Life is grand, you’re starring on a hit TV show, planning your dream vacation for your next hiatus and then your agent calls: “They’re letting you go. You’re not going to be a part of the next season.” Say what!? It happens all the time, and for some of the strangest reasons. That’s what we’ve snooped around to find. Someone getting canned for a bad attitude is rather boring. These unemployment wounds cut a little deeper, and come with much better stories… for the most part. Here are 12 actors/actresses who got the boot for strange reasons.
12. Janet Hubert – The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Woo. This one must still sting. Janet Hubert played the original Aunt Vivian on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and the woman is not a fan of Will Smith. We’d imagine they were cool with one another while on the show, but when she became pregnant and got the ax from the show, the Fresh Prince became her nemesis. It was stated that Janet was given the boot, because her pregnancy violated her contract. We imagine this wouldn’t have flown 20 years later, but if she had a clause, she had a clause. It didn’t help her cause that other cast members suggested she was difficult to work with. They did use her pregnancy as part of the story line, and the producers could have kept her in the mix, but they didn’t. Something got stinky. Janet has feuded with Will ever since.
11. Jay Thomas – Cheers
Jay Thomas is a recognizable face, and was a recognizable voice on the radio when he was cast in one of the greatest sitcoms of all-time, Cheers. Jay played Eddie LeBec, the second husband of Rhea Perlman’s character, Carla Tortelli. Jay had a bit of a mouth on him, which isn’t uncommon for a radio DJ, or talk show host, and he was asked by a caller about his experience on Cheers. Jay raved about it, until he started speaking of Rhea Perlman. He stated it wasn’t a lot of fun to play her husband, and have to kiss her. Oops. Whether he was serious, or seriously joking, Rhea was listening, and it was soul crushing. She had words with Cheers producers, and the following season, Jay’s character, who was a goalie for the Boston Bruins, was killed in a tragic Zamboni accident. Amazing!
10. Soleil Moon Frye – Punky Brewster
Soleil Moon Frye is a beloved Hollywood entity. She grew up in the spotlight in the 1980s and 1990s, and was best known for her work on Punky Brewster. Soleil was the girl who probably convinced a lot of boys that they were ready to pursue the ladies in the school yard. She was a tomboy, but… so… obviously not-a-boy. Soleil Moon Frye grew to have what many women pay big bucks for: a large bust. It was impossible for producers to hide Punky’s changing form. Though they tried, they decided to end the show, rather than recast Soleil. Nobody would buy a different Punky. Sadly for Soleil, her breasts became a legitimate problem for her as she reached adulthood, and she eventually underwent reduction surgery. All that behind her, how about a Punky Brewster reboot? Punky working through adulthood.
9. Benny Ciaramello – Friday Night Lights
Benny Ciaramello is one of those working actors who has more credits than people would ever realize. For about five weeks, it seemed like he was about to become the next big thing, because he scored the role of Santiago Herrera on the beloved TV drama, Friday Night Lights. Benny also happened to score his role during the infamous 2007-08 WGA writers’ strike (Side note: keep your eyes open for another potential strike in late 2017), and that strike pretty much killed Benny’s story line. It was promising, and he did get to be part of the gang for 10-plus episodes, but at times it amounted to him being in the background or at a football practice. As the writers came back to the table, they were interested in moving forward: farewell Santiago, enter Vince Howard. No complaints about the Vince Howard story line, but what if…?
8. Steve – Blue’s Clues
Steve Burns is not dead! How that rumor started, we’ll never know. Steve was the star of the beloved children’s show, Blue’s Clues, and then… he wasn’t. Where did Steve go? There was no explanation; there was no goodbye party. Steve simply disappeared from the world of entertainment, leading many people to believe that he must have died. In truth, the only thing about Steve that died were his hair follicles. Steve started losing his hair, and it was a painful experience for him. Years later, he stated that he didn’t want to be a bald guy doing Blues Clues, so he put an end to his run, and began to focus on making music. When you look through the archives, it is more obvious than any child would have noticed, but obvious.
7. Lisa Robin Kelly – That 70s Show
Lisa Robin Kelly once enjoyed a role on That 70s Show, playing the role of Laurie Forman. She was a fan favorite. Sadly, after booking her role, and making a little coin on prime time, she began to struggle with some inner demons. For Lisa, her demons manifested through substance abuse. At a certain point, producers made the decision to cut ties with Lisa, and they didn’t renew her contract. Lisa continued to spiral downward, until she made the decision to clean up her act, for an attempted comeback. Matters were made worse after she was accused of assaulting an ex-boyfriend. She fought the charges, and claimed the story played in reverse. In 2013, she was arrested for DUI, and finally went to a rehab facility, where she sadly passed away in her sleep days after checking in.
6. Kal Penn – House
Everyone knows the story of Kal Penn, right? The story of his departure from House. Kal played Dr. Lawrence Kutner, and in 2009, shortly after President Barack Obama was sworn into the office of the presidency, Kal was offered a job on the White House staff, as an associate director in the Office of Public Engagement. How would one say no to working for the President of The United States? The writers and producers of House agreed. Kal served his position for a year, then resigned in 2010 to get back to what he really loved: playing Kumar in A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. He also returned to House in 2012, enjoyed a stint on How I Met Your Mother, and most recently transitioned to being a television host. None of the shows have taken flight, but it’s only a matter of time.
5. Maggie Roswell – The Simpsons
The name Maggie Roswell sounds familiar, doesn’t it? She’s well established in the world of voiceover and voice acting, and she once voiced the character of Maude Flanders on The Simpsons. As is known to happen in Springfield, there was a little drama regarding a contract dispute. Maggie didn’t live in Los Angeles, and felt that her expenses should be covered when she flew to L.A. to voice Maude. The creative team disagreed, and they said farewell to Maude by blasting her off a grandstand with an errant t-shirt cannon. It was Homer’s fault to some degree, but that was the end of Maude. It was rather morbid, and sent quite a message to the rest of the cast. In the long run, everyone made nice, and Maggie continues to voice characters, including characters in Season 27.
4. Heidi Swedberg – Seinfeld
Here’s another name that may not look familiar, but belongs to an actress who was killed off a show in a most wonderful fashion. Heidi Swedberg played George Costanza’s woman, Susan, on the sitcom Seinfeld, and according to more than one cast member, she was not enjoyable to work with. When Larry David caught wind of this, and conferred with Jerry and the big money players, they killed off Susan. How did she die? She became toxic after licking the glue on envelopes. Honestly, if you’re gonna go out on a sitcom, it’s best to go out in legendary style. We do have to wonder what exactly it was about Heidi that rubbed people wrong…? Especially when this was mentioned by Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Either way, she got 28 episodes out of her stint on the show, and that means some residuals are rolling.
3. Dominic Monaghan – Lost
“Not Penny’s boat.” With those words, we said farewell to Charlie on Lost. Well, until he showed up again in the late seasons as a ghost, or in the reality that wasn’t the reality within Hurley’s reality…? Sorry, non-Lost fans, we’re messing with you. Anyone will get a kick out of Dominic’s departure from the show. You see, Dom and Evangeline Lilly had a showmance that lasted for quite sometime. After the two broke up, Dominic found being on set to be insufferable–this, from Hollywood gossip sources. Whether or not he couldn’t stand being around his ex, he was asked to be killed off. He wanted the heroes departure. It wasn’t his ultimate end on the show, but it was his demise, and with his death, things got really, really strange. We’ll say Dominic was the “ex” factor. Zing. Thanks, folks, we’re here 24/7.
2. Charlie Sheen – Two and a Half Men
No real need to rehash this one, but looking back with hindsight? Wow. Charlie Sheen clearly lost his gourd after he was diagnosed with HIV. He went on to rip the producer of his #1 sitcom, and offended everyone in the process. It seemed a little odd at the time, but now it’s obvious Charlie was finally dealing with his own mortality. The drugs, the near death experiences from his wild adventures as a young man…? They didn’t compare to the death sentence of HIV. Chuck Lorre, the aforementioned producer, cut ties with Charlie immediately, and then killed him on the show after bringing in Ashton Kutcher as a replacement. As we all experienced, Charlie gave birth to the insane, social media rants that are perfect for publicity.
1. Robert Downey Jr. – Ally McBeal
Our boy. RDJ. This guy has screwed it up more times than anybody. Thankfully, he always had the charm–and undeniable talent–to right the ship, and move forward. The difference between Robert Downey Jr. and a young starlet losing her mind on social media for the world to see: Robert was always gainfully employed when he’d get in trouble for substance abuse. Such was the case when he scored his gig on Ally McBeal. Robert came straight from a probationary stint into the cast to play Ally’s boyfriend, Larry. David E. Kelley took a huge risk in signing Robert to a contract, and when Robert was busted for possession of drugs–again–Kelley was forced to let the golden boy go. His bust cost the show its season finale, which was supposed to be Larry and Ally’s wedding. David had to rewrite everything.