Typically, TV writers aren’t prone to kill off beloved lead characters—the exception of course being George R. R. Martin or anyone else writing for HBO’s Game of Thrones. The decision to kill a major character is almost always a major creative undertaking that requires careful consideration before committing to. But, then again, that’s probably only the case when the actor or actress who plays the character in question is willing to continue working on the series. No matter how much it pains fans to see their favorite character go, sometimes actors just can’t go on with the show. Here are 10 TV characters who met untimely on-screen demises because of the people who portrayed them. CAUTION! SPOILERS AHEAD.
10. Mischa Barton – The O.C.
Mischa Barton played the hot mess known as Marissa Cooper on Fox’s teen drama The O.C. But when Barton began getting touted as the new “it girl” in Hollywood, she wanted to leave the series so she could pursue a what she assumed would be a bright movie career. This change of heart prompted producers to write her off the show, resulting in her oh-so-tragic death in Ryan’s arms after a fatal car crash in the season three finale.
9. Josh Charles – The Good Wife
Many fans of CBS’s drama series The Good Wife were rooting for a romance to blossom between Will Gardner, played by Josh Charles, and series protagonist Alicia Florrick. However, all hope for that relationship was lost when, after five seasons, Charles said he wanted to leave the show and move on to other projects. His decision to leave the show resulted in his character’s tragic demise in a courtroom shooting that left viewers thoroughly stunned.
8. Shannen Doherty – Charmed
After a three year ongoing feud with Charmed co-star Alyssa Milano, Shannen Doherty’s character Prue Halliwell was ungraciously blown away by an evil demon in the show’s third season. In an Entertainment Tonight interview, Doherty was quoted saying that there was “too much drama on the set and not enough passion for the work.” But Doherty has proven to be a difficult actress to work with in the past. In 1994 she was puportedly fired from the breakthrough series Beverly Hills 90210 because of her apparent bad attitude—a disposition that actor Jason Priestly references in his published memoir.
7. Kal Penn – House
On the medical drama House, Kal Penn played Lawrence Kutner—a sports medicine and rehabilitation specialist who manages to beat House to the punch in diagnosing several patients. But part way through the fifth season, audiences were blindsided when Lawrence evidently committed suicide. Absolutely nobody saw this one coming, including House himself, who, in the show, began to question is own ability to assess patients as a result. The real reason for Penn’s departure from the series was that he had accepted an associate director job in the White House and didn’t have time to continue acting on the show.
6. Lisa Bonet – The Cosby Show
In the ’80s sitcom The Cosby Show, Lisa Bonet played Denise Huxtable—the second oldest child of Cliff and Claire Huxtable. Bonet’s character was extremely popular with fans, so much so that she was even given her own spin-off series called A Different World, which revolved around Denise and her friends attending a fictional college. But despite her popularity, The Cosby Show always advocated strong moral values. So when Bonet announced that she was pregnant and engaged to Lenny Kravitz after the first season, show writers decided to have Denise run off to Africa to work as a photographer’s assistant rather than be portrayed as the Huxtable’s unwed pregnant daughter.
5. Michael Pitt – Boardwalk Empire
In the dramatic season two finale of Boardwalk Empire, Nucky Thompson executes Jimmy Darmody—his young protégé-turned-rival played by actor Michael Pitt. It was an intense rain-drenched scene that shocked many viewers who thought they were going to see Jimmy continue plotting against Nucky well into the third season. Pitt’s exit from the show came at the same time he decided to part ways with his agent, sparking speculation that Pitt was fired because he became difficult to work with.
4. T.R. Knight – Grey’s Anatomy
The early years of Grey’s Anatomy production was plagued by all kinds of on-set drama. One of the more prominent difference of opinions revolved around the direction that screenwriter Shonda Rhimes had planned for the character Dr. George O’Malley, played by actor T.R. Knight. Apparently, Knight was so upset by what Rhimes had in store for his character that he actually requested that he be killed off the show. Knight later reported that he had a “breakdown in communication” with Rhimes and suggested that his forced departure from the show might have something to do with him coming out as gay (a claim that Rhimes disputed). In any case, his initial request was granted and George O’Malley was killed after being hit by a bus in the fifth season.
3. Patrick Dempsey – Grey’s Anatomy
This could very well be the most devastating death a devout community of fans has ever witnessed on a television series. When Patrick Dempsey’s beloved McDreamy character was killed in a car accident on Grey’s Anatomy it caused such a backlash with followers that an online petition was even started to try and resurrect him. Sadly, not even a legion of grief-stricken, teary-eyed fans could guilt Dempsey into returning to the show, and, after 12 seasons he called it quits to pursue other career opportunities.
2. Isaac Hayes – South Park
As the voice of the loveable life-lesson-dispensing Chef on South Park, Isaac Hayes suddenly became outraged and outspoken when show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone decided to lampoon the Scientology religion in one of the episodes. Hayes, who happens to be a known Scientology activist, said the writers demonstrated “intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others.” However, it’s worth noting that Hayes didn’t seem to mind collecting a paycheque for voicing episodes that made fun of other religious faiths.
In his final episode on South Park, Chef is killed in the most violent way possible when he falls off a bridge, gets impaled by a tree branch, and then eaten by a grizzly bear and mountain lion.
1. Charlie Sheen – Two And A Half Men
Following multiple stints in rehab that put the show on indefinite hiatus, Charlie Sheen was finally fired from the hit series Two And A Half Men after he demanded an unreasonably high pay raise (he was already the highest paid actor on TV at the time) and made some infamously heinous remarks about show creator Chuck Lorre. The public fiasco was very well-documented in the news, so it came as no surprise to viewers when CBS decided to kill off his character by having him fall off a Metro Platform in the season nine premiere.