Actors Talk About How They Felt When Their TV Characters Died
A lead actor in a successful series fears one thing more than all others: getting killed off. As the history of shocking TV deaths shows, it can happen to anyone at any time. Not every actor responds to their character's death the same way, though, which you will see in the following entries.
- 1217 VOTESPhoto: Game of Thrones / HBO
If you didn't read the Game of Thrones books before watching the show, Ned Stark's death likely shocked the heck out of you. It didn't shock Ned's actor, Sean Bean, though, since he knew his character's fate from the beginning. He was even relieved:
I thought, "I don’t want to get stuck in one of these series that lasts seven years."
After seeing GoT become a hit from the sidelines, Bean changed his mind: "I wish I’d had got stuck now. But it was very clear what George R.R. Martin wanted to happen to Ned - and it did."
The salt in Bean's wound is that he has become meme-ified for his frequent film and TV fatalities. He now has a no-dying rule:
I did do one job, and they said, "We’re going to kill you," and I was like, "Oh, no!" And then they said, "Well, can we injure you badly?" And I was like, "Okay, so long as I stay alive this time."
- 2139 VOTES
Anthony Edwards portrayed Dr. Mark Greene on ER for eight seasons. He gets diagnosed with a brain tumor in Season 7, which eventually ends his life. According to Edwards, the character's long battle with the disease not only maximized emotional impact but was extremely relatable to many viewers:
They knew that I would be leaving the show, so they had two years to tell the story of someone going through this life transition... The first year was the medical part of it... and then the second year was really the emotional journey of someone transitioning. By the time we got to that goodbye, it was a goodbye that they had been setting up for two years.
...There’s been many people who said that their experience of losing a loved one or family member made [Greene’s passing] a little understandable.
- 3127 VOTES
McLean Stevenson Said His Post ‘M*A*S*H’ Career Was Tough Because ‘People Were Enamored With Henry Blake, Not McLean Stevenson’Photo: user uploaded image
McLean Stevenson killed his own character off in M*A*S*H because he wanted to move on to bigger and better (AKA more lucrative) things. He decided to leave at the end of the third season, so his character, Henry Blake, was discharged from the military - and therefore the show. The producers then added a twist by having Radar announce that Blake's departing plane had been shot down, making it a true kill.
The bigger and better things never came, which left Stevenson reassessing his decision:
I made the mistake of believing that people were enamored of McLean Stevenson when the person they were enamored of was Henry Blake.
- 4105 VOTESPhoto: Metaweb (FB)
Adriana's demise in The Sopranos is merciless: a person she thinks is a friend drives her out to the woods under false pretenses, drags her out of the car, throws her on the ground, and then, as she hopelessly and hysterically crawls away on her knees, he shoots her.
Surprisingly, being killed off in that way wasn't lamented by Adriana's actor, Drea de Matteo:
I remember thinking that I was going to be happy that I was not going to have to cry again and could relax. I was very burned out because back in those days, I was very Method. I took things maybe too seriously. And shooting that season, I really lived with Adriana because I gave it my all and was in turmoil.
As for shooting the scene itself, de Matteo said that it was harder for her co-star than it was for her:
Q: Is it true Steven Van Zandt didn’t want to drag you out of that car?
A: It’s fair to say that I held every male character’s hand who destroyed Adriana’s spirit. Nobody wanted to do it, but I needed my side of the street to be easy, and the only way to do this was for them to help me and just go for it. Stevie understood that in the end, but boy, he didn’t want to do it at all!
- 5104 VOTES
Hank's Death Scene In 'Breaking Bad' Was Emotional For Dean Norris Because He Felt Like He Was Saying Goodbye To Bryan CranstonPhoto: Metaweb / GNU Free Documentation License
In an interview with Stacey Wilson Hunt of The Hollywood Reporter, Dean Norris revealed what was going through his mind when he filmed Hank's final scene:
That I was ending the show, that I was saying goodbye to Bryan [Cranston]. It all actually fed back into the loop of the scene because Hank was also saying goodbye to Walt.
Drawing on that emotion, Norris knew exactly how to look as his character met his maker:
...I did the close-ups for that scene in one take, which is very unheard of. Usually you’d do a couple more. But I talked to [director] Rian Johnson and I said, "There’s one kind of face he will put up with Walt and another for bad guys, but either way, he knows he’s going to die. So let’s have three cameras?" We did some other takes for larger shots, but for close-ups, we did it in one take. Rian said, "Okay, that’s the way you die on TV. Let’s move on!" I got done in half a day.
- 6116 VOTESPhoto: Metaweb (FB)
Julie Benz played Rita, Dexter's girlfriend and eventual wife. In Season 4, Rita gets murdered by serial killer Arthur Mitchell. Dexter finds her in a tub full of her own blood - with their infant son crying in the spillover.
On Michael Rosenbaum's podcast Inside of You, Benz was asked to name the worst thing that happened to her as an actress. Her response:
Getting killed off Dexter was pretty bad. I had no idea that was coming.
Benz revealed that she was told only three days in advance. She was called to the producers' room. "I started having a panic attack," Benz said about that moment, "and I called my manager at the time, and I said, 'Oh my God, I think they’re killing me off.'"
She bawled when her suspicion was confirmed. It took her a while to get over Rita's demise; she even went to therapy for it.