Follow TV Tropes

This entry is trivia, which is cool and all, but not a trope. On a work, it goes on the Trivia tab.


Character Outlives Actor

Go To

"And the story goes on... forever."
— The final words of The Sarah Jane Adventures

This trope is where a character on a TV series is still alive off-screen (referred to by on-screen characters, writes letters, etc.) but his/her actor has died; if the character hadn't already been Put on a Bus by that point, possibly even due to whatever health problem would eventually kill the actor, they by necessity must be afterward.


Contrast Bus Crash, where the character who was Put on a Bus dies, and Back for the Dead, where the bus and actor come back, only for the character to die right away. The Other Darrin is a possible solution to this but sometimes is avoided out of respect for the actor.

Not to be confused with Released to Elsewhere, where a character dies, and his killer tells us they were put on a Long Bus Trip.

The inversion is The Character Died with Him when the character is killed off due to the actor's death. Compare and contrast McLeaned for when the character is killed off due to the actor leaving, but the actor is still very much alive. Compare Actor Existence Limbo, where a voiced character appears but does not speak after their voice actor dies or otherwise becomes unavailable.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • ARIA: Athena's voice actress Tomoko Kawakami passed away in 2011. In the three OVA Aria the Avvenire, made four years later to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the series, when the characters have a get-together, they mention that Athena is the only one who couldn't come because she is giving a concert at the Opera house this day. This easily justifies itself since Prima Undyne are really busy and it had been shown before that they rarely manage to all have a day off at the same time. Athena still appears at the end of the episode, to sing a song to her friends from the Opera Window. The actress passed away, but her beautiful songs remain.
  • Super Dimension Fortress Macross toys with this in regards to Hikaru Ichijyo. His voice actor, Arihiro Hase, committed suicide in 1996, and the few times (for video games) that they needed to have him as a voiced character, there was The Other Darrin used. However, these appearances were flashbacks to the timeframe of the original series or Macross: Do You Remember Love?. As far as animated or manga appearances are concerned, his final chronological appearance was in Macross: Flashback 2012. Outside of a throwaway mention in a manual for a game that implies that the Megaroad note  had run afoul of a Negative Space Wedgie of one sort or another, there has been no word on whether Hikaru is alive or dead. And given Shoji Kawamori's apathy towards revisiting the original trio, we may never know.
  • From the original Mobile Suit Gundam, Sayla Mass was known to be alive as of the end of Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, the last Universal Century series she appeared in. Her original actress Yoh Inoue passed away in 2003, but as far as we know Sayla is still around as of all subsequent entries in the series.

    Films — Animation 
  • Cars 2: Because of the death of Joe Ranft, Red the firetruck actually lost his voice permanently and does not speak in the sequel. Not that he spoke much in the previous film anyway.
  • Toy Story:
    • After Jim Varney's passing of lung cancer in early 2000, Slinky Dog was recast with Blake Clark (with whom he was a close friend).
    • With the passing of Joe Ranft, Wheezy and Lenny were said to have been sold to new owners in Toy Story 3.
    • Don Rickles passed away in 2017, but Mr. Potato Head is alive and well in Toy Story 4 thanks to pre-recorded audio.
  • Also with Jim Varney, Cookie was recast with Steve Barr in Atlantis: Milo's Return.
  • Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie:
    • Following co-writer Steve Viksten's fatal brain hemorrhage in 2014, the role of Oskar Kokaschka was recasted with Wally Wingert.
    • Likewise with Pigeon Man, who was voiced by Stephen Stanton instead of the late Vincent Schiavelli, who died in 2005.
    • Harvey the Mailman appeared as a silent background extra, as his voice actor, Lou Rawls, passed away in 2006.
    • A Cameo by Dino Spumoni's friend and lyricist Don Reynolds, when his voice actor Harvey Korman passed away in 2008.
  • The Land Before Time: Despite the paternal filicide of her original voice actress Judith Barsi, five months before the first film's release, Ducky is still alive and speaking thanks to Heather Hogan and later Aria Noelle Curzon in the sequels and TV series.
  • Happy Feet Two: After her original voice actress Brittany Murphy died of pneumonia on December 20, 2009, singer P!nk took over the role of Gloria in the second film.
  • Monsters, Inc.: Because their original voice actor Daniel Gerson passed away in 2016, Smitty and Needleman were recast with Stephen Stanton in the TV series Monsters at Work.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The DVD of Animal House included a mockumentary detailing the fates of the characters decades after the events of the movie. The majority of the movie's cast reprise their roles, with the notable exception of John Belushi, who died in 1982. His absence was explained by noting that Belushi's character Bluto had become President of the United States and was too busy to be interviewed.
  • Heinrich Schmieder, the actor who played Rochus Misch in Downfall, died on 21 July 2010, over three years before the real Rochus Misch passed away on 5 September 2013, making Misch the only surviving member of the Führerbunker to live up to the 2010s.
  • After the death of Paul Walker, Furious 7 director James Wan and writer Chris Morgan revised the script so that footage Walker shot before his death, along with the combined efforts of Paul's brother Cody, various stunt actors, and the power of CGI, would be used to retire his character, Brian O'Conner, without killing him off.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Michael Gambon took over as Dumbledore starting with Prisoner of Azkaban when Richard Harris passed away in 2002.
    • After Robert Knox died from being stabbed in 2008, Marcus Belby’s only appearance in the series was his one scene in Half-Blood Prince.
  • The Hunger Games: After the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman in 2014, fans wondered how this would affect Mockingjay-Part 1 and Mockingjay-Part 2. As Plutarch Heavensbee lived at the end of Mockingjay, many assumed that they’d rewrite it to kill him off as a result. However, Hoffman had finished filming all his scenes in Part 1 and only had a week of filming left on Part 2 at the time of his death, so the filmmakers decided to just add him in digitally in one scene and thus, his fate would remain the same as it did in the book.
  • In an odd case that intersects this with The Character Died with Him, Mr. Miyagi dies in the Karate Kid film series in 2011, six years after the death of Pat Morita but seven years before the events of the sequel series, Cobra Kai.
  • In Little Fockers, Debbie, who got married in the first film, is divorced offscreen. Nicole DeHuff died from pneumonia on February 16, 2005.
  • Jean Harlow suddenly died of kidney failure during production of Saratoga, but instead of recasting the part and re-shooting her scenes (which were roughly 9/10 completed anyway) production carried on as usual, but with three doubles filling in for her, as well as her character being written out of some scenes.
  • Star Wars: In an example that segues into an on-screen The Character Died with Him, after Carrie Fisher's unfortunate death in December 2016 (during post-production of The Last Jedi), her character Leia made a final appearance in The Rise of Skywalker by repurposing unused footage from the previous two movies, such as previously-unseen shots of Leia embracing Rey, and using a Fake Shemp for some shots, just long enough to kill her off.
  • Although the character was already deceased in-universe, old footage of Marlon Brando was used to portray a dialogue between recordings of Jor-El and Lex Luthor in Superman Returns.
  • A variant occurred with The Three Stooges after Shemp died. For contract reasons, they had to deliver four more shorts and the studio wouldn't let the survivors off. Moe, Shemp's younger brother, and Larry still did four shorts, referring to Shemp and occasionally "meeting up" with him via archive footage filmed when he was still alive. They also did some new scenes where a stand-in was used for Shemp, making sure (not always successfully) to keep his back to the camera.
  • Trail of the Pink Panther was made after the death of Peter Sellers. Rather than having the character of Inspector Clouseau die in the film, he is instead shown to be alive and well on a deserted island after surviving a plane crash; the subsequent film Curse of... reveals he got Magic Plastic Surgery to look like Roger Moore, and did a Face–Heel Turn to settle down with a jewel thief countess.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Many television series prior to the late 1960s did this, including Make Room For Daddy (Nana Bryant, who played Margaret Williams' elderly mother); Ward Bond, the original wagon master on Wagon Train; Smiley Burnette, who played the Bradleys' friend Charlie Pratt on Petticoat Junction and others. The character would simply stop appearing and normally, no future mention would be made of them; if there was, it would be brief, indirect references, usually as though they were still alive. Often, unsophisticated viewers probably never noticed that the character was missing, given the transition was often seamless or that the viewer was more concerned about story development or other characters. It was merely presumed, then, that the character the now-deceased actor portrayed was still alive, since no mention – explicit or otherwise – was made that there was a death.
    • In actuality, a short conversation between Kate and Floyd Smoot at the start of the fifth season of Petticoat Junction, reveals that Charlie had passed away and Floyd was left to run the Cannonball by himself.
  • A frequent occurrence in sitcoms co-written by David Croft (whether with Jimmy Perry or Jeremy Lloyd):
    • In Are You Being Served?, Arthur Brough, who played senior salesman Mr. Grainger, died in 1978 while preparations were being made for the sixth series (though he had announced his retirement from acting following his wife's death two months before, Lloyd and Croft were hoping to persuade him to return). He was replaced without explanation in-series by the character of Mr. Tebbs. Contrary to popular perception, Brough was the only actor who died before his character was written out of the series.
    • Dad's Army gave Walker a Written-In Absence when actor James Beck was suddenly taken into hospital with pancreatic cancer; Walker leaves a note to explain that he is going up to London to conduct a "business" deal. Beck then died and so Walker never returned, but he was not mentioned again and presumably was still alive off-screen; by the time of later radio sequel It Sticks Out Half a Mile he had returned to Walmington-on-Sea.
    • In It Ain't Half Hot Mum, Michael Bates, who played bearer Rangi Ram, died of cancer in 1978 between Series 5 and 6. The character was written out of the remaining three series.
    • In Hi-de-Hi!, Leslie Dwyer, who played Punch and Judy man Mr. Partridge, died in 1986 between Series 6 and 7. His character was written out in a bizarre and rather tasteless manner; what appeared to be his dead body was found floating in a swimming pool with a knife sticking out of its back, but when the police fished it out it turned out to be a mannequin, and someone eventually found a letter from Mr. Partridge explaining that he'd staged his own death and gone to live with a pub landlady in Cornwall. It Makes Just As Much Sense In Context and it wasn't very funny, either. He was replaced by the similar Sammy Morris, played by Kenneth Connor.
    • In 'Allo 'Allo!, Jack Haig, who played forger Roger Leclerc, died of cancer in 1989 toward the end of Series 5. He was written out as having voluntarily returned to prison (finding the food better than that at Cafe Rene) and being replaced by his brother Ernest. (The first actor to play Ernest, Derek Royle, also died after one season, but the role was then recast with the much younger Robin Parkinson.)
  • 7th Heaven infamously used this trope when Graham Jarvis, who played a main character's father, died. The character was not only kept alive for ten months following Jarvis's death, but when the actress that played his on-screen daughter had a contract dispute, she was said to be visiting him in several episodes.
  • Alias Smith and Jones: Here's an unusual example, in that it combines the trope with The Other Darrin. Pete Duel, the original "Smith", killed himself in December 1971. To fit the trope and The Other Darrin trope, the role was re-cast with Roger Davis (the original narrator) taking over the role, filling it until the series ended in 1973. Smith, indeed, lived on on-screen … but looked completely different.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Neither Dr Stephen Franklin nor G'Kar were ever Put on a Bus before their actors Richard Biggs and Andreas Katsulas passed away, but in Babylon 5: The Lost Tales, the late actors' characters are stated to have gone exploring "beyond the rim", the in-universe euphemism for ascending to a higher plane of existence.
    • In the case of G'Kar, the character's death was actually seen on-screen before the actor died. Londo shakes off his Drakh controller long enough to ask G'Kar to kill him to save him and the Centauri from having a mind-controlled Emperor any longer, but as G'Kar tries to oblige the symbiont wakes up and fights back, resulting in G'Kar and Londo killing each other. This was set years after the five-year plot, though, which ended with G'Kar and Lyta going adventuring in unknown parts, so he really could have been "beyond the rim."
    • Doctor Franklin, meanwhile, appears in the series Distant Finale, "Sleeping In Light", so he lives at least as long as Sheridan does - 20 years after Sheridan's trip to Z'Ha'Dum.
    • Canonically, Marcus Cole will most likely outlive his actor, Jason Carter, as in the Expanded Universe, he is a Human Popsicle for a couple of centuries before he is thawed out and goes on one last adventure to finally get his chance to live happily ever after.
    • Michael O'Hare, who played Commander, then Ambassador Sinclair, finally going into the distant past to become Valen, outlived his character by 653 years before dying of a heart attack in September 2012.
  • By the time BBC Ulster got around to reviving Ballykissangel for its final series, actor Tony Doyle had died. Rather than kill off a main character offscreen (because theirs was a milieu where Death Is Always Big Onscreen Drama) they concocted a bizarre storyline in which his character, Brian Quigley, had become a fugitive from a federal tax evasion charge and had fled to Brazil. If he ever returned to Ireland, he'd spend his retirement in the pokey. When the plug was finally pulled on the programme, Brian was (apparently) still alive and living in Rio, but Tony was still beyond waiting for his cue.
  • Nick Yemana from Barney Miller did not exactly Die On a Bus, even though the actor Jack Soo, who played him, died in real life. So the actor got a non-canon memorial-tribute episode, while Nick disappeared from the series and was definitely gone for good; there was an episode where a lot of drama was attached to the removal of his desk from the office, and characters would sometimes mention "back when Nick was here". However, it was never made clear whether he died or just went away somewhere. The final episode has Barney looking around the squad room one last time; he remembers (via flashback clips) the cops who'd left the squad in years past. When he remembers Chano, Wentworth, and Fish, Barney is smiling in fond remembrance. When he remembers Nick, though, his expression is very sad.
  • Bewitched:
    • Another in the unusual cases where a character's originator passes away and is recast — in this case, Gladys Kravitz. When original actress Alice Pearce died in 1966, an interim character (Mrs. K's sister, Harriett) was brought in while the producers debated whether to kill off the Stephens' nosy next-door neighbor or recast the role. It was recast, with Sandra Gould taking what became her signature role ... allowing Mrs. Kravitz to outlive her original actress.
    • Aunt Clara stopped appearing after the death of Marion Lorne in 1968 and it is never confirmed whether or not the character is still alive. Esmeralda was brought in as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute the following year.
  • On The Bold and the Beautiful, following actress Darlene Conley's death, her character Sally Spectra was allowed to live on off-screen rather than being recast or killed off.
  • After Nicholas Colasanto died during the middle of production of the third season of Cheers, Coach was said to be off visiting family or taking a driver's test. The last episode Colasanto appeared in was pushed back to later in the season, and a Deleted Scene featuring Coach was used as The Teaser to open the third season finale. The audience was not told that The Character Died with Him until the Season 4 premiere and the arrival of Woody Boyd.
  • Dushon Brown died in March of 2018 when Chicago Fire (on which she played Connie, Chief Boden's secretary) was in its sixth season. She managed to complete filming the entire season before her death, but the seventh season opened with Boden telling the squad that she had completed a Master's program in counseling and taken a job at a high school. Brown had a similar degree in real life, making this a posthumous Actor-Shared Background.
  • Chico and the Man: Initially for Chico, portrayed by Freddie Prinze, after Prinze's suicide in 1977. Three episodes still remained to be filmed to complete the third season, and three scripts that revolved around other characters were re-written to explicitly mention that Chico was "away on business" (besides giving Chico's lines to other characters). When the "away on business" (and later, "visiting his father in Mexico") explanations were phased out early in the fourth season, it became less clear whether the Chico character was still alive … and then the episode "Raul Runs Away" put any doubt to rest.
  • Dallas had Jock Ewing go on a trip to an oil reserve in South America, in order to keep him alive as long as possible after his actor, Jim Davis (not that one), died. As with Mr. Hooper, his death (which occurred on the return trip) wasn't addressed until some time later.
  • Bill Horton on Days of Our Lives. The 3 previous actors who played the role had all died but that didn't stop them from bringing back the character for his mother's funeral in 2010. The mother (the show's matriarch Alice Horton) was killed off for good because the actress who played her died.
  • Dennis the Menace: George Wilson, following his portrayer Joseph Kearns' death in 1962, midway through the third season. Immediately after his death and a brief hiatus to mourn Kearns' passing, two scripts where Wilson was non-essential were hastily re-written, with substitute characters added and no mention of Mr. Wilson made. Later in the season, it was explained that George had business out east, and his brother, John (Gale Gordon) was brought in to "house sit". Early in the fourth season, the Wilsons (offscreen) moved to the East Coast, leaving John the new homeowner … and it was still presumed that George was alive when the series ended in 1963.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The character of the Doctor continues to be played by a succession of actors when the current actor leaves the part, but all deceased Doctor actors to date (the first three and the War Doctor) didn't pass away until some time after they left the show.
      • The First Doctor is a more specific example of this trope in action, as William Hartnell had passed away by the time "The Five Doctors" came about (Hartnell died in 1975), so they asked Richard Hurndall to take on the part for the story. When the First Doctor returned in "The Doctor Falls", Hurndall had already died (he died in 1984), so he was replaced with David Bradley.
    • The Big Finish audio dramas have allowed companions and the aforementioned Doctors to continue appearing in stories despite their original actors being deceased (often done in the Companion Chronicles). Either they're played by other actors or they're described as being present.
    • Long-running guest character Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, played by Nicholas Courtney, was revealed to have died off-screen after Courtney's death, but a plot which involved corpses in cemeteries being zombiefied into Cybermen saw a Cyberman who had been the Brigadier silently salute the Doctor and fly away. (The novels follow a slightly different continuity and in the books, it is established that the Brigadier at some point early in the 21st century regains his youth and continues to live on well past his 100th birthday).
    • The Time Lord character Romana, like the Doctor, has been regenerated over time, and Lalla Ward and Juliet Landau continue to play the character in audio form despite the death of original actress Mary Tamm.
    • Plans were underway to bring back Time Lady antagonist the Rani on audio with original actress Kate O'Mara, but O'Mara died before production and — in line with the express wishes of O'Mara before her death — the part was subsequently recast with new actor Siobhan Redmond.
  • Many of the Brazilian voice actors of El Chavo del ocho died during the several dubs the series' had since 1984;
    • Marcelo Gastaldi, who was El Chavo's voice actor, died in 1995. He was also the owner of the dubbing studio, which had to shut down after his death. All of the voice actors after him got a lot of criticism, although the current one since 2012 (Daniel Muller) is the most liked.
    • Jaimito's voice actor Older Cazarré died in 1992. He was replaced by Waldir Fiori in the Animated Adaptation (Fiori later also died in 2013), by Jorge Alex in the 90's episodes' dubs, and by Gustavo Berriel in the one DVD dub that featured him.
    • Señor Barriga and Ñoño's voice actor Mario Vilela died in 2005. Gustavo Berriel also took over both roles.
    • Doña Cleotilde's voice actress Helena Samara died in 2007, after dubbing the first season of the animated adaptation. She was replaced by Beatriz Loureiro, who, in turn, was replaced later by Isaura Gomes (although she didn't die).
    • Godinez' voice actor Silton Cardoso had been disappeared since Gastaldi's dub was over, and returned to dub episodes in 2012, before dying 2 years later.
    • Profesor Jirafales' voice actor Osmiro Campos died in 2015 and was replaced by Mauro Ramos.
  • Sandy Harper in Holby City is still alive off-screen in Australia, despite the 2003 death of actress Laura Sadler.
  • Last of the Summer Wine generally isn't shy about having characters die at the same time that their actors do. However, incidental character Eli will probably be left in limbo forever, even though he appeared in most episodes. Actor Danny O'Dea died several years ago, but since Eli was rarely crucial to the plot, and wasn't closely related to any other characters, his ultimate fate will most likely remain unmentioned.
  • The last mention of Frankie's dad Tag on The Middle acknowledges that he's still very much alive, despite Jerry Van Dyke's death in February of 2018.
  • Gloria's mom on Modern Family has never been mentioned as having died, despite Elizabeth Pena's death in 2014.
  • Even with Stanley Kamel's death from a heart attack in April 2008, Dr. Charles Kroger appeared in two Monk novels that were written before season 6's finale "Mr. Monk is On The Run" aired: Mr. Monk Goes to Germany and Mr. Monk is Miserable.
  • NCIS:
    • Marty, Abby's fourth season boyfriend, broke up with her via instant message because the actor who played him committed suicide.
    • Also, Ducky's aged mother was put in a nursing home after her actress died. A few seasons later, there was a mention that she died.
  • In NCIS: Los Angeles, after Miguel Ferrer's death, his character Owen Granger was written out by walking away from everything in pursuit of his own adventures, having already been fatally diagnosed. It eventually became a The Character Died with Him in the following season.
  • Only Fools and Horses:
    • After his actor died, Mike was written out as having been jailed abroad for embezzlement in "If They Could See Us Now". This was done at the request of Kenneth MacDonald, who did not want his character to die with him.
    • Corine, Denzil's wife, outlived her actor, with the character divorcing Denzil after the actress died following a single appearance. The character was intended to have been recurring. Interestingly, she wasn't stated to have finally left him until quite a way into the series, despite no possibility of a reappearance after the third series.
  • A weird example mixed with Harsher in Hindsight: Passions had the character of Timmy dying after a Heroic Sacrifice (to save Charity from her evil Zombie self). However, the supernatural nature of the storylines on the show often made it easy for characters to return to life, and Timmy was set to return as an angel. The plans were scuppered when Josh Ryan Evans died from complications resulting from open heart surgery a scant few weeks after taping the scene. Eerily, the date of his death was the same day Timmy died on the show.
  • When Raymond Burr died in 1993, the writers of the Perry Mason TV movies offered a character played by Paul Sorvino as his replacement, claiming that Perry Mason had "gone on vacation." One snarky television critic offered this as a response: "Yeah, it must have been a permanent one."
  • Petticoat Junction had this happen to lead character Kate, when actress Bea Benederet died shortly into the sixth season. In one episode, a character mentions that she has gone off to tend to a sick relative. After that, life continues as if she never existed. Her character comes up in conversation one other time during the rest of the show’s run, and the mood is momentarily somber, but no one ever mentions why she’s gone.
  • The 2003 Porridge Reunion Show has Ingrid getting a phone call from Lenny Godber explaining he can't make it home; actor Richard Beckinsale had died in 1979.
  • Rentaghost: Michael Darbyshire, who played Hubert Davenport, died between seasons. Davenport (and Mumford, whose actor did not want to continue in the show without Darbyshire) were written out by having them score permanent jobs haunting a stately home. (Obviously, in this case, the character was already dead, but still outlived the actor in the sense of not "moving on".)
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures:
    • A 2010 episode revealed that '60s Doctor Who companions Barbara Chesterton and Ben Jackson were both still alive, despite the actors who played them having died in the 1990s.
    • Sarah Jane Smith herself is still alive, despite the death of Elisabeth Sladen. The last episode of the series ends with the words "And the story goes on... forever."
      • As of now, this remains the case: parent series Doctor Who has yet to indicate onscreen that the character is deceased. Also, in the expanded universe Sarah Jane is said to live on well into the 21st century, something also reflected in The Sarah Jane Adventures itself.
      • A webcast produced in 2020 as part of the Doctor Who: Lockdown event is set around her funeral, by which time her friends are all well into their careers and Luke has been married for five years, indicating this takes place some time after the series ended.
  • Sesame Street:
    • Initially, with Mr. Hooper, for episodes that aired in the winter and spring of 1983; this included episodes that had been completed prior to Will Lee's final illness, and also episodes that did not feature the character. (Some scripts for episodes later in the spring of 1983 were simply rewritten or, in some instances, the other adults were given his lines.) After considering a number of options - one of which was to explain that the beloved Hooper had left Sesame Street, such as retiring – Hooper's death was finally addressed in the groundbreaking episode that aired Thanksgiving Day, 1983 ... almost a year after Lee passed away.
    • David, Mr. Hooper's protégé and first successor, who was written out in 1989 as having moved to Florida to look after his grandmother. His departure was explained in the fifth episode of the 1989-1990 season (aired around Thanksgiving 1989), where Gordon reads a postcard to Elmo telling that David was doing fine and wished everyone well. Off-screen, things were not well for Northern Calloway, the actor that played David. Depending on the source, Calloway voluntarily resigned, was fired (for recurring behavior issues and inability to get along with the cast/crew) or was forced to leave for mental health issues he had been experiencing. At the time of his death in January 1990, he had been institutionalized, and after an episode of excited delirium syndrome/exhaustive psychosis (literally a massive nervous breakdown that caused cardiac arrest), medical personnel was unable to revive him. Unlike his mentor, Calloway received no tribute or so much as an onscreen acknowledgment of his death.
  • Seven Days actor Sam Whipple died of cancer at the age of 41, and so at the beginning of the third and final season of the show, his character, Dr. John Ballard, suddenly retired to a tropical island he had won in a poker game, thus keeping the character alive within the fictional universe even though the actor himself died.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Georgia Brown, who played Worf's adoptive human mother Helena Rozhenko, died suddenly in 1992, only months after her last appearance in "New Ground". In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Accession" from 1996, Worf says "I will be away from the station at that time. Far away. Visiting my parents. On Earth.", inferring that Helena was still alive in-universe.
    • Kellie Waymire died suddenly in 2003, but apparently, in Star Trek: Enterprise, Crewman Cutler is still alive and well.
  • Super Sentai and Power Rangers:
    • Thuy Trang, the actress who played Trini, the original Yellow Ranger in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, left the cast and died in a car accident several years later. Nothing has canonically confirmed Trini's living status. Further compounding the question, with two characters having worn the Mighty Morphin' Yellow Ranger suit and both of them leaving the team before they were upgraded into the Zeo Rangers, the suit's Fake Shemp appearances in Power Rangers Super Megaforce and Power Rangers: Beast Morphers never question if it is Trini or Aisha under the mask.
      • Robert Axelrod, the voice of Finster and Lord Zedd, died on September 7, 2019 at the age of 70 from complications caused by spinal surgery. Though neither character has made further appearances beyond Power Rangers in Space, the voice of Zedd was recast for a Flashback with the Other Darrin in the Beast Morphers Clip Show episode "Making Bad", leaving the door open for a present-day return.
    • Coincidentally, the first Yellow Ranger in Super Sentai also had a tragic fate: Baku Hatakeyama, who played Ki Ranger I in Himitsu Sentai Goranger, committed suicide in 1978; but Ki Ranger returns as a Fake Shemp in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger and its crossover movie with Tensou Sentai Goseiger, and unlike the Thuy Trang case it is implied that Hatakeyama's character, Oiwa, is still in the suit. (It can't be the second Ki Ranger because he was Killed Off for Real and replaced by the returning Oiwa.) It's not that noticeable as there are only 13 unmasked Rangers (not counting the Gokaigers and Goseigers) in the movie.
    • This is the case with Daigo/Shishiranger, since his actor Tatsuya Nōmi committed suicide in May of 2017 but the character is accounted for in the tournament bracket of 2019's Four Week Continuous Super Sentai Strongest Battle.
    • The actor for Shane Clarke/Red Wind Ranger, Pua Magasiva, unexpectedly died on May 11, 2019 when he was just 38 years old. Much like with Trini above, it's unknown if this also marks the death of Shane in-universe as well, but it means we most likely will never see him on-screen again.
    • Peta Rutter (Udonna/White Mystic Ranger) died of a brain tumor on July 20, 2010 at the age of 50. Despite almost a decade passing since her death, Udonna has never been confirmed to be deceased.
    • Alistair Browning, who played Zenowing/Dino Charge Silver Ranger, passed away on June 2, 2019 from cancer when he was 65 years old. Given that he only provided Zenowing's voice, as the character is an anthropomorphic creature, he can easily be recast.
  • Trapper John, M.D.: Nurse Clara "Starch" Willoughby got married during the summer of 1980, retired and moved from San Francisco; on screen, the character did not keep in touch with her former co-workers, and other than possibly brief mentions early in the 1980-1981 season, she is not referred to again and it was presumed she was still living when the series ended in 1986. That's because Starch's portrayer, Mary McCarty, died in the spring of 1980, shortly after production of the 1979-1980 season episodes ended; Madge Sinclair's character, Nurse Ernestine Shoop, replaced Starch.
  • Although Twin Peaks: The Return has several characters die along their actors, a few whose actors who died before 2017 are shown to still be alive:
    • BOB's actor Frank Silva died in 1995. However, since BOB is a spirit whose role in the plot is mostly based on Demonic Possession, his character remains present and active by only showing the physical body he controls, plus a few brief appearances achieved using archival footage. Although it turns out the one assumed to be BOB in Cooper's body is actually Cooper's Evil Twin under Bob's passive, Symbiotic Possession.
    • Agent Philip Jeffries, David Bowie's character from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, is talked to over the phone despite Bowie's death in 2016. Jeffries eventually makes an appearance "in person", with his body so radically altered he's no longer played by a person at all, and his voice provided by a sound-alike. In this case, Bowie was planning to reprise the role, but died between writing and shooting, necessitating a late production change.
  • Will & Grace: Will's boss Mr. Doucette suddenly retired after Gregory Hines died of cancer.
  • Lead actor Yujiro Ishihara died of cancer months after filming his final scenes for Taiyo Ni Hoero. In the sequel series, it's mentioned that his character was promoted and reassigned to a new precinct.

  • When Hal Smith, the voice actor for the star of Focus on the Family's Adventures in Odyssey, John Avery "Whit" Whittaker, suddenly died, Whit was sent on an emergency archaeological expedition to the Middle East until a new voice actor (Paul Herlinger) was found. Interestingly, the radio producers made an episode specifically for the occasion, but they wound up broadcasting it before Smith passed away, because they liked the story so much and wanted to finish it without offing Mr. Whittaker. As of 2010, Whit has now outlived two actors. Herlinger retired in 2008 due to declining health (around the same time, Odyssey was temporarily put on hiatus in order to refresh the series) and died in 2010. When the series returned from hiatus, Andre Stojka had taken over as Whit. Coincidentally, both Smith and Stojka had previously been the voice of Owl.

    Video Games 
  • Likely the fate of Rosa in Assassin's Creed II, who had been a love interest for Ezio but suffered Chuck Cunningham Syndrome after that game since her actress, Lita Tresierra, was killed in a car accident shortly before production began on Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. Despite the character never appearing in the games again the novelizations for Brotherhood and Revelations say that she eventually took over the Rosa in Fiore from Claudia and became an Italian Assassin leader.
  • The death of Kaneto Shiozawa, the voice actor that played Zato-1 in Guilty Gear, inspired the plot point of having the symbiote that gave him powers completely take over, replete with a new voice actor. This overlaps with The Character Died with Him, as Eddie (the parasite) claimed full control of the body because Milia killed Zato-1.
    • Zato-1 is resurrected for Guilty Gear Xrd, so the character has truly outlived Kaneto Shiozawa, with Takehito Koyasu voicing the revived Zato-1.
  • Keiji Fujiwara died the same week Final Fantasy VII Remake released, meaning that Reno will need to be recast for the Japanese voice track of its sequels.
  • The Idolmaster: After Kan Tokumaru (the voice actor of 765 Production president Junichirou Takagi) passed away, the later game reveals that Junichirou resigns, becomes a chairman instead and goes for a long vacation in Hawaii, and the position of president is filled by his cousin Junjirou Takagi.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
  • Robin Sachs finished recording his dialogue for Zaeed Massani in the Citadel DLC of Mass Effect 3 a month before its release, and a special multiplayer event, "Operation: Tribute", was held in his honor.
  • Koji Totani, the Japanese voice actor of Metal Gear villain Revolver Ocelot, died during the production of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. As a result, the role was recast with Banjo Ginga (Liquid Snake's Japanese voice), with Liquid Snake's persona having apparently taken complete control of Ocelot's mind as a convenient excuse for the recast. This wasn't much of an issue in the English version since Ocelot's English voice actor Pat Zimmerman was still alive and reprised the role anyway.
    • Following the death of Takeshi Aono, Hideo Kojima stated on Twitter that he would retire Roy Campbell from the series. By the time Kojima left Konami, he kept his word.
  • Daisuke Gōri voiced the aged Heihachi Mishima from Tekken 3 to Tekken 6. After Gouri tragically passed on, Heihachi had to be recast for Tekken Tag Tournament 2. In light of this, Bandai Namco decided to make Heihachi young again instead of simply having a new VA for Old Man Heihachi. Heihachi's role was passed to Unshō Ishizuka, who himself died in 2018.
    • Ishizuka also voiced Heihachi in Street Fighter X Tekken, where Heihachi WAS old...
    • Tekken 7 is the continuation of the story from 6 so Heihachi is canonically back to his old self (though young Heihachi does appear in a few flashbacks). And then he gets Killed Off for Real by Kazuya at the end of the Story Mode.
  • Igor in Persona. His Japanese voice actor Isamu Tanonaka died before Persona 4: Arena was completed. In the game and anime adaptation, all his lines were unvoiced or used files from older games, even in the English version, though Dan Woren is still alive.
  • Postal 2 has Gary Coleman appear As Himself in the base game. Paradise Lost DLC, released 12 years later, has Gary appear once again, but since the actor passed away in 2010, the in-game character only reuses the previously recorded lines and has his bodyguard be the actual spokesperson.
  • Hirotaka Suzuoki has continued to voice Banjo Haran and Bright Noa in Super Robot Wars games released as recently as 2017, despite having died in 2006. Characters in Super Robot Wars only speak during battle, so Manipulative Editing is used to add new context to Suzuoki's large bank of previously recorded lines.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Mako, who voiced Iroh in Seasons 1 and 2, died while production of Season 2 was wrapping up. Greg Baldwin took over for him in Season 3. Iroh himself dies between the end of Avatar and the beginning of The Legend of Korra, but appears in the Spirit World in Seasons 2 and 3 of the latter show with Baldwin still doing his voice.
  • Baldwin also replaced Mako as the voice of Aku in Samurai Jack when it was Un-Canceled in 2017.
  • After Harry Goz, the voice of Sealab 2021's Captain Murphy, died in 2003, the character left the station to fight in "the Spice Wars". The last episode had a dedication to Murphy as if he was dead, but this was using Animated Actors. Murphy showed up a decade later in an episode of Archer, now voiced by Jon Hamm then dies before the episode is over.
  • King of the Hill: John Redcorn was originally voiced by Victor Aaron, who was tragically killed in a car accident just prior to the show's second season. For the remainder of the series, John was voiced by Jonathan Joss.
  • Transformers:
    • After Scatman Crothers fell ill shortly after the Movie, Jazz didn't have any further lines in the show. (However, the focus had moved on from the original cast by that point, and there's no evidence Jazz was ever going to have a more major role post-movie.)
    • Cyclonus' voice actor, Roger C. Carmel, passed away towards the end of Season 3 and Jack Angel (who was already voicing Astrotrain, Ultra Magnus, and Ramjet, among others) took over the role.
  • Futurama:
    • Happens to Dr McCoy, after a fashion. In "Where No Fan Has Gone Before", the main cast of Star Trek: The Original Series voice themselves, except for James Doohan and DeForest Kelley. While Doohan had simply said he wasn't interested, Kelley had died. As such, Kelley's likeness appears but has no speaking lines.
    • Another example: Coleene, Fry's polyamorous love interest from the second movie, "Beast With A Billion Backs", who was voiced by the sadly departed Brittany Murphy. In the story, Coleene was last seen fully engaged in a relationship with Yivo, the planet-sized tentacly creature from Another Dimension, with the gateway to said dimension being closed off by the end, sealing her status as "presumably still living there with shklim and not going to make any new appearances".
  • The Simpsons:
    • After the mariticide of Phil Hartman in 1998, Matt Groening had Hartman's primary characters, Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure, muted out of respect. The last episode to feature Hartman, "Bart the Mother", which featured Troy McClure, aired the following season. Both Hutz and McClure are alive in story and continued to appear in crowd shots, but have never done anything significant. They also appear frequently in the comics, since they don't need to be voiced.
    • This initially happened to Lunchlady Doris as well after Doris Grau's death. Eventually, she started getting voiced appearances again with the help of The Other Darrin, Tress MacNeille.
    • In October 2013 the actress for Ms. Krabappel, Marcia Wallace, sadly died. Matt Groening has said that Edna Krabappel will be retired from the show out of respect for her actress, much like Hutz and McClure. However, thanks to the fact that much of Wallace's voice work for future episodes had already been recorded, this did not occur until the 26th season. The episode "Four Regrettings and a Funeral", shown on November 3rd, 2013, was dedicated to Wallace. A later episode stated that Krabappel had died.
    • After Russi Taylor (Martin, Sherri, and Terri) died in 2019, Grey DeLisle took over her roles.
    • While the core sextet in the English version (Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer) has been with the series since the beginning,note  many of the international versions are not so lucky.
      • For the German dub, a real problem arose in 2006 when Marge's voice actress Elisabeth Volkmann died. She had to be replaced to keep the German dub running, but Anke Engelke, another famous TV comedian, sounds nothing like her (she has tried to emulate Kavner's performance rather than Volkmann's). Homer's voice actor, Norbert Gastell, also passed away in 2015. He was replaced by Christoph Jablonka.
      • Homer's first European Spanish voice, Carlos Revilla, passed away in 2000. To solve this problem, Carlos Ysbert was called in to keep the dub alive. This was made worse by Ángel Egido (Abe and Smithers) also dying, and Pedro Sempson (Mr. Burns) and Eva Díez (Milhouse) retiring around the same time. And worse still, Revilla was also the localization director, so the whole voice acting suffered his absence as a result.
      • Marge's Brazilian voice actress from seasons 9 to 14, Nelly Amaral, passed away in 2002. She had to be replaced by Selma Lopes, who had already voiced Marge from seasons 1 to 8. Also, André Filho, who voiced Skinner, passed away in 1997 and was eventually replaced by Márcio Simões.
      • The same happened in Italy when Tonino Accolla, Homer's voice (as well as the voice of popular actors such as Jim Carrey and Eddie Murphy), passed away in 2013. He was replaced by Massimo Lopez, which was received with quite a bit of backlash by fans.
  • Father of the Pride: Sarmoti, Bernie, and Duke will most likely return in a future series revival, even though their voice actors passed away, Dom De Luise (Duke) in 2009, Garry Marshall (Bernie) in 2016, and Carl Reiner (Sarmoti) in 2020.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • Rather than phase out Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy after the death of Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway in 2012 and 2019, respectively, the writers decided to make them The Voiceless instead.
    • Squidward in the German dub had this happen to him after the death of his voice actor Eberhard Prüter. Problematically, Prüter's voice was so distinctive that they'd have been hard-pressed to find anyone who sounds like him. However, when Tobias Lelle was cast for the film, he took it in a different direction and made his voice sound more like Rodger Bumpass while being reminiscent of the late Rokuro Naya (his Japanese voice actor).
    • Squidward's Brazilian voice actor also died in 2006. He was replaced by Marcelo Pissardini, who sounds almost exactly like him, to the point that many fans did not even notice the difference.
  • Family Guy:
    • Frank Sinatra Jr. was a recurring guest star, having played himself for three episodes. His last episode, "Bookie of the Year", was aired months after his March 2016 death, though his character remains alive in the show.
    • Carrie Fisher had played Peter's boss Angela until her death in December 2016. Angela is retired from the show, and a new boss character played by Bryan Cranston will succeed her in the 2017-18 season.
      • The producers would later kill Angela off by having her drowning to death offscreen for the 17th season.
  • On Arthur, Lakewood Elementary Principal Mr. Haney was sent away to Africa to live his dream of opening a school following the death of his voice actor Walter Massey in 2014.
  • Anton Yelchin died after finishing a majority of his character Jim's dialogue for Trollhunters, which was the entirety of season 1 and 2 along with a considerate amount of season 3. As a result, his close friend Emile Hirsch took over the role and series creator Guillermo del Toro confirmed that the production team will be doing a unique way to incorporate a voice transition organic to the story and create a path for Hirsch, to carry on his legacy and role, so Yelchin’s performance has been left intact where possible and some portions have been merged with Hirsch’s performance to complete season three. Given the fact that Jim is the main protagonist of the series, it was for the best to do so instead of having him being Put on a Bus or Killed Offscreen.
  • The person who voiced Widow Hutchison in Rocko's Modern Life, Kevin Meaney, died in October 2016 after a fatal heart attack. The special Rocko's Modern Life: Static Cling does include Widow, but she's left unvoiced.
  • Scooby-Doo:
    • Casey Kasem, who was Shaggy's original voice, was replaced with Matthew Lillard, who played Shaggy in the live-action Scooby-Doo movie. This was when Kasem was still alive, mind, although he did die in 2014.
    • After Don Messick passed away, Scott Innes and Hadley Kay took turns voicing Scooby until they settled on Frank Welker as his permanent voice.
  • After Caillou's second voice actress, Jaclyn Linetsky, died in a car crash on the way to the taping of an episode of 15/Love, his voice was replaced by Annie Bovaird.

Alternative Title(s): Character Outlives Actor Offscreen, Died On A Bus


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: