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The Character Died with Him
aka: The Character Died With Her

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You know? I am going to miss you, Mr. Hooper. Dedication 


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.

This is a trope, as the event affects the narrative. Contrast Died During Production which stops the narrative cold. However, outside of the narrative, it may prompt an episode or credits nod In Memoriam. 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.



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  • A coincidental inversion with the airing of Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn Episode 7: it was already known from its Light Novel Adaptation 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.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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 the third film, he appeared in flashbacks using unused dialogue from the first film.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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).
  • 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' 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.
  • 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 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 though, it's all but confirmed in dialogue that Hammond is dead.
  • 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.
  • The Rise of Skywalker has General Leia Organa die on-screen through previously unused footage of Carrie Fisher from the previous Sequel Trilogy films, having to direct the last of her vital strength toward using the Force to spiritually connect to her son Kylo Ren. Her body later disappears, having become one with the Force.
  • Ghostbusters: Afterlife centers around the family of Egon Spengler dealing with his passing. Harold Ramis, who played Spengler, died in 2014.
  • Chadwick Boseman passed away from cancer two years before the planned release of the sequel to his breakout movie Black Panther. A few months after his death, it was announced that T'Challa would not be recast out of respect for him, suggesting the character would be Killed Offscreen in a later Marvel movie.
  • 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 some time 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 on 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Bonanza: When Dan Blocker unexpectedly died prior to the start of the 1972-1973 season, his character of Hoss Cartwright was never seen again. It is never stated outright, but it is strongly implied that Hoss, too, died... particularly with Ben's comments in the episode "The Initiation," where he says, "I've already buried one son!"
    • A "Next Generation" TV movie explains it; the son Hoss never knew he had comes to the Ponderosa and learns that Hoss drowned saving a young woman and her daughter from a river during a raging storm.
  • Chico and the Man: Chico, although this was not stated until late in Season 4, more than a year after Freddie Prinze's death. Unlike the circumstances surrounding Prinze's death (suicide), Ed explains simply – to Raul, a character who had been brought in to replace Chico – that Chico had died, leaving the cause unknown. Late Season 3 and earlier Season 4 episodes stated that Chico was "away."
  • The Dukes of Hazzard:
    • In the 1997 reunion movie (one which fans consider canon to the original series), Boss Hogg had died several years earlier; this was brought out in a scene where Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane – by this time Boss's successor as county commissioner – reflects on and mourns Boss's passing. This reflects the real-life death of Sorrell Booke in 1994, more than two years before the reunion movie was filmed.
    • In a second reunion movie aired in 2000, Jesse Duke is also acknowledged as deceased; his actor, Denver Pyle, passed on in 1997, just months after the first reunion movie debuted. It was Pyle's last work, which he did despite being terminally ill with cancer.
  • John Ritter:
    • 8 Simple Rules' Ritter's character on that show was Paul Hennessy. While rehearsing the second season, Ritter suddenly suffered an apparent heart attack while on the set of the show rehearsing, and was rushed across the street to the hospital. Turned out he suffered an aortic dissection, and he died. Following Ritter's passing, the show Paul was Killed Off for Real; no specific reason was given, he "collapsed while buying milk". The show then added James Garner as Cate's (Katey Sagal)'s father Jim Egan and David Spade as her cousin CJ Barnes to the main cast.
    • Ritter's character on Scrubs, Sam Dorian, was main character J.D.'s father. The reason given for his death was a massive heart attack.
  • Desperate Housewives: An unusual variation with Kathryn Joosten whose character, Karen McCluskey, was dying with her. Both Joosten and McCluskey had terminal cancer; the character died during the series finale, while the actress died only a short time after filming wrapped. This earned her a Dying Moment of Awesome, using her advanced illness to save the main characters from going to prison.
  • The District: Ella Farmer, played by Lynne Thigpen, suddenly died of the cancer from which the character had been in remission, when the actress passed away from a cerebral hemorrhage.
  • Monk: Stanley Kamel, who played Dr. Charles Kroger, died of a heart attack on April 8, 2008, during the production hiatus between the show's sixth and seventh seasons. It was thus explained in "Mr. Monk Buys a House," the season 7 premiere and first episode aired after Kamel's death, that Dr. Kroger had died of this as well, rather than try to recast the role. The episode also introduced Hector Elizondo as Dr. Neven Bell to replace the void filled by Kamel's death. The final scene of the episode ends by settling on a photograph of Kamel as Dr. Kroger on Monk's fireplace mantle, and a card saying "In Loving Memory of Stanley Kamel" comes before the end credits.
    • Oddly enough, in book form at least, Dr. Kroger actually outlived Stanley Kamel by eight months, as two Monk books by Lee Goldberg, Mr. Monk Goes to Germany and Mr. Monk is Miserable were published respectively in June and December 2008. Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop, published in July 2009, was the first novel to feature Dr. Bell instead of Dr. Kroger, establishing its events as taking place during or just after season 7.
  • The West Wing: John Spencer who played Leo McGarry, died shortly into filming for the seventh season. His seven final episodes were shown, and Leo, who was Matt Santos' presidential running mate, was said to be on a campaign tour for the remainder of the season. At the beginning of the episode "Running Mates", airing January 8, 2006, Martin Sheen introduced the show with a tribute to Spencer and to Leo. The episode "Election Day Pt. 1" had Leo's death written into the script, with his assistant Annabeth discovering him in his hotel room. In "Election Day Pt. 2", Santos wins. The following episode, "Requiem", showed Leo's funeral in the National Cathedral.
  • The Waltons: The characters mourned the death of Grandpa Zeb during the first episode of the 1978-79 season after actor Will Geer died shortly after filming had completed for the previous season. Neighbor Flossie Brimmer's death was also mentioned and mourned in the same episode, as her actress had also passed away between seasons.
  • Suddenly Susan: Todd Styles, played by David Strickland; the final episode of season 3 was turned into a tribute to the character (and actor).
  • Cheers: Ernie "Coach" Pantusso, played by Nicholas Colasanto, suddenly perished from a heart attack. He was replaced by Woody.
  • Livia Soprano on The Sopranos, who died after actress Nancy Marchand's death. Bizarrely, though, they filmed one last scene with Livia after her actress's death, using a Fake Shemp with her head added with CGI, and playing lines Marchand had previously recorded.
  • NewsRadio: After Phil Hartman's death shortly after production wrapped on season 4, his character Bill McNeil suffered a fatal heart attack in the first episode of season 5. Said episode dealt with his funeral and the characters coming to terms with his death - a weighty episode for a sitcom, and the other actors were quite obviously not faking their tears.
  • 1970s British kids' puppet show Inigo Pipkin changed its name to Pipkins when the actor playing the title character died, and the character was killed off with him. News of his death was broken to the puppets by his assistant Johnny (Wayne Laryea), in an episode broadcast in 1974.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Donna Noble's father Geoffrey. He appeared in "The Runaway Bride", but due to Howard Attfield's terminal illness and death during the filming of "Partners in Crime", his part was replaced by Wilfred Mott, who was retconned into Donna's grandfather, and Geoff Noble is stated to have died. As a dedication to the actor, the Tenth Doctor in his final episode gives Donna's mother, as a wedding gift to Donna, a lottery ticket bought with a quid the Doctor obtained by going back in time offscreen to borrow from "a really lovely man. Geoffrey Noble, his name was."
    • Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, as stated in "The Wedding of River Song". In fact, by way of tribute to the only actor to in some form act alongside all seven original series Doctorsnote , the fact that The Character Died With Him is a crucial plot point in the episode — it is the Brigadier's death that gets the Doctor to stop running and face his fate in Utah. The character has since been mentioned a few times, the Brigadier's legacy upheld by his daughter, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, a leader in UNIT just like her father. The Brig is unusual about this, in that he technically outlived his actors by years, but was still established as dead years down the line; the Brigadier apparently lived to the ripe old age of 150, decades longer than Nicholas Courtney. This is justified thanks to the Time Travel aspect of having the Doctor learn directly of their deaths later on and reeling from them. The character, however, briefly came back as a Cyberman in the last minutes of "Death in Heaven" in which corpses were zombified into Cybermen.
    • Dr. Harry Sullivan, brief companion with the fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith, when Sarah Jane mentions some of the Doctor's old companions' present exploits in Death of the Doctor. It isn't spelled out, but he is mentioned in the past tense while the rest of them are mentioned in the present. (In the novelisation of "The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith", however, Sarah Jane reflects that she doesn't know if Harry's still alive; he's just M.I.A., as previously mentioned in the Sarah Jane Smith audio series.)
    • Oddly enough, inverted by The Master. Before Roger Delgado's untimely death in a car accident, there were plans to have his character Killed Off for Real in a final showdown with the Doctor. He later reappeared as a withered husk (later acknowledged as the same incarnation) played by Peter Pratt and then Geoffrey Beevers, before taking over the body of Tremas of Traken, played by Anthony Ainley, who would portray him for the remainder of the original series' run. Ainley himself died in 2004, but the character has, to date, been played by four different actors since the series was revived.
    • Often erroneously applied to Sarah Jane Smith. Although The Sarah Jane Adventures was canceled due to the death of actress Elisabeth Sladen, to date there has been no on-screen indication in the television canon that the character has also died; thus, Character Outlives Actor more correctly applies. Russell T Davies specifically rejected the idea of depicting the character's death in canon when an interviewer brought it up, and despite his history as a Lying Creator, the franchise has kept to it. However, in the Doctor Who Expanded Universe, Davies wrote a webcast story in 2020 called Farewell, Sarah Jane which depicted Sarah Jane's funeral.
    • Not quite an actor, but the Fifth Doctor's could-have-been companion Kamelion, a shapeshifting robot, had to be written out of the series when the mechanical prop's software designer, Mike Power, died in a boating accident. As he'd only just finished programming the expensive apparatus and hadn't had the chance to write down the instructions, the prop malfunctioned constantly and became such a liability that the character spent the rest of his tenure in a back room of the TARDIS, then was given a Mercy Kill in Five's penultimate story.
  • Barney Miller: When Jack Soo (who portrayed Nick Yemana) passed away, a Clip Show episode was made as a tribute to him (with the cast breaking character for this occasion). Sometime later, it was mentioned that Nick had passed on and his desk had been removed. A subsequent episode focused on the desk and Barney's (successful) attempt to get it back.
  • Last of the Summer Wine:
    • When Bill Owen died, the character of Compo also passed away, allowing for a funeral arc (and more than a little grieving for the country as a whole).
    • Happened with most of the other characters as well. It would never be stated that they had died, but everyone else would start referring to them in the past tense.
  • Gimme a Break!: After Dolph Sweet (Chief Kanisky) died of cancer, the season five opener had the family dealing with the Chief's sudden death.
  • Geoffrey Hutchings died between Series 1 and 2 of Grandma's House, and as a result, Grandpa Bernie (his character) was stated to have died in the Series 2 premiere. What makes it extra sad is that Bernie had just been proven to be fine in the Series 1 finale after a series-long subplot about him possibly having cancer.
  • Redd Foxx died after only seven episodes of The Royal Family, resulting in Al Royal's death and the introduction of their eldest daughter Coco (Jackée Harry) to help cope with the loss.
  • Only Fools and Horses:
    • When Lennard Pearce died, they decided to kill off his character, Granddad (offscreen, of course). Thus the first episode made after Pearce's death begins with Granddad's funeral.
    • The same happened with Uncle Albert after the death of Buster Merryfield. Although Albert died during the episode, with the first scene explaining that he hadn't joined them in the Caribbean because it had turned out the great sailor didn't have a passport.
  • While Law & Order prime was not affected by Jerry Orbach's death, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, the show to which Lennie Briscoe was transplanted, was hit early by Briscoe's death (the main show did have a tribute episode).
  • The Wire: Cops who die on the job before their retirement date are honored with Irish wakes at Kavanaugh's Pub. The first two times we get these wakes, they were in-show tributes to cop characters whose actors had died.
    • Detective Ray Cole was played by beloved producer Robert F. Colesberry, who passed away from heart complications between seasons 2 and 3. In the show, Cole is said to have died of a heart attack while exercising on a Stairmaster.
    • The same thing was done in season 4 after Richard DeAngelis, who played Col. Raymond Foerster, passed away from cancer.
    • Actor Dick Stilwell died in a car accident so Commissioner Warren Frazier "retired", and Ervin Burrell is promoted to Commissioner in season 2.
  • Hill Street Blues: When Michael Conrad died, his character of Sgt. Esterhaus was written as having died of a heart attack during sex. It's Played for Drama, despite the circumstances.
  • Mad Men: Pete Campbell's dad was killed off in the crash of American Airlines Flight 1 early in the second season. In reality, Christopher Allport had died in an avalanche.
  • Don S. Davis, General Hammond on Stargate SG-1 for 7 seasons, died a few years after he officially retired from the show. In the series finale of Stargate Atlantis, which is dedicated to Davis's memory, Carter mentions that Hammond had died of a heart attack off-screen, directly referencing Davis's actual cause of death. She also mentions that Earth's newest interstellar warship, then under construction, would be renamed in his honor. The completed ship later appears in the premiere episode of Stargate Universe.
  • Colleen Dewhurst:
    • Due to Colleen Dewhurst's death, Marilla Cuthbert dies near the end of the Road to Avonlea series.
    • Dewhurst's character on Murphy Brown, Avery Brown, mother of Murphy, dies early in the season where Murphy becomes pregnant. Murphy's son is named Avery in her memory.
      • Also on Murphy Brown, actor Pat Corley (who'd portrayed Phil, owner of "Phil's Bar and Grill") died in 2006. The series shows the main characters learning that Phil passed away and convincing his son, Phil Jr., to take over running the bar.
  • A rare double case occurred on the series 15/Love, where two main characters were killed off in one heartbreaking episode because of the (very) young actors' deaths in the same car accident.
  • 80's sitcom Night Court had it twice:
    • Original cast member Selma Diamond, who played bailiff Selma, died after the first two seasons, so her character was also written off as deceased.
    • The succeeding bailiff was Florence, played by Florence Halop; but Halop passed away after one season and thus her character shared the same fate. It wasn't all that surprising, considering the ages of both actresses. In fact, there were whispers and jokes that both actresses had fallen prey to some sort of "Night Court curse," and this is said to be one of the reasons that series creator and executive producer Reinhold Weege decided not to bring in a third elderly actress and instead replaced Halop with Marsha Warfield, who was only 32 when she began playing Roz Russell. In fact, the producers knew Florence Halop would not be around for Season 4; the ep "Flo's Retirement" was their way of preparing viewers for this.
  • In a soap opera, this is one of the only occasions when you know a character is not coming back from the dead (regardless of whether they ever found the body), although this is usually reserved for elderly actors who have played the role for so long that it would be impossible, if not outright disrespectful, to re-cast the part.
    • A very touching example occurred on One Life to Live. NYPD officer John W. Perry had frequently appeared on the show as an extra before he was killed in the September 11th attacks. The first anniversary was commemorated when Commissioner Bo Buchanan was seen looking at John's picture and sadly musing, "I can't believe it's been a year;" the scene evidently did not require much acting on the part of Bo's actor, Robert Woods. The in-universe story was that Perry had been visiting New York on that day (the show is set in Pennsylvania, making this plausible), but had died as he had in Real Liferushing down to the Trade Center to help, and killed when the South Tower collapsed. It was very well-handled, especially for an entertainment genre that had struggled over how or if to acknowledge the tragedy onscreen.
    • Also on One Life to Live was Michael Zaslow, who played David Renaldi; the actor was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease and confined to a wheelchair. The character, who was absent from the show for several years, was given the same diagnosis when he returned. When Zaslow passed away in 1998, David was written to have likewise died.
    • On General Hospital, Anna Lee died in 2004, and her character, Lila Quartermaine, was killed off. John Ingle, who played her husband, died of cancer in September 2012, and so his character Edward Quartermaine died of a heart condition. His last word before passing: the name of his beloved wife, Lila.
      • Before that, Emily McLaughlin, who had played Nurse Jessie Brewer from the beginning of the show in 1963, passed away in 1991. Although Jessie had only been seen sporadically in later years, John Beradino (who had played Dr. Steve Hardy from the beginning of the series) broke character at the end of an episode to announce McLaughlin's passing. Jessie was officially acknowledged in-story as having passed on during the 30th-anniversary episode two years later. Beradino would pass away from pancreatic cancer in 1996, and Dr. Hardy was written as having died of a heart attack. The two characters did make a return appearance in 2015, but only as a flashback to their younger days, and with current cast members (Rebecca Herbst/Nurse Elizabeth Webber and Jason Thompson/Dr. Patrick Drake) playing the roles.
    • On All My Children, Erica Kane's mother Mona developed lung cancer at the same time as her actress, Frances Helfin. When Helfin passed away, a scene was written into the show in which Erica goes into her mother's room, and comes out devastated at having found that she died in her sleep.
    • Coronation Street actress Betty Driver died aged 91, so her character Betty Williams was killed off as well. This has happened several times in Coronation Street: Jack Walker, Jerry Booth, Albert Tatlock, Stan Ogden, Bert Tilsley, Blanche Hunt. Elsie Tanner and Christine Hardman were both mentioned as having died several years after they left the show and Annie Walker is talked about in the past tense.
    • This was done on Days of Our Lives when the last remaining original cast member, Frances Reid (who played matriarch Alice Horton), passed away. Macdonald Carey was given the same treatment when he died in 1994.
  • When long-running soap As the World Turns was canceled in 2010, writers had planned to have the show's matriarch, Nancy Hughes — who had spoken the show's first line when it debuted in 1956 — also speak the final lines. However, when 91-year-old actress Helen Wagner, who'd played Nancy from the beginning, died a few weeks before the final episode was scheduled to be filmed, the plan was scrapped, and Nancy was said to have died, with other characters memorializing her onscreen.
  • Love and War: John Hancock, who played bartender Ike Johnson, died halfway through the first season. The other characters are shown attending Ike's funeral. Ike was replaced by his brother Abe, played by Charlie Robinson, who inherited Ike's share of the bar.
  • Joan, the first wife/biological mom of the kids in Eight is Enough. Actress Diana Hyland appeared only in four episodes before being diagnosed with breast cancer. Joan was written out of the rest of the season and Hyland died twelve days after the first episode aired. When season two aired, it was revealed that Joan had died.
  • Unlike All in the Family, on the original British show Till Death Us Do Part the demise of the protagonist's wife Elsie - when it transformed into In Sickness And In Health - was due to the genuine demise of actress Dandy Nicholls.
  • When Norman Beaton died, the show Desmond's was replaced by a Spin-Off about secondary character Porkpie. The first episode begins with him consoling Desmond's widow.
  • Angel:
    • In a strange view of this trope, the character Doyle was supposed to come Back from the Dead but this became impossible when Glenn Quinn died of a drug overdose.
    • Following Andy Hallett's death, his character, Lorne, was retired in a self-titled, one-shot comic. While it would've been easy to keep the character alive since the series had long since transitioned from television to comic books, this was seen as the proper way to give tribute to the actor.
  • Aunt Ginny in The Middle died along with Frances Bay, the actress. "The Map", an episode that began with the Hecks coming home from Ginny's funeral, ended with an In Memoriam to her.
  • The early seasons of Smallville had a character named Dr. Virgil Swann, played by Christopher Reeve. After Reeve's death in 2004, Swann was mentioned as dying sometime in between the events of the show's third and fourth seasons.
  • Dallas:
    • Jim Davis passed away suddenly during production of the fourth season. The production crew had his character, Jock Ewing, go offscreen for a year while they figured out how to write out his character, then finally perish in an offscreen plane crash.
    • Barbara Bel Geddes' character, Miss Ellie, does not appear in the rebooted series, as the actress had passed away in 2005. She is stated to have died of a heart attack sometime between the end of the original series and the pilot of the rebooted series.
    • After the death of Larry Hagman in 2012, his character J.R. Ewing was shot offscreen during the second season of the revival series. Since Hagman had been playing J.R. since 1978, and he was the show's Breakout Character, the producers pulled out all the stops for a tribute: The next episode revolved around his funeral, complete with Texas celebrities like Mark Cuban in attendance, and a reprisal of the famous "Who Shot J.R.?" storyline.
  • The first episode of the UK version of Fraggle Rock after the death of Fulton Mackay opened with the Captain's nephew PK taking responsibility for both the lighthouse and Sprocket after his uncle's death.
  • When Glee actor Cory Monteith died from an overdose, it was decided that his character would also pass away. Creator Ryan Murphy worked together with Lea Michele, Monteith's real-life girlfriend, on a memorial episode. The episode "The Quarterback" focused on how Finn's family and friends and everyone he knew coped with the loss. The show preferred not to say how Finn died because, in Kurt's words, his life was more important than the moment of his death.
  • Old Nan in Game of Thrones was obliquely treated as having died after Margaret John's death, though it was never actually spelled out in the show.
  • NCIS: Ralph Waite, who played Gibbs's father, died in February of 2014. In the season finale, Gibbs is told that his father died of a stroke and the episode had Gibbs coming to terms with it as a side plot. The episode is dedicated to the memory of Ralph Waite. In a variant, when the actress who played Ducky's mother died, Ducky said that she had been moved to a resting home, and her character wasn't actually killed off until a couple of seasons later.
  • On NCIS: Los Angeles, the death of actor Miguel Ferrer also meant the death of his character, Assistant Director Owen Granger.
  • Lee Thompson Young's suicide happened near the end of season 4 of Rizzoli & Isles, with no time to do more than write his character, Detective Barry Frost, out of the last episode of the season. It was later revealed that Barry died in a car accident.
  • The character of Mrs. Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory took a trip to Florida and died there in her sleep after the actress who provided her voice, Carol Ann Susi, died from cancer. There are quite a few episodes dealing with the in-universe aftermath, including the characters holding a toast to her and her son Howard trying to get her ashes after they were misplaced.
  • The short-lived CBS action series Cover-Up had a case of this involving a death that occurred during the actual filming of the series. Jon-Erik Hexum, who played Mac Harper, the original sidekick/love-interest to the main character, accidentally killed himself during a recording break by shooting himself in the head with a blank pistol cartridge, apparently in the belief that it would just cause a harmless bang and not realizing the serious dangers of such an act (the pressure blast from the cartridge exploding fractured his skull and forced pieces of it into his brain). Because of that, the ninth episode of the series had his character killed off-screen in the line of duty and Suspiciously Similar Substitute Jack Striker (played by Antony Hamilton) take his place. Striker tells the hero, Dani, that ‘Mac is not coming back’. The episode then ends with an in memoriam message dedicated to Jon himself.
    "When a star dies, its light continues to shine across the universe for millenniums. John Eric Hexum died in October of this year. But the lives he touched will continue to be brightened by his light... forever... and ever. "
  • When actor Victor Buono, who played Mr. Cauldwell, Jim Ignatowski's wealthy but estranged father in Taxi, passed away, they killed off his character as well. Several episodes afterward mention or revolve around Jim receiving a large sum of money from his inheritance.
  • Boy/Girl Meets World: Julius Carry, the actor who played Angela's father during the final season of BMW in 1999-2000, died in 2008. In 2015, When Angela returns in Girl, she reveals that her father has also died, roughly around 2011.
  • In the reunion episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, we learn that the characters Mel Cooley, Buddy Sorrell, and Jerry Helper had died over the years; their respective actors Richard Deacon, Morey Amsterdam, and Jerry Paris had passed away also.
  • Gilmore Girls: A year after Edward Hermann's death from cancer in 2014, it was announced that the Gilmores would return for a 4-episode miniseries subtitled "A Year In the Life". Amy Sherman-Palladino confirmed that in the time between the show's final season and the revival, Richard (Hermann's character) also passed away and one of the major storylines in the revival would be how the Gilmore women cope with the grief and bereavement.
  • For the 1983 Leave It to Beaver Made-for-TV Movie Still the Beaver, June says her famous "Ward, I'm worried about the Beaver" catchphrase to Ward's gravestone, as Hugh Beaumont had died the previous year.
  • Porridge: Ronnie Barker, who played the protagonist Fletcher, passed away in 2005. In a one-off revival special in 2016, his grandson Nigel states that Fletcher passed away in 2011 after enjoying a long and happy retirement on the straight.
    • Ronnie Barker's other great creation, Arkwright from Open All Hours, is said to have died at some point prior to Still Open All Hours, having raised Granville to follow in his footsteps. A framed photograph of him hangs in the living area behind the shop.
  • As Twin Peaks had a quarter century between the original series and The Return, numerous actors had died in the meantime. While some outlived their actors, others did not:
    • Pete Martell and Alexander Packard's fate was one of numerous Left Hanging, as their last scene has them at least potentially killed by an explosion. The Secret History of Twin Peaks, released after the death of both actors, confirmed their deaths.
    • Garland Briggs, whose actor died in 2008, turns out to have died shortly after the time frame of the original series. The circumstances turn out to be plot-critical.
  • The pilot of the 2018 revival of Roseanne reveals that Mark died at some point during the Time Skip; Glenn Quinn died in 2002. The episode "Eggs Over, Not Easy" is dedicated to him, since it deals with Becky still trying to get over Mark's death.
  • Cobra Kai (a sequel series to The Karate Kid (1984)):
    • With the death of Pat Morita in 2005, Daniel mentions Mr. Miyagi's death. Daniel also visits Mr. Miyagi's grave in Episode 5 (which reveals the character died in 2011), and the episode is dedicated to him.
    • Zig-zagged with Tommy, whose death was already planned to happen months before his actor would follow suit. That was a Real Life Writes the Plot, as his actor really was dying of cancer. The first episode of Season 3 is dedicated to Rob Garrison's memory.
    • In Season 3 when Daniel goes back to Okinawa, he hears from Kumiko about her aunt Yukie passing away (Nobu McCarthy passed in 2002) and from Chozen that his uncle Sato did as well (Danny Kamekona passed in 1996).
  • A recurring character on Strong Medicine was Milo Morton, a doctor who became a love interest to main character Andy. Actor Richard Biggs unexpectedly died of an aortic dissection in May of 2004. An episode had been written where Milo would meet Andy's ex-husband Les. It was re-written with Andy getting a phone call that Milo had been killed by a drunk driver while helping people at an accident scene and Les helping her cope.
  • Zig zagged two times with Modern Family:
    • Despite Jon Polito's death in 2016 after season 7, his character Earl Chambers still appeared the following season in "Halloween 4: The Revenge of Rod Skyhook," now played by Robert P. Costanzo. However, a season later in "In Your Head," it's revealed that Earl has died, and the episode is about Jay trying to figure out where to scatter his former partner's ashes.
    • Phil's father Frank Dunphy passed away during the eleventh and final season of the show and not long after that episode aired, his actor Fred Willard also unexpectedly passed.
  • Averted for St. Elsewhere. In the credits for the series finale "The Last One", MTM Production's (the production company behind St. Elsewhere) logo was replaced with the company's mascot, Mimsie the Cat, lying on her deathbed right next to an IV bag and a heart monitor. When the credits end, the monitor flatlines. Ironically enough, Mimsie died for real just days after the episode aired, which led many people to believe that the episode aired after Mimsie's death and that this was MTM's way of announcing it. However, this is far from the truth.
    • Funnily enough, over a decade prior to the finale of another MTM production, The Texas Wheelers, MTM pulled a similar thing featuring an animated version of Mimsie. In this one, she staggers from behind a wagon wheel and drops dead. This is not confirmed fully, as invokedno footage of it exists online yet, although this Chicago Tribune article from 1985 claims this was true.
  • The fourth season premiere of Riverdale focuses on the sudden death of Archie's father, Fred Andrews, months after actor Luke Perry suddenly passed away from a stroke.
  • The Scottish cop show Taggart had its title character die off-screen following the death of the actor, Mark McManus. The show continued with the rest of the ensemble cast and notoriously ended up with more seasons without Taggart than with him.
  • Charlie Murphy died in between seasons 2 and 3 of Black Jesus. This is acknowledged in the Season 3 premiere, where it's revealed that despite Vic (Charlie Murphy's character) being an asshole and not believing that Jesus was the real Jesus, his love for God still got him into Heaven.
  • Brazilian sitcom A Grande Família suffered this twice: the family's patriarch, Mr. Floriano, died with his actor, Rogério Cardoso. His brother, Uncle Juvenal, was soon introduced as a replacement - and also died with his actor, Francisco Milani, just two years later.
  • The lockdown shorts produced of The Vicar of Dibley in December 2020 establish that Alice has passed away since the last full episodes; her actress Emma Chambers died of a heart attack in 2018. However, Character Outlives Actor is in place for Owen and Frank, who are still alive offscreen despite the deaths of their actors Roger Lloyd-Pack and Jim Bluthal in 2014 and 2018 respectively.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Due to the death of James Avery in 2013, the reunion special on HBO Max addresses the death of his character Uncle Phil.
  • The Blacklist: Following the death of his actor, Clark Middleton, between seasons in October 2020, Reddington's tracker Glen is revealed in early Season 8 to have died offscreen. They even take it a step further and mention that he died in-universe from the same cause (West Nile virus).
  • The 2021 Reboot of Punky Brewster on Peacock has Henry, her guardian from the original show, said to be dead, due to the 2013 death of actor George Gaynes.
  • The revival of Will & Grace eventually revealed that Grace's mother Bobbi Adler had passed away between seasons following the death of her actress Debbie Reynolds.
  • In Mare of Easttown actress Phyllis Somerville passed away in July 2020, so her character Betty Carroll died in a car accident (shot in such a way that her face wasn't visible) and the episode shows her funeral.
  • The Goldbergs: Following the death of his actor, George Segal, in the middle of the eighth season, Pops makes his final appearance in the episode “Couple Off”, and it is shown that he died offscreen the next episode after.

  • 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 on 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.

    Puppet Shows 
  • 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, a "Really Dead Montage" 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 with 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 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.

    Video Games 
  • Kaneto Shiozawa's death caused his Guilty Gear character Zato-1 to die as well (during a battle with Milla). However they got around 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.
  • While Ben from Full Throttle has never been killed off, one of the reasons the game will never have a sequel is that his voice actor Roy Conrad died of lung cancer in 2002. Conrad's voice was so iconic that instead of re-recording his lines for the 2015 remastered version, Double Fine chose to just keep them, in their original early CD-era quality.
  • The death of Phil Hartman sank the whole Blasto franchise before it could even get a sequel. The entire character of Blasto was built around Phil's voice and without him, Blasto 2 languished in Development Hell until it was finally cancelled.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Family Guy:
    • Peter's mother Thelma died following the 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, and showed Peter delivering the eulogy at her funeral.
    • After Adam West's death, 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 the 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 at the beginning 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.

Alternative Title(s): The Character Died With Her, Actor Existence Failure


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