Getting fired from a job is an awful experience no matter who you are, but at least the average person doesn’t have to deal with the details of their dismissal being made public. The same can’t be said for most actors, whose careers — the good and the bad — are matters of public discourse. Most of the time, when an actor leaves a TV show, it’s usually because of a creative decision, such as the character they played being killed off.
However, there have been a number of cases over the years where actors have found themselves terminated because of something they did or because of unfair and discriminatory practices behind-the-scenes. Everything from unwanted pregnancies to drug use and sexual abuse has been used to justify an actor’s firing over the years, including the following 22 celebrities.
22. John Amos – Good Times
John Amos first landed what would become arguably his best known role as James Evans, Sr. on the sitcom Maude, who would become a main character on the spin-off Good Times (making it a spin-off of a spin-off of All in the Family). Amos appeared in 61 episodes of Good Times between 1974 and 1976, but he grew unhappy with how the show was presenting African American families.
After voicing his dissatisfaction with showrunner Norman Lear and Good Times’ writers over how his character’s son J.J. (Jimmie Walker) was being portrayed , Amos was fired following the third season due to being, in his own words, “a disruptive factor” and his character was killed off in a car accident in the first episode of the fourth season. The following year, Amos would star in the acclaimed miniseries Roots.
21. Suzanne Somers – Three’s Company (1980)
Alongside the likes of Farah Fawcett, Suzanne Somers was one of the biggest sex symbols to emerge from the late 70s TV era. Somers starred in the first four seasons of Three’s Company and is often credited with helping make the sitcom hugely popular worldwide. Recognizing this and spurned on by her husband/manager Alan Hamel, Somers demanded a massive pay hike in 1980 at the beginning of the fifth season. Somers asked for her salary to be increased from $30,000 to $150,000 (a 500 percent increase!), as well as a 10 percent stake in the show’s profit. As you might expect, ABC’s producers turned her down, prompting Somers to start boycotting certain episodes.
While Somers would finish out the rest of her contract — though largely in spirit, as she only made brief appearances during Season 5 — ABC fired her at the end of the season. Somers sued ABC for $2 million, claiming that her termination had damaged her credibility, but an arbitrator ended up awarding her only $30,000. The whole ordeal ended up hurting her relationship with her Three’s Company co-stars, particularly John Ritter. The two didn’t speak to one another for 20 years following her departure, but they made amends prior to Ritter’s death in 2003.
20. Mackenzie Phillips – One Day at a Time (1980)
Getting her big break in George Lucas’ American Graffitti (1973) at the age of 12, Mackenzie Phillips went on to land a starring role in the CBS sitcom One Day at a Time in 1975. Phillips played the boy-crazy teenager Julie Cooper for five seasons, but the actress started having problems early in the show’s run. During the second season, Phillips – then in her late teens – developed a cocaine habit and was arrested for disorderly conduct the following season. By Season 5, Phillips’ substance abuse problems were taking a toll on her professional life, as she began showing up late and missing rehearsals. She was ordered to take a six-week hiatus in order to get clean, but the producers were forced to fire her in 1980 after she failed to do so.
Phillips returned two years later after getting clean, but was fired again following a relapse. She would continue to battle addiction on and off for the next few decades and as of 2017, works as a drug rehab counselor at the Breathe Life Healing Center in West Hollywood. She also appeared in an episode of the rebooted One Day at a Time, but as a different character named Pam Valentine who, fittingly, was a counselor.
19. Dana Plato – Diff’rent Strokes (1984)
Dana Plato’s best known role was Kimberly Drummond on Diff’rent Strokes, the NBC sitcom that ran from 1978 to 1986 and also made child stars out of Plato’s co-stars Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges. As was the case with too many child stars of the era, Plato suffered from substance abuse problems, but this wasn’t the reason she was ultimately let go from Diff’rent Strokes. During the 1983-84 season, Plato became pregnant and spoke to producers about writing it into the show. While the producers initially agreed, the decision was later reversed in light of Plato’s public substance abuse issues and she was dismissed.
Kimberly Drummond was written out of the show, though Plato did return for a few guest appearances before the show called it quits in 1986. Sadly, Plato’s career went downhill after Diff’rent Strokes and she passed away at the age of 34 in 1999 after overdosing on prescription drugs. With Gary Coleman’s death in 2010, Todd Bridges is currently the only living original child actor from Diff’rent Strokes.
18. Valerie Harper – Valerie (1987)
Having gotten her TV start in the 1970s on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off Rhoda, it was a big deal when Valerie Harper returned to the sitcom game in 1986 with her own self-titled show (which featured a young Jason Bateman!). However, a salary dispute with NBC and production company Lorimar led to Harper’s firing at the end of Valerie’s second season. While the show continued without its star and was later renamed The Hogan Family, Harper successfully sued Lorimar (but not NBC, oddly enough), and was awarded $1.4 million and a 12.5 percent stake in the show’s profits for being wrongfully fired. Since that time, Harper has continued to focus on her stage work, as well as charity work and a prominent position within the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG).
17. Lisa Bonet – The Cosby Show
Lisa Bonet is best known for playing Denise Huxtable on The Cosby Show, a character who became so popular that she was given her own spin-off series, A Different World. Following Denise and her friends at college, A Different World premiered in 1987 but by the end of the first season, Bonet was out. In the summer of 1988, Bonet announced that she was expecting a child with then-husband Lenny Kravitz.
While showrunner Debbie Allen was in favor of writing the pregnancy into the show, Bill Cosby did not the support the idea of Denise — who viewers saw as a prototypical “good girl” — being pregnant out of wedlock (shocker). Thus, Bonet’s character was written out of both The Cosby Show and A Different World and though she briefly returned to the former show in 1991, she was let go again due to “creative differences.” Bonet wasn’t even invited to be part of The Cosby Show finale!
16. Janet Hubert – The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Fans of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had a bit of a surprise during the show’s fourth season when they discovered that Aunt Vivian was being played by a different actress. Daphne Maxwell Reid took over the role from Janet Hubert, who had previously played the character over the course of the show’s first three seasons. There are conflicting accounts for why Hubert was let go. According to Hubert herself, it was her refusal to accept a pay cut and episode reduction from that led to NBC terminating her, but Fresh Prince star Will Smith has argued that it was because she was difficult to work with.
In a 1993 interview, Smith is quoted as saying that Hubert wanted the show to turn into “The Aunt Viv of Bel-Air”, implying that the actress held him in contempt for being the show’s breakout star. Co-star Alfonso Ribeiro has publicly corroborated Smith’s version of events, claiming during a 2009 comedy set that Hubert would “go off on people” on set and that the whole thing was “unacceptable.” Over a quarter century after Hubert’s dismissal, there still seems to be bad blood between her and Smith for what happened.
15. Shannen Doherty – Beverly Hills, 90210 AND Charmed
Shannen Doherty has the rare distinction of being an actor fired from not one, but TWO different high profile TV series. Doherty got her big TV break in the early 90s by landing the role of Brenda Walsh on the hit series Beverly Hills, 90210. By the time the fourth season was over in 1994, producers and Doherty’s fellow actors were sick of her bad attitude and general unprofessional behavior — including a physical fight with co-star Jennie Garth — that she was fired and written out of the show.
Nearly a decade later, Doherty found herself again on the outs with a different show, as it’s widely reported that an on-set feud with co-star Alyssa Milano led to her being fired from Charmed at the end of its third season. In the case of 90210, Doherty’s on-set antics were apparently forgiven by the time The CW’s spin-off made it air, as the actress reprised her role of Brenda for a number of episodes during the 2008-09 season.
14. Hunter Tylo – Melrose Place (1996)
Looking to breakout from the daily soap opera circuit, actress Hunter Tylo was handed her ticket in 1996 when she landed the role of Taylor McBride on the primetime series Melrose Place. However, Tylo was fired by producer Aaron Spelling before filming any episodes after she announced she was pregnant. Lisa Rinne was recast in the role and Tylo returned to The Bold and the Beautiful but not before suing Spelling for wrongful termination. In a landmark ruling, a jury awarded Tylo $4.8 million in damages, nearly double the $2.5 million amount she had initially sought. The case is often cited as helping to establish rights for pregnant actresses.
13. Brett Butler – Grace Under Fire (1998)
Getting her start writing for Dolly Parton’s short-lived 1987 variety show, Brett Butler landed the starring role in the ABC comedy series Grace Under Fire, which ran from 1993 to 1998. Unfortunately, like many other actors mentioned on this list, Butler was undone by substance abuse. After becoming addicted to Vicodin, Butler’s behavior became increasingly erratic and she spent time in rehab during the show’s run.
By 1998, Grace Under Fire’s producers had lost their patience with Butler and she was fired. Rather than soldier on without Butler, ABC decided to cancel Grace Under Fire the same year, in large part due to declining ratings. Following her dismissal, Butler moved to Georgia to live a quieter life on a farm but in recent years has become more active with roles on such shows as The Young and the Restless and Anger Management.
12. Kim Delaney – CSI: Miami/Army Wives
When the spin-off series CSI: Miami premiered in 2002, it did so with Kim Delaney co-starring alongside David Caruso. However, it only took 10 episodes for CBS to part ways with Delaney, with Entertainment Weekly attributing the decision to “chemistry issues” between Delaney and Caruso. A decade later, Delaney found herself in a similar situation when she was written out of the Lifetime series Army Wives.
The actress played the role of Claudia Joy Holden for six seasons but was let go at the beginning of Season 7. While it’s unclear whether Delaney was terminated or left of her own accord, her history of substance abuse problems have been cited by some as a contributing factor in the decision, as Delaney’s departure came just a year after she delivered a rambling, largely incoherent speech at an event honoring former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
11. Isaiah Washington – Grey’s Anatomy (2007)
For the first two seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, Isaiah Washington played Dr. Preston Burke on ABC’s hit medical drama Grey’s Anatomy to critical acclaim, earning him two NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series and a SAG Award. But in October 2006, during the show’s third season, Washington became embroiled in a backstage controversy involving his Grey’s Anatomy co-star T.R. Knight. Rumors emerged that Washington had used a homophobic slur against Knight, who publicly disclosed that he was gay shortly after the news was first reported.
Washington publicly apologized for his “unfortunate use of words”, but the controversy was reignited that January when he dropped the slur again, stating that he “did not call T.R. a f—-t.” This prompted Washington to release another statement, in which he admitted to using the slur on set during an argument with co-star Patrick Dempsey. ABC responded by requesting that Washington seek counselling. Though he would finish out the third season, Washington’s contract was not renewed.
10. Nicollette Sheridan – Desperate Housewives (2009)
When Nicollete Sheridan left the hit ABC drama Desperate Housewives in 2009 during the show’s fifth season, her exit appeared to be one made by choice, as the actress released a statement announcing her departure. However, in April 2010, the situation became much more heated after Sheridan filed a $20 million lawsuit against Desperate Housewives creator and producer Marc Cherry, as well as ABC Television, alleging that she had been assaulted by Cherry on set and was subsequently fired when she reported the abuse to the network. In her suit, Sheridan claimed that Cherry had struck her forcefully on the head, but Cherry countered that it had only been a light tap, as he had been showing Sheridan how to play a certain scene. He also disputed the wrongful termination claim, stating that the decision to kill off her character had already been approved in May 2008, nearly a year before her departure.
It certainly didn’t help that the rest of the show’s main female stars – Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, and Eva Longoria – all threw their support behind Cherry. A mistrial was eventually declared in 2012, with the judge dismisseing the battery charge in 2012 due to a lack of evidence and a jury declared a mistrial in regards to the wrongful termination claim, reasoning that because Sheridan’s contract had been for a set term, ABC had not terminated her but rather chosen simply not to rehire her.
9. Charlie Sheen – Two and a Half Men (2011)
Arguably the most infamous TV firing of all time, everyone can recall Charlie Sheen’s very public implosion back in 2011. At the time, Sheen was earning a whopping $1.8 million per episode during the eighth season of Two and a Half Men, which was also his final season on the show. In January 2011, production of Two and a Half Men went on hiatus so that Sheen could undergo substance rehabilitation, which was his third attempt at rehab in a year. However, after Sheen made derogatory comments about series creator Chuck Lorre in February, Two and a Half Men’s production company Warner Bros. barred Sheen from entering its production lot.
Sheen responded by publicly demanding a 50 percent raise, claiming that he was “underpaid” relative to how much money the series actually made (Sheen was already the highest paid actor on TV at the time). Sheen’s contract was terminated the following month, with his character being killed off and Ashton Kutcher being brought in to replace him. In the wake of his firing, we got Sheen’s highly publicized meltdown, in which he claimed he had tiger blood and was a warlock who was always “winning.” Later that same year, FX picked up the sitcom Anger Management, with Sheen set to star, which led to a whole other case of an actor being let go for controversial reasons …
8. Selma Blair – Anger Management (2013)
When Anger Management premiered on FX in 2012, it did so with Selma Blair as Charlie Sheen’s co-star. During the show’s second season, reports surfaced that Blair and Sheen’s working relationship was strained, with Blair reportedly telling producers that Sheen was unprofessional and a “menace” on set. On June 17, 2013, it was reported that Sheen had gone to those same producers and said that he would refuse to work with Blair.
The next day, it was reported that Sheen had taken things a step further, telling FX that if Blair wasn’t fired, he would walk. With Sheen being Anger Management’s main star and ratings already not where FX wanted them, it’s no surprise that Blair was fired the same day, with Laura Bell Bundy brought in to replace her. Anger Management was cancelled after two seasons.
7. Columbus Short – Scandal (2014)
Actor/choreographer Columbus Short was a series regular on Scandal for three seasons, playing Harrison Wright, a member of Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington)’s crisis management team. On April 26, 2014, it was announced that Short had been let go from Scandal. While an exact reason for Short’s exit wasn’t given at the time, his highly publicized personal problems were likely a major factor in the decision.
Short’s wife reportedly had a restraining order filed against him, claiming that he had put a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her. He had also been charged in connection with a separate domestic violence incident involving an in-law. Following his departure from Scandal, Short admitted in an interview with Access Hollywood Live that his alcoholism and cocaine use contributed to him being fired. Four years later, Short’s career has yet to fully recover.
6. Jeremy Clarkson – Top Gear (2015)
Top Gear became a BBC institution thanks in large part to its entertaining trio of hosts – Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond. The automotive show’s host line-up went unchanged for 20 series until 2015 when Clarkson’s behavior started causing concern for BBC. The situation came to a head on March 10, 2015 when it was reported that Clarkson had verbally and physically attacked one of Top Gear’s producers, Oisin Tymon. Three days later, Clarkson’s contract was terminated, leading to the departures of Hammond and May, who stated that they would not continue working on Top Gear without Clarkson.
The trio ended up signing a deal with Amazon to produce a new programme similar to Top Gear called The Grand Tour, which premiered in 2016. To his credit, Clarkson has stated that it was his “own damn fault” that he was fired from Top Gear, which has been co-hosted by Matt LeBlanc of Friends fame ever since (though LeBlanc announced he would be leaving in May 2018).
5. Thomas Gibson – Criminal Minds (2016)
Dharma & Greg star Thomas Gibson starred in the hit crime procedural drama Criminal Minds from 2005 up until the beginning of Season 12 in 2016. Two episodes into the season, Gibson was suspended by CBS after an on-set altercation he had with writer-producer Virgil Williams came to light. Though Gibson apologized for the dispute, his previous altercation with an assistant director in 2010 prompted ABC Studios and CBS Television Studios announced that Gibson’s contract had been terminated, with his character Aaron “Hotch” Hotchner written out of the show.
4. Kevin Spacey – House of Cards (2017)
2017 saw no shortage of actors outed as sexual predators and Kevin Spacey was one of the most high profile. In October of that year, Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of making a sexual advance toward him in the 1980s when he was just 14. Not long after, numerous men came forward with their own allegations against Spacey, prompting Netflix to suspend production on the sixth and final season of its hit series House of Cards. The decision was made to shorten the final season from 13 episodes to 8 and Spacey was fired.
In light of the allegations against Spacey, director Ridley Scott decided to cut the actor’s performance from the film All the Money in the World and recast Christopher Plummer in the role. Following the allegations, Spacey issued an underwhelming apology that was heavily criticized for trying to deflect blame because of a passage in which the actor came out as gay.
Flare currently has a list detailing every one of Spacey’s accusers and their accounts.
3. Danny Masterson – The Ranch (2017)
Best known for his role as Hyde on That ’70s Show, Danny Masterson had been dogged by sexual misconduct allegations for years before the situation finally came to a head in 2017. In March of that year, four women accused Masterson of rape in the early 2000s, leading to an investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department. Though no arrests or charges have been made as of this writing, Netflix made the decision to fire Masterson from the hit comedy series The Ranch in December 2017 and the actor was subsequently dropped by his talent agency.
A known Scientologist, there has been speculation that the church may have been protecting Masterson over the years prior to his exposure, which occurred in large part because of the #MeToo movement. Masterson continues to deny the allegations against him.
2. Roseanne Barr – Roseanne (2018)
A vocal supporter of Donald Trump’s presidency, actress and comedian Roseanne Barr is one of Hollywood’s most controversial figures but her outspoken political Twitter rants finally went a step too far in May 2018 when she wrote a racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, a Senior Advisor to former President Barack Obama. Though Barr later deleted the tweet and issued an apology, ABC promptly fired her and cancelled the Roseanne reboot the very same day, with the company’s president labeling her remarks,”abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values.” On June 21, 2018, ABC announced that it would re-tool the show as a spin-off focusing on the Conner family without Roseanne. Unsurprisingly, it will be called The Conners and premieres on October 16, 2018.
1. Clayne Crawford – Lethal Weapon (2018)
Much to our surprise, the Lethal Weapon TV adaptation has proven quite successful, but it’s apparently been a mess behind the scenes. Original stars Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans reportedly had a long-brewing feud on-set (if you haven’t had a chance to read about it, the whole affair is quite entertaining and childish). After two seasons, the show’s producers clearly had had enough, as Crawford was fired in May 2018 for “hostile behavior” (we assume Warner Bros. chose to let him go over Wayans because out of the two, Crawford comes off as the bigger hothead). Seann William Scott is set to be Wayans’ new co-star and we can only wish him the best of luck on this crazy train.