When a beloved character perishes on a TV show, fans go through an array of emotions. Shock. Confusion. Disappointment. Anger. Or in rare cases, pure joy (Ramsay Bolton, anyone?). But just like in real life, not everyone can live happily ever after. Especially if the actor already has their sights set on something else.
There can be many reasons behind a character’s TV death. Maybe their story came full circle, or the momentous event is meant to move the plot forward in a more exciting direction. However, sometimes the actor simply asks to leave in order to pursue other projects once their contract is up. Working for a TV show is challenging - and when said series runs for years, some of the cast members may grow tired and eager to try out something new. Which just happens to be the case for the actors featured on this list.
All the actors below decided that they wanted out, so showrunners had to figure out a creative way to both satisfy fans and ensure that the character in question had a memorable (and often bloody) exit. We’ll let you be the judge on whether they succeeded or… not so much.
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje played Mr. Eko on the hit series Lost. His character was introduced in Season 2, with fans quickly praising Akinnuoye-Agbaje's performance. Showrunners were happy with the cast addition as well and likely had big plans for Mr. Eko, at least based on his Season 2 arc. Unfortunately, Akinnuoye-Agbaje was miserable pretty much from the beginning.
According to Entertainment Weekly, the actor was tired of playing dealers and thugs, so he loved the idea of portraying a Nigerian priest. As a result, he was disappointed when the producers decided to make the character’s backstory include… substance dealing. He said that the change came as “a bit of a shock. I was devastated.” Akinnuoye-Agbaje considered that one season of Lost was enough for him and that his character’s story was complete, so he asked to leave. Mr. Eko was slain by the smoke monster in an early Season 3 episode.
The actor’s unhappiness was later confirmed by Damon Lindelof, one of Lost’s showrunners. “Our Mr. Eko plans very quickly derailed. Adawele’s unhappiness was almost instantaneous. On his second episode, he was expressing extreme dissatisfaction,” Lindelof said.
Birthplace: England, London, Islington
On the often naughty animated series South Park, Isaac Hayes voiced Chef, a cafeteria worker at the local elementary school. The show’s controversial humor seemed to generally work for Hayes… until it didn’t.
The soul singer, a Scientologist, decided to end his association with the series after South Park mocked his religion in the Season 9 episode "Trapped in the Closet."
"There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends, and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins," Hayes said in a statement.
As a result, his character was slain in a gruesome manner in the Season 10 premiere. Chef falls to a gruesome end from a bridge and is then mutilated by a grizzly bear and a mountain lion.
Age: Dec. at 66 (1942-2008)
Birthplace: Covington, Tennessee, United States of America
On popular medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, T.R. Knight played George O’Malley, one of the more central characters in the show’s early seasons. As the series progressed, however, Knight’s screen time was reduced, which reportedly made the actor unhappy. Add in a “breakdown of communication” with showrunner Shonda Rhimes, and Knight decided to ask to leave instead of trying to figure out what was going on.
“My five-year experience proved to me that I could not trust any answer that was given [about George],” the actor told EW. Rhimes granted his wish and O’Malley perished during the Season 6 premiere, succumbing to major harm after being hit by a bus.
Birthplace: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States of America
While sometimes actors want to branch out by starring in other shows or movies, other times they decide to embrace completely unrelated projects. That was the case for actor Kal Penn, who portrayed Lawrence Kutner on the medical drama House M.D. He first appeared in Season 4 and stayed on as one of House's fellows until Season 6, when his character shockingly took his life.
Turns out, Penn asked to leave because he wanted to work in the White House, joining the Obama administration. “I got to know the President and some of the staff during the campaign and had expressed interest in working there, so I’m going to be the associate director in the White House office of public liaison. They do outreach with the American public and with different organizations,” Penn told EW after his final episode aired.
In 2013, President Obama appointed Penn to serve on the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. He resigned the post in August 2017, in protest of some of President Trump’s comments on Charlottesville.
Birthplace: Montclair, USA, New Jersey