15 TV Shows That Lost Their Stars
These series lost their leads, sometimes abruptly, but still continued on.
Back in May 2020, news that star Ruby Rose would be departing The CW's Batwoman came as something of a shock. After all, Rose was Batwoman—and it was hard to imagine what the series would look like without its lead actor in the titular role. But Batwoman is far from the first show to lose its star and continue on: Plenty of classic TV series (and a few currently running shows) have moved on from major actor departures. From Cheers and ER to Nashville and The Vampire Diaries, here are TK TV shows that lost their stars and kept going.
Batwoman, Ruby Rose
On May 19, 2020 Ruby Rose announced in a statement that they would be leaving Batwoman in advance of the second season. "This was not a decision I made lightly as I have the utmost respect for the cast, crew, and everyone involved with the show," they said. Early this year, it was announced that actor Javicia Leslie had been cast to lead the show not as Rose's character Kate Kane, but as a new Batwoman, Ryan Wilder.
A few months after Rose's announcement, they further clarified to Entertainment Weekly that on-set injuries, including one that led to a back surgery, had spurred their decision. But there seems to be much more to the story. On Oct. 20 of this year, Rose made a number of posts to their Instagram Story alleging mistreatment, abuse, and unsafe working conditions on the Batwoman set. They also claimed that they had not quit the show but had been fired for raising concerns and pushing back. The CW has yet to respond to Rose's accusations.
The Office, Steve Carell
After playing embarrassing boss Michael Scott for seven full seasons of The Office, Steve Carell left the show, which would go on Michael-less for two more seasons. At the time, Carell said he wanted to "spend more time with [his] family," hence walking away from the sitcom, but a couple of crew members have said that he was also frustrated that NBC was not more eager to renew his contract, which expired after Season 7. Either way, Carell and Michael would make one more appearance on the show—dropping in for a cameo in the series finale.
Laverne & Shirley, Cindy Williams
Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams played the titular best friends on the Happy Days spinoff Laverne & Shirley, but Williams (pictured right) didn't stay with the show until the very end. She left rather abruptly at the beginning of Season 8, and has since said that her new marriage and pregnancy were a couple of the reasons why. "I thought I was going to come back and they'd hide [my baby bump] behind benches, couches, pillows, and that wasn't it," she told Today in 2015. The show gamely moved forward with just Marshall as Laverne, but—perhaps to no one's surprise—it didn't have the same energy without the relationship at its core. ABC decided not to renew Laverne & Shirley for Season 9.
Two and a Half Men, Charlie Sheen
Remember "winning" and "tiger blood"? In 2011, Charlie Sheen's "dangerously self-destructive behavior"—and his unkind words about creator Chuck Lorre—led to his firing from Two and a Half Men. In Season 9, Ashton Kutcher joined the cast as billionaire Walden Schmidt. Sheen's character, Charlie, was granted an unceremonious, off-screen death.
Spin City, Michael J. Fox
After Michael J. Fox announced that he had Parkinson's disease in 1998, Spin City worked to lessen the actor's load. Ultimately, however, his symptoms became severe enough that he decided to walk away from the series in 2000. His deputy mayor character was written off the show, and replaced by a new deputy mayor, Charlie Crawford, played by… Charlie Sheen.
The Vampire Diaries, Nina Dobrev
When Nina Dobrev left The Vampire Diaries in 2015, it was a big deal. The actress didn't just play heroine Elena Gilbert—she also played villainous vampire Katherine Pierce. But the show managed to continue for two seasons without Dobrev, whose character was written into a mystical coma. The actress did reappear in the finale, and got a well-deserved happy ending alongside Ian Somerhalder's Damon Salvatore.
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8 Simple Rules, John Ritter
When John Ritter passed away suddenly in September 2003, 8 Simple Rules was in the middle of filming its second season. Ultimately, three Season 2 episodes featuring Ritter as patriarch Paul Hennessy aired, after which the series took a month-long hiatus and resumed with a two-part episode about the family mourning Paul's death. The show continued its season and returned for a third before being canceled.
Charmed, Shannen Doherty
Not only was Shannen Doherty's Prue Halliwell one of the central trio of witch sisters on Charmed—she was the most powerful of the three. But when Doherty decided to leave the show, her character was killed off in the Season 3 finale. When the show returned in Season 4, Rose McGowan joined the cast as Paige Matthews, a half-sister of the Charmed Ones, and ultimately a powerful witch in her own right.
Superstore, America Ferrera
America Ferrera announced her departure from Superstore in March 2020. While Season 5 was set to be her last, the coronavirus pandemic cut production short and the season was forced to end on a cliffhanger, with Ferrera's character, Amy, being offered a new job in California. Ferrera returned for the beginning of the next season to resolve the storyline—and Amy's romance with Ben Feldman's Jonah—before Superstore soldiered on without her.
The X-Files, David Duchovny
David Duchovny left The X-Files at the end of the long-running sci-fi series' seventh season, but he wasn't exactly gone for good. While his character, Fox Mulder, was abducted by aliens (maybe), Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish joined the cast to make up for his absence. Still, Mulder appeared here and there, and when the show returned for a 2016 revival, Duchovny was back to full-time status.
Roseanne, Roseanne Barr
How do you continue Roseanne without Roseanne Barr herself? You don't, exactly. The 2018 revival of the ABC sitcom was a huge hit and had already been renewed for a second season when Barr was fired for a racist tweet. Technically speaking, the show was canceled—but not for long. ABC picked up The Conners, a new, Roseanne-less version of the series centered on the other members of the titular family. As for Roseanne? The character died off-screen from an opioid overdose.
Cheers, Shelley Long
Despite the fact that Cheers was one of the most highly rated (and highly awarded) sitcoms on television, Shelley Long had aspirations of movie stardom. That meant leaving the series—and her character, Diane Chambers—behind. Long was replaced by Kirstie Alley, who got to be the new love interest for Ted Danson's Sam Malone. In the series finale, Sam and Diane finally reunited, only to realize they didn't belong together after all.
House of Cards, Kevin Spacey
When sexual misconduct allegations against Kevin Spacey emerged in 2017, Netflix halted production on House of Cards, ultimately deciding to fire the star. After five seasons that had focused on Spacey's nefarious politician Frank Underwood, the final season upgraded co-lead Robin Wright—who played Frank's equally craven wife Claire—to solo starring role (and the presidency). Frank's sudden (off-screen) death became one of Season 6's central mysteries.
Nashville, Connie Britton
When Nashville made the move from ABC to CMT in 2016, Connie Britton took her role as country music star Rayna Jaymes with it. Well, for the first half of the season at least. Rayna died suddenly following complications from a car accident, at which point it was announced—somewhat obviously—that Britton would be leaving the show for good.
ER, George Clooney
Of all the TV actors who left their hit series to become movie stars, George Clooney might be the most notable success story. While he was beloved as Dr. Doug Ross, his decision to exit ER during Season 5 turned out to be an exceptionally smart career move, two Academy Awards later. Clooney did do right by the show that helped make him famous, returning for a final season arc alongside Julianna Margulies as Carol Hathaway.
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