A sad form of Real Life Writes the Plot and the Logical Extreme of Written-In Infirmity: a character is written out of the show or even (and usually) Killed Off for Real because the actor who portrayed them has left not just the show, but the mortal coil itself.
In other words, the Grim Reaper himself arranges an (obviously long) bus trip. In these circumstances, don't expect the character to be Put on a Bus to Hell, but rather an episode directly (and often respectfully) dealing with the death and deceased.
This often causes major changes in the cast dynamic. If the character was a big enough part of the show, it could be derailed or even ended altogether. It's usually seen in Anime, Western Animation, and Live-Action TV, but this can happen in film as well if the movie is a series (see Indiana Jones below).
The inverse is Character Outlives Actor when a character is taken out of a show and is still alive, but the actor who played them has died and sometimes in the case of animation, replaced with a soundalike, though in some cases, both can overlap if the character's death took place later than their actor's.
This is a trope, as the event affects the narrative. However, outside of the narrative, it may prompt an episode or credits nod In Memoriam. A Really Dead Montage may result for longstanding characters. Fans may do this preemptively via Death Fic.
If a voice actor dies (or otherwise stops being available) but the character simply stops having voiced appearances, it's Actor Existence Limbo.
Because this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers may be ahead.
- A coincidental inversion with the airing of Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn Episode 7: it was already known from its light novel that Syam Vist would eventually be Peaceful in Death at the end, to activate the Magallanica. Then came the passing of Ichirō Nagai (Syam's voice actor) months before the airing of the said episode.
- Shinji Ogawa, the voice actor for Emperor Reyregalia Vers Rayvers in Aldnoah.Zero, passed away on March 7, 2015, three episodes before the series was scheduled to end. The Emperor also died in Episode 23, two weeks after Ogawa did.
- A rare non-actor version of this once occurred in the classic adventure strip Terry and the Pirates. The wisecracking Ace Pilot Dude Hennick was based on a Real Life friend of Terry's creator, Milton Caniff, named Frank Higgs. Higgs, like Dude, flew on relief efforts for war-torn China in the years leading up America's entry into World War II. Dude had not been seen in the strip in years when, on a Christmas Day, 1945 strip, Caniff spoke directly to the reader, revealing Dude had been based on Higgs... and that Higgs died in a plane crash. "I know today you're probably thinking of your own 'good Joe' who didn't get to see this Christmas, but if you liked Dude, I hope you'll spare a thought for Higgs. Dude died when he did."
- Invoked but ultimately averted with Doonesbury's Uncle Duke after the death of Hunter S. Thompson. When Duke reads the news of Thompson's passing, his head immediately explodes, only to reappear so that he can make sure he didn't misread the story. After Duke confirms the story, his head promptly explodes again. For the remainder of that week, Duke descends into a bizarre, probably drug-fueled series of Ralph Steadman-inspired hallucinations. Considering to whom the tribute was being paid, this actually seems appropriate. Ironically, this probably would have pissed Thompson off; he hated Uncle Duke.
- Doc Hudson is the only character from the film Cars to not physically appear in the film's sequel out of respect for the late Paul Newman. According to the writers, Doc is the first character in the series to be killed off permanently, as implied by the fact that his former medical clinic has been converted into a memorial museum dedicated to this character, as with the trophy Lightning McQueen wins at the very beginning of the film. In Cars 3, he appeared in flashbacks using unused dialogue from the first film.
- Fillmore, however, was given a new voice actor for this film due to the death of George Carlin, and Red actually lost his voice altogether due to the death of Joe Ranftnote . But then again, Red never talked all that much.
- Indiana Jones:
- Marcus Brody, played by Denholm Elliott, did not appear in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull due to Elliott's death in 1992. A statue honoring Brody, on the Marshall College's grounds, is shown, and the character's death was written into the movie with the death of the actor. Indy also has a picture of him on his desk, showing Brody during Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (in a moment when he was lost so how the picture was taken is a bit of a mystery).
- Zig-Zagged with Sean Connery. Henry Jones was said to have passed away in Crystal Skull as well—Indy also having a picture of him on his desk—but Connery was only retired at the time. There'd been talks about hoping to convince Connery to return—and for Henry to be Faking the Dead—for the next movie for years, but then he passed away in 2020 at age 90. That put the idea of Henry showing up alive in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny to rest almost immediately.
- Sam Loomis apparently dies offscreen at the end of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers Theatrical Cut due to Donald Pleasence's death in 1995 (in the Producer's Cut, he lives and only screams because he is now cursed by the Mark of Thorn). Every Halloween installment in continuity with the original Halloween (1978) afterward, such as Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later and Halloween (2018), had Loomis already deceased with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) taking up his role as Michael Myers's Arch-Enemy.
- Charlie's Angels (2019): John Forsythe (the voice of Charlie) passed away at the age of 92 in 2010 and thus, Charlie apparently died and his successor is a woman using a voice changer to sound like him.
- A Christmas Story Christmas: The Old Man—Ralphie's father in the original film—was heavily implied to have passed away in the trailer and it was ultimately confirmed (complete with Death Notification) in the final film. Word of God said before release that the movie was without a doubt a tribute to the Old Man's actor Darren McGavin who passed away in 2006 a few months before turning 84.
- Creed: Tony "Duke" Evers never appears in the first film and while it was released in 2015, Tony Burton passed away in early 2016. In the 2018 sequel Creed II, it’s never said that Duke himself passed away, but he’s alluded to in the past tense when Adonis is meeting with Duke’s grown son, also a trainer.
- Colonel Sam Trautman from the Rambo series died off-screen in the fourth movie because Sylvester Stallone felt it wouldn't feel right replacing the late Richard Crenna. As he himself put it: "Trautman died the day my friend Richard died."
- Cab Calloway and John Belushi both died (in 1994 and 1982, respectively), and their characters of Curtis and Jake Blues are said to have died offscreen in Blues Brothers 2000.
- Gladiator: Oliver Reed's character Proximo was meant to survive the entire movie, but due to the actor's death during filming, the character was killed off. Even so, it cost the studio $3 million to recreate his face for the remaining scenes he "appeared" in.
- Marty Feldman's character in Yellowbeard was killed off when Feldman died in his hotel room during filming. Near the end of the film, it is arranged that he falls into acid and dies. But most shots had already been completed and he plays a baddie, so it isn't really strange or sudden that the character dies. John Cleese dies suddenly at the beginning of the film, but the actor is still alive; he simply did not like the film.
- Played with in The Matrix. The Oracle's original actress, Gloria Foster, succumbed to diabetes between the second and third films. Mary Alice took over the role for the third movie but, rather than go with an Other Darrin situation, the "death" was actually made a plot point (two other programs had sold the Oracle's termination codes to the Merovingian in return for the safety of their daughter). Thus, as explained by the Oracle in the final movie, she is not truly the same being she used to be, although parts of her remain.
- My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3: Michael Constantine, who played patriarch Gus Portokalos, passed away in 2021 at age 94 and as a result, Gus's passing was written into the movie—and outright confirmed by the trailer firsthand as well.
- My Girl: Ann Nelson, who played Gramoo Sultenfuss, died in 1992, nearly a year after it was released in theaters. If the sequel was in planning before her death, it's unknown whether or not the filmmakers intended to have her return to be part of it. Regardless, it's confirmed in the sequel that Gramoo passed away sometime in between.
- House Party: Robin Harris, who played Pop (Kid's father), died shortly after the first film was released. The sequel reveals that Pops died in between films and Kid has been living at his best friend Play's house since his passing.
- Jurassic World contains an unintentional example. The Hammond Genetics Lab is a memorial to the character of John Hammond, and it's mentioned at multiple points the park is a testament to his work and everything that he did, now that his dream has come to fruition. The new owner of the park, Simon Masrani, even says that he's carrying out Hammond's dying wish. There is also a statue of him in the visitor's center. All this seems to serve as a tribute to Richard Attenborough, who died at age 90 just before the film was released. However, Attenborough actually died during the film's post-production; the screenwriting and filming, as well as the statue, had already been completed by the time of his death. In the next film Fallen Kingdom though, it's all but confirmed in dialogue that Hammond is dead, and then in Dominion, it's outright said, but it isn't revealed how exactly he died, though all that is known about it is that it occurred shortly after the events of The Lost World.
- Star Trek Beyond: Leonard Nimoy made his final appearance as Spock Prime in Star Trek Into Darkness before his death in 2015. Early in Beyond, the younger Spock learns of Spock Prime's death, and it motivates much of his character arc.
- Ghostbusters: Afterlife centers around the family of Egon Spengler dealing with his passing. Harold Ramis, who played Spengler, died in 2014.
- Madge Sinclair, who portrayed Queen Aoleon in Coming to America, passed away in 1995. In Coming 2 America, it is mentioned that the Queen died sometime before the events of the film.
- Due to the death of George Carlin in 2008, in Bill & Ted Face the Music, his character Rufus is revealed to have died since the events of the previous films; with his wife and daughter playing key roles in the story.
- Kamen Rider 1: Since the man who portrayed Tōbei Tachibana, Akiji Kobayashi, passed away in August 1996, the film reveals that Tachibana passed away many years before the movie but not before he posthumously gave his final gift, Neo-Cyclone, to his longtime friend Takeshi Hongo, which can be used for the movie's climax.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe: With the passing of Chadwick Boseman in 2020, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever begins with his character King T'Challa dying a year after the events of Avengers: Endgame.
- The B-52s dropped "Song For A Future Generation" from their live shows after guitarist Ricky Wilson died, the reason being that he has a spoken part in the song. They have noted this fact in interviews, feeling that if he wasn't there to perform the song, it wasn't right to perform it and that it was better for the song to remain special to his era. It remains one of the few hit singles that isn't a mainstay of the band's setlists.
- AC/DC have not performed "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Want To Rock & Roll) since Bon Scott's death in 1980, as new singer Brian Johnson considers it "Bon's Song" and wouldn't be right for him to sing it.
- The heavy metal band GWAR retired guitarist Flattus Maximus after his most recent portrayer, Cory Smoot, died of a heart attack in 2011. After frontman and band co-founder Dave Brockie died of a heroin overdose, the costume of his character Oderus Urungus was given a Viking funeral pyre on Hadad's Lake just before GWAR-BQ in 2014.
- Sesame Street: When actor Will Lee, who played Mr. Hooper, passed away in 1982, the producers were faced with the usual options for dealing with loss on a kids' show: cast a new actor, or have the character simply leave the show (either with an explanation, such as he retired, or without). Instead, the producers realized kids would immediately notice Mr. Hooper was either different or gone without a trace, so Sesame Street ran an episode where the human characters explain to Big Bird that Mr. Hooper had died, that it's all right to miss him, and that even though life will never be quite the same when someone beloved dies, it will be okay. In tribute to him, the portrait Big Bird was going to give him still hangs in his nest to this day, nearly 40 years later. It even survived the hurricane that destroyed Big Bird's nest in 2001.
- One documentary said that the "Mr. Hooper's not coming back" scene was the only scene in Sesame Street history done in a single take because the cast was too emotionally wrecked to do more takes. It speaks volumes that the single take captured genuine emotion and showed that grown-ups, too, can feel sad and cry when people they love die, which played a huge role in keeping the scene at one take... and also played a major role in the scene's critical acclaim.
- This episode is also notable for not using a Really Dead Montage. The producers thought that it would be too confusing to talk about Mr. Hooper being gone forever while still showing him on screen. (However, several years after Hooper's passing, one would be played, usually when a newcomer asks about the store or Hooper himself; it was probably determined that enough time had passed and that the audience generally understood that Hooper was no longer with his neighbors and friends.)
- This has happened numerous times on The Archers, as it is such a Long Runner that actors are often in it for long enough to become elderly. Usually the death is offstage, but relatively soon after the actor's own death; a notable exception was Nelson Gabriel's death, which occurred after the character had been a tax exile for some time, still talked about by the other characters but not appearing.
- Similar Polish radio dramas Matysiakowie and W Jezioranach had done this a lot of times. Averted in many cases since the '90s by using The Other Darrin.
- After Barton Yarborough died of a heart attack, his characters on Dragnet and One Man's Family were written out of their respective stories (Dragnet's Romero even dying of an offscreen heart attack).
- Big Finish Doctor Who encountered this when Kate O'Mara, who played the Rani on TV, fell ill and died during the development of what would have been her first Doctor Who Expanded Universe appearance in the role. However, the Rani being a Time Lord, they could both acknowledge this trope and still make the story, with Siobhan Redmond cast as the Rani's new incarnation.
- Defied with Car Talk. Tom Magliozzi died in late 2014 due to complications of Alzheimer's disease, but the show had already gone to an archive format two years earlier due to his failing memory. His brother and co-host Ray and the show's producers continued the running of the show with a mix of previously aired and unaired material, including clips featuring Tom in every segment. The show is now run as The Best of Car Talk, with Ray recording a few new sponsor messages in retirement.
- NoPixel: Misty Mocha told other characters that she had a terminal illness; this turned out to be a case of Real Life Writes the Plot, as her player DovahPug was sick with cancer in Real Life. When DovahPug passed away in May 2021, Misty's passing was played somberly straight by all other characters, and they held a beachside memorial service for her.
- Kaneto Shiozawa's death caused his Guilty Gear character Zato-1 to die as well (during a battle with Milla). However they got around to actually removing him from the cast by saying Eddie, the parasite granting him his shadow powers and voiced by Takehito Koyasu, is now animating his dead body and continues to fight using the same combat style. Strangely enough, he is resurrected as part of the plot in Xrd, although it's ultimately justified in that the new Zato isn't the villain he used to be.
- Likewise, Shiozawa's death affected another series he starred in, Rival Schools, where his character Hyo Imawano ends up being Killed Off for Real at the climax of the 2nd game.
- Narrowly averted by Zaeed Massani from the Mass Effect series: his voice actor, Robin Sachs, died shortly after recording his part in the final content piece for the original trilogy, Citadel. As the next game in the series featured no returning characters from said trilogy, writing Zaeed out was no longer necessary, so Citadel was simply dedicated to Sachs' memory.
- Adventure Time: Distant Lands: The voice actor for Death, Miguel Ferrer (also mentioned in the NCIS: Los Angeles entry above), passed away in 2017, so he only appears in non-speaking flashbacks in "Together Again", showing that he died before the events of the story (itself a Distant Finale). If you're wondering how Death could die, it's because he was murdered by his own son.
- Arthur: The episode "Listen Up!" has Francine learning that her Grandma Bubby passed away. Bubby's voice, Joan Rivers, died eight years prior.
- The As Told by Ginger episode "No Hope for Courtney" was rewritten mid-production after the death of Kathleen Freeman so that her character Ms. Gordon would be dead as well, a dedication to Freeman would also appear at the end of the episode.
- Descendants: The Royal Wedding, an animated follow-up to the Descendants movies, implies that Carlos De Vil has passed away, after the premature death of actor Cameron Boyce in 2019.
- Family Guy:
- Peter's mother Thelma died following the 2012 death of Phyllis Diller.
- After Carrie Fisher passed away in December 2016, her character Angela was initially written out of the show. Two years later, the episode "Pawtucket Pete" stated that Angela had died from drowning after swimming less than 20 minutes after she had eaten and showed Peter delivering the eulogy at her funeral.
- After Adam West's death in 2017, Mayor West was shown as a ghost (alongside Angela's ghost). A later episode revolves around having the high school renamed in his honor, followed by Brian and Quagmire engaging in a heated race to become Quahog's new mayor.
- In The Simpsons episode "The Man Who Grew Too Much", Edna Krabappel was stated to have died following Marcia Wallace's passing of pneumonia in 2013. After Ned Flanders has a dream about him and Edna doing the tango, he looks at the picture of Edna and remarks sadly, "I sure do miss that laugh." Nelson the school bully replies, "Ha-ha! I miss her, too." The chalkboard gag for an earlier episode has a sad Bart somberly staring at the board which contains a single line: "We'll really miss you, Mrs. K."
- In the Squidbillies episode "Greener Pastor," Reverend is killed due to the death of his voice actor Scott Hilley. The TV Guide description for the episode was simply "Scott Hilley dies." The episode also had a memorial slide for him, and Hilley reading the "Made in Georgia" vanity plate, as a final salute.
- An In-Universe example is found in the South Park episode "A Very Crappy Christmas", in which the boys are making a Christmas-themed short about themselves. When Kenny suffers his Once per Episode death halfway through production, a Beat passes before Stan says that they'll just kill him off in the film, too.