13 Stars Who Wanted Their TV Characters To Die So They Could Leave the Show

Martha Sorren | Nov 11, 2019 TV
13 Stars Who Wanted Their TV Characters To Die So They Could Leave the Show
Image: The WB

Alexis Bledel and Milo Ventimiglia in Gilmore Girls
The WB

Most actors would kill to land a long-term role on a popular television show. But some actors want their characters killed off of those same popular shows. These stars have wanted their roles to go for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, there's a new project that they're more interested in; sometimes they don't feel that their arc is getting enough attention; and sometimes they're just tired of playing the same person day in and day out. 

We get it.

The show's writers don't always agree to "offing" a character just because the actor wants it, though. One of the people on this list wanted a gruesome death for his role but was turned down because that wasn't really the vibe of the series. (Hint: It was a major Gilmore Girls actor.)

But, more often than not, it seems that writers are willing to hear the actor out and end their stories. After all, who wants to keep writing for an actor who doesn't want to be there? 

However, the fans don't always understand these actors' choices. It's so hard to say goodbye to a beloved character, and doubly so if that role could have existed for longer if not for the actor wanting to leave. However, we're all people (actors, too), and some jobs just get old after a few years. 

Here's a rundown of actors who wanted their TV characters to die so they could leave the show, along with two huge stars who felt the same way about their iconic movie roles. Caution, though, because there are spoilers below about the circumstances around these character deaths and when and why they occurred.

  • Dan Stevens - 'Downton Abbey'


    Matthew Crawley's death shocked and upset Downton Abbey fans in 2012, but actor Dan Stevens knew his leaving the show would result in that devastating car crash. However, after three seasons on the series, Stevens told the Telegraph that he just needed a change of pace.

    "We were always optioned for three years," he said. "And when that [deadline] came up it was a very difficult decision. But it felt like a good time to take stock, to take a moment. From a personal point of view, I wanted a chance to do other things."

    In the years after, Dan went on to act in the trippy X-Men show Legion, the Beauty and the Beast live-action movie, and more.

  • Patrick Dempsey - 'Grey's Anatomy'

    Patrick Dempsey as Derek Shepherd in Grey's Anatomy

    Derek Shepherd was one of the main characters on Grey's Anatomy for 11 seasons before his character got killed off in a tragic car accident. Show creator Shonda Rhimes later told E! News that the decision for Patrick Dempsey to leave the role was mutual. 

    "We had a lot of discussions about it," Rhimes said. "It wasn't easy or fun, it is never easy or fun. We've been working really hard for a long time together. We're family. Those choices and those decisions are never easy for any of us."

    After a decade on the show, it's hard to blame Patrick for wanting to move on and do other things. Unfortunately, that resulted in the end of Derek's life.

  • Milo Ventimiglia - 'Gilmore Girls'


    Jess is a beloved Gilmore Girls character, but the actor who played him didn't necessarily want him to stick around. "I was the one who actually tried to get Jess killed," actor Milo Ventimiglia told E! News in 2006. "They didn't go for it. [I wanted to] get him hit by a bus, a knife in the side of the neck, something bad. I don't know -- guess I thought it would be kind of cool." 

    Um, can confirm that would not have been cool for any Team Jess fan.

  • Sophie Turner - 'Game of Thrones'

    Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones

    Sansa Stark is (spoiler alert!) one of the few Game of Thrones characters who didn't die over the course of the show. But, back in 2016, Sophie Turner wanted her character, Sansa, to die -- just so Turner could act out a major death. 

    "I want her to get revenge. I want her to avenge her family’s death and everything. But then I kind of want her to die at the end because I want a big death scene," Sophie told Just Jared. When asked how she wanted Sansa to die, the actor said, "Something that will last a good episode, like poisoning, you can really drag that one out. Just a long slow death."

    Clearly Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin should have been taking cold-blooded character killing tips from Sophie.

  • T.R. Knight - 'Grey's Anatomy'

    T.R. Knight as George O'Malley in Grey's Anatomy

    George O'Malley died in the sixth season premiere of Grey's Anatomy, but that wasn't a shock to the actor who played him. T.R. Knight had chosen to leave the show after reportedly being frustrated with a lack of screen time. He told Entertainment Weekly that he didn't talk to the writers about his concerns, he just decided to quit

    "My five-year experience proved to me that I could not trust any answer that was given [about George]," he said. "And with respect, I’m going to leave it at that.” He added, “There just comes a time when it's so clear that moving on is the best decision."

  • Dean Norris - 'Breaking Bad'

    Dean Norris as Hank in Breaking Bad

    Dean Norris' character, Hank, did eventually die on Breaking Bad, but Norris had wanted it to come sooner so he could go work on another show. Huffington Post reported that he told CBS This Morning that his Under the Dome show was going to conflict with his Breaking Bad schedule, so he asked that Hank be killed off in the first half of the final season instead of the second half. 

    "I said, 'Would it be interesting if Hank died in the first eight [episodes]?'" Norris said. "They said, 'No, we kind of need you for the last eight. We've been building that up the for last five years.'"

    In the end, a break in production between season halves on Breaking Bad actually gave Dean Norris time to do both shows.

  • John Francis Daley - 'Bones'


    After 10 seasons as Lance Sweets on Bones, John Francis Daley's character was killed off to make room for Daley's directing career. According to TV Line, he'd landed the opportunity to direct the National Lampoon’s Vacation remake and it just conflicted too much with his Bones schedule. In the end, the show creator made the choice to write his character off via death.

  • Daniel Gillies - 'Saving Hope' 

    Daniel Gillies as Dr. Joel Goran in Saving Hope

    Even doctors aren't safe on medical shows. Daniel Gillies' character, Dr. Joel Goran, died in the third season of Saving Hope after a bomb in a patient exploded. But the actor had actually asked for his character to die. He told The TV Junkies that he was just so tired from all his TV work and wanted to prioritize time with his family. 

    "I was doing 40-42 episodes of TV a year, bouncing between two shows. Between The Originals and Saving Hope I was just exhausted," he said. "So I put it in [the writers'] minds, and then they approached me later on in the season and surprisingly they sort of acquiesced."

  • Dominic Monaghan - 'Lost'

    Dominic Monaghan as Charlie in Lost
    Mario Perez/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

    Charlie was a beloved character on Lost, but the actor who played him was totally okay with his death. Dominic Monaghan told TV Guide that he'd been frustrated on the show for a while and was ready to go do new things. 

    "More than anything else, I was just relieved," he said of Charlie's death at the time. "I've been trying to plan the rest of my career, and there's a whole bunch of opportunities that have been up in the air because I couldn't commit to them because of Lost."

  • Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje - 'Lost'

    Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Mr. Eko in 'Lost'
    Mario Perez/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

    Mr. Eko was another Lost character killed off for reasons behind the camera. Entertainment Weekly reported that Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje felt his character arc was complete and didn't want to play Mr. Eko anymore. Executive producer Carlton Cuse told the outlet, "In a perfect world it would've been great to have Mr. Eko for a little longer. But it was the best time to go our separate ways." 

    Mr. Eko died in season three.

  • Kal Penn - 'House'

    Kal Penn in House M.D.
    Adam Taylor/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

    Dr. Lawrence Kutner died in season five of House, after actor Kal Penn decided he wanted to leave to work for Barack Obama's Office of Public Liaison during his presidency. That's a hard gig to turn down, even if it meant Kutner had to die.

  • Josh Charles - 'The Good Wife'


    After five seasons on The Good Wife, actor Josh Charles was ready to move on to new things. That decision resulted in his character's death on the show. 

    "It's been one of the greatest gigs for me in my entire career, but at the end of last year, my contract was up and I was just ready to kind of move on," Charles told CBS News. "I think it was great for the show and also I think was a proper goodbye to the character, so that was special."

  • McLean Stevenson - 'MASH'

    McLean Stevenson on 'MASH'

    McLean Stevenson played Henry Blake on MASH for over 70 episodes, but eventually left the show to try different things in his career. His character was killed off, but Stevenson struggled to get his solo career off the ground. 

    The Los Angeles Times reported that he once said, "When I left the show, the mistake was not in leaving, the mistake was that I thought everybody in America loved McLean Stevenson. That was not the case. Everybody loved Henry Blake. So if you go and do The McLean Stevenson Show, nobody cares about McLean Stevenson."

  • Honorable (Movie) Mention: Sigourney Weaver - 'Alien'

    Sigourney Weaver in Alien 3
    Rolf Konow/Sygma/Corbis via Getty Images

    Sigourney Weaver starred in three Alien movies before wanting her character killed off to finish the series on a high note. "I heard that Fox was gonna do Alien vs Predator. Which really depressed me because I was very proud of the movies," Weaver said to Entertainment Weekly about why she wanted her character to die.

    No worries, though. Ripley came back in Alien: Resurrection.

  • Honorable (Movie) Mention - Harrison Ford - 'Star Wars'


    Harrison Ford has long thought it was in Han Solo's character to die doing something noble to save the others, and he floated the idea to the Star Wars writers movie after movie. 

    "I've been arguing for Han Solo to die for about 30 years, not because I was tired of him or because he’s boring, but his sacrifice for the other characters would lend gravitas and emotional weight," Ford told Entertainment Weekly in 2016. 

    He eventually got his wish in The Force Awakens.

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