended, his character, TV's Frank, was given a loving sendoff, ascending to Second Banana Heaven alongside Torgo the White. As well, since Conniff loved Spanish wrestling movies, his final episode was Samson vs. the Vampire Women. He was able to make a guest reappearance in the Season 10 episode "Soultaker" because he was still on good terms with the team and the movie had ghosts in it.
  • Ahead of the third season of Mythic Quest, it was announced that F. Murray Abraham would not be returning as C.W. as he was filming The White Lotus abroad. In the third season premiere, C.W. posthumously informs the characters that he had driven a car off the Grand Canyon Thelma And Louise-style and had arranged for his remains to be placed in a satellite that the characters could watch.
  • NCIS: When Sasha Alexander wanted out, her character was shot between the eyes. Although she did spend the next season's two-part premiere dressing up like an idiot and bothering the not-dead cast, which is more than Lauren Holly got a few seasons later.
  • When Rick Schroder left NYPD Blue to spend more time with his family, his character, Danny Sorenson, was killed off by a Mafia assassin.
  • The O.C.: Everyone knew Mischa Barton was leaving the show at the end of the third season, and the episode had the plotline that she was going away to live with her dad. However, on her way to the airport, she was in a car accident and died. This was quite a surprising twist when it originally aired in the US. For some reason, the Australian station on which the OC was playing felt that instead of allowing the viewers to experience this shock twist, it should start having ads three weeks before the finale saying "MARISSA...WILL...DIE". Thanks, channel 10.
  • Oz:
    • Jefferson Keane is executed halfway through the first season because the actor portraying him, Leon, refused to commit to a series. When Leon asked Tom Fontana why he was being killed off, Fontana told him it was because he said he wouldn't commit to more than four episodes. Leon replied that he thought he'd been talked out of that and actually wanted to stay.
    • Simon Adebesi was killed off when Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was cast in The Mummy Returns.
    • Kareem Said was killed off when Eamonn Walker was cast in Tears of the Sun.
  • Plebs had the actor playing Stylax decide to leave in the gap between 3 and 4, so in the pre-credits sequence of the first episode of series 4 -with the aid of a little CGI and another actor in an unconvincing wig- they literally dropped a giant block of marble on the character; crushing him to death.
  • In Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Valerie Vernon was diagnosed with leukemia during filming, so her character, Kendrix (the Pink Ranger) was killed off by sacrificing herself to save another Ranger. Thankfully, her leukemia was cured in time for her revival in the final episode. This is another example not inspired by ill will towards the actress, but rather because they weren't sure Vernon would even be able to return.
  • Primeval: At the end of Season 3, three of the main characters were trapped in the past, and Laila Rouass's character, Sarah, was the only one left from the main team (not counting military guy Becker). The first episode of Season 4 says that Sarah was killed on a previous mission, with a webisode showing part of it (using a Fake Shemp of her voice). This is due to production moving to Ireland and Laila Rouass not wishing to leave her young daughter.
  • Sara Tancredi in Prison Break was killed off when Sarah Wayne Callies became pregnant, but then she returned following the negative reaction to her absence from season 3.
  • Private Practice did this with Tim Daly's character Peter Wilder when he left the show in between the fifth and sixth seasons. It's revealed he died offscreen of a heart attack.
  • Robin of Sherwood: Michael Praed left the show when he was offered a part in Dynasty (1981), resulting in Robin Hood being killed at the start of the third season and Jason Connery taking up the mantle.
  • After the revival of Roseanne was given a second season, actress Roseanne Barr had been fired from her show after a racist tirade on Twitter. Not only was the series rebranded as The Conners, Rosanne’s character was killed off between seasons by a drug overdose (it was explained in the revival she was on certain drugs to deal with pain and she was on the verge of addiction).
  • Silk Stalkings: Series lead Chris Lorenzo is killed at the end of season 5, one episode before his co-lead Rita Lee Lance is also written off. The rest of the series focuses on Suspiciously Similar Substitute characters.
  • Sleepy Hollow did this with Abbie Mills at the end of Season 3, after Nicole Beharie asked to be released from her contract due to her unhappiness with the show's treatment of her character.
  • Sliders was notorious for this. When Sabrina Lloyd wanted to leave the show, they stuck Wade in a Kromagg breeding camp, then brought her back briefly as a brain in a jar. When Jerry O'Connell wanted out, they had Quinn merge with an alternate-reality version of himself which erased his personality. When John Rhys-Davies... well, you get the picture. Getting out of Sliders was almost as bad as staying in. Rhys-Davies was reportedly disgusted with the direction the show was taking, but he didn't want to leave, nor did he ever express total opposition to coming back. His departure was as much because the production staff (as led by David Peckinpah) loathed Rhys-Davies for his constant criticism. Rhys-Davies' story (he was credited as co-author) was greatly altered from its original version to the point where it's barely recognizable. While not naming names, Rhys-Davies did not ever want to work with a certain executive producer ever again and it was Peckinpah that stayed with the show until its end.
  • Spooks will usually either brutally kill or permanently exile the character of any actor who leaves the show. As early as the second episode, the show had established the fact that any character could be killed at any time - which makes for exciting viewing because it neatly averts the "main characters are always safe" trope.
    • Specifically, when the actress who played Fiona Carter had to leave due to pregnancy, she was kidnapped, tortured, and then shot trying to escape. She died in her husband's arms.
    • The actor who played Fiona Carter's husband later decided to move on. He was blown up by a car bomb.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Tasha Yar was killed off by a sentient oil slick when Denise Crosby left near the end of the first season. Although her character came back twice in later episodes, both times were due to time travel; the "original" Tasha was gone for good. On the other hand, it turned out she had an identical half-Romulan daughter who served as a recurring villain, so the actress managed to come back a few times anyway. Had she known the series would be such a success and that every member of the crew got at least some Character Development, she would've probably stayed. She originally left the show for fear she would be typecast.
    • Terry Farrell declined to renew her contract for the final season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as she had been offered a role on Becker and wasn't happy with how Rick Berman had been treating her. As a result, Farrell's character Jadzia Dax was killed off at the end of the sixth season, however the Dax symbiont went on to a new host named Ezri.
  • When Jensen Ackles left Smallville to begin filming Supernatural, his character Jason Teague was killed in the former's cliffhanger meteor shower that occurred during the fourth season finale and fifth season premiere. Some broadcast versions actually have him dying offscreen.
  • Strike Back had an interesting occurrence with leading actor Richard Armitage had his character John Porter killed off in the opening episode of Project Dawn. Due to Armitage's involvement with filming The Hobbit, Porter was reduced to a supporting role in order to facilitate Armitage's exit, considering that filming The Hobbit would be a very time-consuming project that required his full attention.
  • Teen Wolf:
    • Gage Golightly was leaving the show, so the producers decided to have her character Erica killed off by Kali and created Cora Hale to continue the storyline that was planned for Erica in the first place. She does return for a flashback sequence in season 3 though, so it's assumed that Golightly and the writers parted on good terms.
    • Happened twice in season 3B. The Carver Twins were leaving the show, so the writers killed off Aiden and had Ethan leave town out of grief. More shocking was Crystal Reed's departure after playing one of the lead characters (Allison Argent) since Season 1. She gave the writer fair warning and co-wrote her own death scene, which as well as being a dramatic moment in itself and had lasting repercussions for the other characters in Season 4.
  • 30 Rock:
    • In the fourth season, recurring character Don Geiss is killed off after Rip Torn's alcohol abuse led him to break into a bank. Unlike most examples, it did not end up feeling rushed or unplanned, as the character's death had already been teased and it allowed the arc of Jack and Devon Banks competing to become his successor to progress.
    • In a fictional example, Jack conspires to kill off his Telenovela Doppelgänger, the Generalissimo, in an effort to appease his Puerto Rican girlfriend's grandmother. It backfires when, in true live-taping Soap fashion, the Generalissimo dodges every bullet fired at him then drinks a potion that will make him immortal ("We really should have had someone who speaks Spanish on-set"). Jack and the actor compromise by reworking the Generalissimo character into an elderly Hispanic woman's Mr. Fanservice.
  • Jeffrey Tambor was forced to leave Transparent due to facing multiple sexual harassment allegations and consequently could not resume playing Maura Pfefferman (the titular trans parent) in the series' intended fifth and final season. As a result, the series was instead wrapped up with a Finale Movie titled Musicale Finale, where Maura Pfefferman was killed off and the rest of the family was shown dealing with her death.
  • After his tumultuous exit, and his subsequent media war with producer Chuck Lorre, Charlie Sheen's character on Two and a Half Men met a very permanent end. The season opener following Sheen's exit opened at Sheen's character's funeral, with the cast discussing his demise. Sheen's character was honeymooning in Paris when his new wife caught him with another woman in the shower. He got chased into the Metro, "slipped," and ended up as a "meat explosion". As it is an American sitcom, the "explosion" occurred off-screen. Just to rub it in, the rest of the episode was spent giving Charlie the Chef treatment, making fun of his corpse, having wacky sitcom shenanigans with his ashes, and the girl who very obviously murdered Charlie getting away with it unscathed.
    • The series finale took it a step further. Charlie, it turns out, was alive the whole time, kept prisoner by Rose. He escapes and sends threats to Alan and his replacement Walden while giving away money to the other regulars. In the final moments of the show, Charlie (played by a stand-in seen from behind) approaches the front door... and is crushed to death by a falling piano. Then Chuck Lorre appears, smugly saying "Winning"note  to the camera... and is himself also struck by a falling piano.
  • The Vampire Diaries:
    • Matt Davis as Alaric was killed in the Season 3 finale. The day after, CW announced it had picked up Cult, starring Matt Davis. Though, once Cult was cancelled, he returned, finally permanently in the Season 5 finale, and as a regular in Season 6.
    • Interestingly, this also happened with a piece of set. The show lost the lease on the house used for the Gilbert house, so in the show, it was burned down.
  • On The Walking Dead (2010), Dale was killed off after Jeffrey DeMunn requested to leave when showrunner Frank Darabont was axed.
  • After Will & Grace officially ended but before it was revived, Shelley Morrison (who played Karen's maid Rosario) decided to retire. The makers were unable to convince her to come out of retirement, so they made an episode where Rosario goes into the hospital and suffers a fatal heart attack.
  • Wynonna Earp: Shamier Anderson, Xavier Dolls, chose to leave the series towards the beginning of season three. He requested that Dolls be killed off, as there wouldn't have been any other believable way the character would've left his team permanently.
  • This was the fate of Angela's character on Mr. Robot, which caused the fourth season to deviate significantly from Sam Esmail's original vision/outline for the series.


    Video Games 
  • In Mass Effect 3 Morinth got an undignified death as a result of this. Her voice actress, Natalia Cigliuti, was unavailable for any more recorded lines, so her appearance in Mass Effect 3 amounts to a single e-mail. She's eventually brainwashed into a Banshee by the Reapers, and Shepard must kill her during the final mission on Earth.

    Web Animation 
  • In Eddsworld, Eddie Bowley left the show for good at the end of the Legacy era, so his character Jon was killed off during "The End (Part 2)".

    Web Original 
  • A relatively common occurrence in Survival of the Fittest if a character's handler disappears and nobody is available or willing to adopt them: the administration staff simply takes over and roleplays the character's death through whatever means is available, from being killed in self-defense to being murdered by a killer to suicide to various accidents (including, infamously, running into a bear in a cave).
  • In Brad and Jerrid; after Brad severed ties with Jake Norvell, one half of the "Bros" duo (Who were played by Brad and Jake) appears in Snob's review of Crippled Avengers grieving over the death of the bro played by Jake, and then in Heaven's Gate interviewing replacement bros, settling on "Chick Bro", played by Sarah Lewis.
  • Bertie's death in Rusty Quill Gaming was arranged because his player James Ross had to leave the podcast due to real-life obligations. Other options were considered, but it was decided that letting him go out on a dramatic note rather than being unceremoniously Put on a Bus was best for the story.
  • In Shadowrun Storytime, Tank's player was forced to stop gaming by his family and so had to leave early in the team's first major mission. The timing of the departure and Tank being already heavily connected to the meta-plot meant the GM couldn't retire the character in a satisfying manner. Instead, the Shadowrunner team which had previously failed to kill Tank made another attempt and succeeded.

    Web Video 
  • Economy Watch: Ben Dover was killed via electric chair off-screen after his actor retired from the show in Season 2.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Killed Off For Leaving, Actor Quits Character Dies, Actress Quits Character Dies, Actress Leaves Character Dies, Mc Leaned