Anna Faris Isn't the First: When Stars Leave Hit TV Shows
Before Mom returns for its first Anna Faris-free season, a look back at the shows that've moved on without their lead actors.
Mom is about to be down a mom.
When the CBS sitcom returns for season eight on Thursday, Nov. 5, it will do so with an Anna Faris-sized hole in its cast. After starring as struggling alcoholic Christy Plunkett since the series' premiere in 2013, the actress shocked fans by announcing that she was leaving the role behind to pursue other opportunities. All this just days before production on the delayed new season was set to commence.
"The past seven years on Mom have been some of the most fulfilling and rewarding of my career," she said in an early September statement. "I'm so thankful to [Chuck Lorre], the writers, and my amazing castmates for creating a truly wonderful work experience. While my journey as Christy has come to an end, allowing me to pursue new opportunities, I'll be watching next season and rooting for my TV family."
Faris' departure leaves Allison Janney, who stars as Christy's own mom and fellow AA attendee Bonnie, as the show's sole lead—though she remains supported by series regulars Mimi Kennedy, Jaime Pressly, Beth Hall, Kristen Johnston and William Fichtner.
Speaking with Entertainment Tonight about the path forward, Janney said, "It's a huge loss for the show to not have Anna because she was part of creating a character, Christy, that everyone fell in love with. I think I'll miss the most, for me, the relationship between Bonnie and Christy, even though that will still continue [off screen]."
While the details of Christy's absence from the comedy remain to be seen, the producers have confirmed that the part will not be recast. Rather, the season premiere will simply explain her away. Co-creator Gemma Baker told TVLine, "One of the beautiful things about recovery is that quite often people's lives get bigger and better than they could have imagined. And that will be Christy's experience. We are pretty sure that our audience, many of whom have been rooting for Christy since the pilot, will be happy for her and satisfied by her new path."
Mom is hardly the first series in TV history to lose a lead actor. While we wait to see exactly how the writers handled Faris' departure, take a look at all those stars who've similarly left the party early.
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Rose played the titular role of Batwoman, aka Kate Kane, in the CW drama. She made her debut in 2018's Arrowverse crossover and then starred in one season of the series—making history as the first lesbian superhero to headline their own show, as Batwoman came out of the closet in a major TV moment—before announcing her exit just two days after the season one finale aired. The role was eventually replaced with Javicia Leslie cast as Ryan Wilder, a new character set to take control of the Batcave in season two.
In the season four finale of the Syfy series, Ralph's character Quentin completed his quest to save Eliot (Hale Appleman), but sacrificed himself in the process. While the show does feature dead characters—it's called The Magicians after all—Ralph did not return for the fifth and final season.
Ahead of the final season, Arrow's Rickards announced her exit in a poem of sorts.
"Felicity and I
are a very tight two
But after one through seven
we will be saying goodbye to you," she wrote.
She did, however, return for a guest appearance in the show's series finale.
Cohan said see you later to The Walking Dead following prolonged contract negotiations. She appeared in a handful of season nine episodes, but after a six-year time jump her character Maggie Greene was nowhere to be seen. Producers were hopeful she'd return in some capacity for season 10, and after her short-lived ABC series Whiskey Cavalier was canceled, they got their wish. Cohan made her grand return in this season's 16th episode, which aired in October 2020.
Hot on the heels of Lauren Cohan and Andrew Lincoln bidding farewell to the zombie drama came Gurira's exit. After joining the AMC series in season three as the katana-wielding Michonne, she made her last appearance in a season 10 episode which aired in March 2020.
A recurring player in season one and series regular in season two, Sheridan starred as the iconic character Alexis Carrington. She announced plans to exit the CW reboot ahead of season three to spend time with her ailing mother.
Eads exited the CBS remake in 2019, midway through season three. At the time, he expressed his desire to leave and spend more time with his family.
Fox's Lethal Weapon is no stranger to cast exit drama. Clayne Crawford was fired from the series after the second season and his former TV partner Wayans announced his plans to exit the hit drama after the 13-episode third season. "I'm going to be quitting the show in December after we finish the initial 13, so I really don't know what they're planning, but that's what I'm planning," he said. "I'm a 58-year-old diabetic and I'm working 16-hour days… Murtaugh said, ‘too old for this.'"
Producers didn't need to work on a replacement plan, though. The show was canceled at the end of season three.
Ian Gallagher went to the slammer. When Monaghan left Shameless during its ninth season, his character was locked up. In reality, Monaghan was ready to explore new projects after nine years on the show. But, in a true TV twist, he went ahead and signed on to return for season 10 anyway. He'll be present and accounted for when the show returns for its 11th and final season in December 2020.
After nine seasons as Fiona Gallagher, Rossum announced plans to leave Shameless.
"Emmy Rossum will forever be part of the Shameless family," executive producer John Wells said in a statement. "She has been integral to the show's success, from her wonderful portrayal of Fiona to her leadership role on set, as well as directing multiple episodes of the series. We are hard at work now creating a season nine finale for Shameless which we hope will provide a Gallagher-worthy sendoff for Fiona that honors the great work Emmy has done. It is always bittersweet when an ensemble member decides to move out of the proverbial house, but our door will always remain open for Fiona to return home for a visit, or to move back in. I look forward to continuing the stories of this wildly unpredictable family and all of us on Shameless will miss Emmy and her wonderful Fiona."
Peretti appeared in Brooklyn Nine-Nine when it made its NBC debut, but she didn't stick around for the whole run. In a series of tweets in 2018, the actress announced her plans to leave the comedy, but maintained she would be back. She even used Emmy Rossum's farewell letter to Shameless as the basis of her own. Peretti welcomed a son with husband Jordan Peele in 2017. Her character was on maternity leave and sat out several episodes in season five.
Andrew Lincoln said goodbye to the blood, sweat and dirt of the zombie apocalypse and left The Walking Dead during season nine. "These guys have been the best surrogate family I could have hoped for. But I do have a real family and it is time for me to go home," Lincoln said at San Diego Comic-Con. He is, however, due to reprise the role in a film trilogy sometime in the future.
After 15 years, Pauley Perrette hung up her lab coat and left NCIS in 2018. "I believe in God and the universe so firmly, and it just suddenly became blindingly apparent that now was the time," she said. "After a lot of thought, I decided to announce it myself on Twitter because I didn't want it to be turned into anything 'shocking. Abby leaving is more than a cheap TV ploy."
Original cast member Holland's exit from The CW's Arrow had been in the works for a while, boss Marc Guggenheim told TVLine. She asked to have her episode count reduced and then to be written out in season six. Her departure just happened to coincide with the return of Thea's boyfriend, Roy (Colton Haynes), and so they headed off into the sunset together to destroy the dangerous Lazarus Pits that her late father had discovered.
Park, who shot to fame on Battlestar Galactica, left Hawaii Five-0 ahead of its eighth season. She and costar Daniel Dae Kim left after negotiations to reach pay parity with their co-stars failed.
Kim and his costar Grace Park left the CBS drama in between seasons seven and eight. In a Facebook post, Kim said the choice to leave was difficult, and that he made himself available to come back, but "CBS and I weren't able to agree to terms on a new contract."
Season four of the NBC drama ended with Bush's character entertaining a job offer in New York with the FBI, taking her out of the titular Windy City. In December 2018, the actress explained that she quit the series after "a consistent onslaught barrage of abusive behavior."
After four seasons on the HBO comedy, Miller departed, calling it an "organic ending." He told Entertainment Weekly, "Also, in a weird way, it's interesting to me to leave a show at its height. It's interesting to me to see how the show will grow and change with the exit of this character."
After just one season on the CBS comedy, there was quite a shakeup afoot. Hayes, who played wife to Kevin James, left as part of a creative shakeup. However, from the sounds of her tweet, it wasn't a mutual decision. "True, I've been let go from the show. Very sad, I had a great experience season 1," Hayes said on Twitter. "Thank you for all the support from our wonderful fans."
Kevin then moved on, in a way, with former King of Queens costar Leah Remini. CBS then moved on and canceled the show altogether.
Emma Swan left Storybrooke early. Jennifer Morrison announced her departure from Once Upon a Time, but then appeared in an episode of the rebooted series in season seven to help say goodbye to her character, who simply went off to have a happy ending in a different universe. She later returned for the series finale to help say goodbye to her show.
Y'all heard the rumors about Britton's potential exit from the series once it was revived by CMT, but Britton herself downplayed them…for a time. Britton's character Rayna died from injuries sustained in a car accident. She took to Instagram to pay tribute to the character and the show after the episode aired. "It has been an honor to be a part of that creation. And as I know she would want it, the show must, and will go on. Long live Rayna Jaymes," she wrote.
Castle without Beckett? You better believe it. After eight seasons of solving crimes and falling in love, Katic was let go from the long-running series by ABC (along with her co-star Tamala Jones) prior to a potential season nine renewal, leaving Nathan Fillion's titular character to handle things on his own, should the series return. Following the surprising announcement, Katic released a statement to E! News, saying, "Rather than distract from what was an amazing experience I would just like to say that I'm very grateful to ABC for giving me the opportunity to be a part of a much beloved show. Thank you to the fans."
The series did not end up returning.
Beharie confirmed following the show's season three finale that her character, Abbie Mills, was really dead. As in not supernaturally coming back somehow should the show be renewed for a fourth season. It lasted one more season without her before being canceled.
After 13 years with the show, Weatherly, who was with the series from the start, announced he would be leaving NCIS. "He is a valued part of the CBS family, and the immense charm and talent he brings to the screen as 'Very' Special Agent Tony DiNozzo has helped make NCIS what it is today—the No. 1 drama in the world," CBS said in a statement. "We thank Michael for all of his contributions to this successful franchise and look forward to continuing to develop projects with him as part of our ongoing development deal."
TVD's fandom was left speechless when its leading lady revealed she would be exiting the show after six seasons…and that the show was still going on without her. Delena and Stelena fans alike were devastated. "I always knew I wanted Elena's story to be a six season adventure, and within those six years I got the journey of a lifetime," Dobrev wrote in an open letter. "I myself made some of the best friends I'll ever know and built an extended family I will love forever."
Dobrev returned for the series finale to give both Elena and Katherine a final ending.
What to do when you're on one of TV's hottest shows, but get a job at the White House? If you're Kal Penn on House, your character commits suicide and you go work for President Obama.
Law & Order: SVU was about Benson and Stabler for 12 years…until Meloni left the series after tense contract negotiations. Everyone assumed things would work out and the two would continue to bust perps, but life doesn't always work out and Benson was left Stabler-less. However, the show was reinvigorated and is heading into season 22. Meloni's also poised to return to the L&O universe, with Stabler announced as the lead character in the forthcoming Law & Order: Organized Crime.
Ziva left the building on her own accord. De Pablo has spoken out about leaving the hit CBS series after close to 200 episodes, saying it was a personal decision. "As far as my decision to leave, that's a personal thing, and I'd rather leave it at that," she said. "The idea of leaving was not something I toyed around with for a long time. It was an overwhelmingly hard thing—at times terrifying." Her exit shocked fans, especially those who shipped her character's relationship with Michael Weatherly's character. She later returned after six seasons away, in a recurring capacity, for season 17.
Marnie (Allison Williams) and Charlie (Abbott) were finally happy together…but then Abbott left the show between seasons two and three, citing he was unable to relate to the world Lena Dunham crafted. He made a brief reappearance in season five, giving Marnie and fans a glimpse into how far Charlie had fallen.
Whenever anybody left ER, the question came up: Why would you leave TV's hottest show? Well, Martin, whose character Lucy Knight was a bright up-and-coming med student, gave several reasons for her exit after two seasons, including having a personal tragedy mar her time on the series. Lucy was brutally stabbed by a patient during season six, her death forever haunting viewers.
Mom returns Thursday, Nov. 5 at 9 p.m. on CBS.
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