Sometimes the drama behinds the scenes of your favorite television show is more exciting than the storylines on screen. Acting and producing attracts big egos and this often leads to serious conflicts, even on top-rated TV shows who are making the network and the producers lots of money. The 13 actors on this list all found themselves fired from popular TV shows after on-set affairs, off-set arrests, diva behavior, disagreements with co-stars and creative differences.
Charlie Sheen went wild in 2001, claiming to have tiger blood racing through his veins (it turned out to be drugs). Sheen inexplicably turned on Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre, who was responsible for getting Sheen the biggest paydays of his career. Sheen attacked Lorre with angry tweets and nasty interviews, describing his boss a “maggot” and even making anti-semitic remarks about Lorre. Sheen then went on a bizarre publicity tour that found him abandoning his family, tweeting and talking obsessively about “winning”, and living with several girlfriends at a time.
Shortly after Sheen’s crackup, Lorre stopped production on season eight of Two and a Half Men. For season nine, Lorre and CBS decided to fire Sheen and kill off his character. The season nine premiere found Sheen’s character being hit by a train off-screen. Ashton Kutcher was brought in for the final seasons of the hit show, but Sheen scored an even bigger payday when he headed to cable for his own series, Anger Management.
It would be impossible to dump an actor whose name is actually the title of the show, right? Actually, this is wrong. In one of the strangest incidents in TV history, Valerie Harper was axed from her own show, called Valerie. The problems started during contract negotiations, when the network decided that Harper’s salary demands were too much. They killed her off, replaced her with Sandy Duncan and revamped the show Valerie’s Family. A few seasons later it became The Hogan Family, squeezing five more seasons out of the hit sitcom.
Harper was vocal about her ouster, arguing that she did not even ask for a raise, and that the dispute was over other benefits which were supposed to be determined later. She also said that the show wanted to stop her from having creative input into her show, which the show’s production company, Lorimar Telepictures, flatly denied. When Harper sued Lorimar, they claimed “her disruptive behavior was sufficient grounds for terminating her.”
Harper’s suit eventually went to trial, where a jury awarded her “$1.8 million in compensatory damages and a share of the show’s profits that could top $15 million,” according to People magazine.
Desperate Housewives was a notoriously dramatic show behind the scenes. Of all the divas in Desperate Housewives Land, Nicollette Sheridan may have been the biggest drama queen of them all. Sheridan constantly clashed with show creator Marc Cherry. Sheridan’s character, Edie Britt, was killed off in an April 2009 episode of the series, prompting Sheridan to file a lawsuit against Cherry and Touchstone Television for wrongful termination. Sheridan aired serious dirty laundry, alleging that Cherry had hit her in the head and that ABC fired her in retaliation for reporting the assault.
Cherry admitted touching Sheridan, but said it was only a demonstration of how to enact a comedic moment during a scene. The case went to trial, where Cherry said Britt’s death had actually been in the show’s plans for months. He argued that Sheridan’s termination had more to due with creative and economic issues, but that her “unprofessional” behavior also influenced his decision. Sheridan didn’t get along with the cast or crew and was accused of being rude to everyone. The trial ended with a mistrial, and the subsequent appeals were rejected, leaving Sheridan out of a job and desperate for compensation.
Mandy Patinkin was an original cast member of CBS’s serial killer show, Criminal Minds. But Patinkin was fired after two short seasons after his erratic behavior resulted in production delays and rewrites. The famously intense actor became so absorbed in the show’s serial killer milieu that he lost his grip. “The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to do Criminal Minds in the first place,” Patinkin told New York magazine. “I thought it was something very different. I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality. After that, I didn’t think I would get to work in television again.”
Patinkin simply walked away from the show during its second season, not showing up for work and not commenting on his absence. Showrunners finally released a statement clearing their own names for his exit. Patinkin seemed to agree with them, later saying “I behaved abominably.”
Criminal Minds had another problem with an intense star nearly 10 years after Patinkin’s exit. Thomas Gibson was fired after lashing out at writers and crew members on the set. According to TMZ, Gibson’s termination was a long time coming. Gibson was first ordered to attend anger management classes after he punched an assistant director in 2010. Sources said Gibson was “aggressive and verbally abusive for years” on the set of Criminal Minds. Other reports said Gibson could not get along with co-star Shemar Moore, arguing with him about scheduling and screen time.
Six years after CBS sent Gibson to anger management classes, he lashed out again, kicking a co-executive producer and writer of the series, Virgil Williams, after a heated argument over the script. At first Gibson was suspended for two episodes, but the producers and network decided it would be better to terminate him in August of 2016.
People often forget that Jay Thomas was a frequent guest star on Cheers, where he played hockey player Eddie LeBec. Thomas was fired after he bad-mouthed his co-star, Rhea Perlman. Thomas’ character was married to Perlman’s character, Carla Tortelli. When Thomas was moonlighting as morning DJ at a Los Angeles radio station, a caller asked him about working on the show. Rather than politely informing the caller that Cheers was a great opportunity, Thomas allegedly started to complain about kissing Perlman.
There are rumors that Perlman was listening to the radio show at the time, and that after the incident Thomas was immediately written out. He never appeared on Cheers again. The writers got revenge for Perlman by killing LeBec with a Zamboni machine.
Shonda Rhimes runs a tight ship on her ABC television shows – cross her and you’ll find yourself out of a job. Actor Isaiah Washington was famously fired from Grey’s Anatomy in 2007 after he allegedly called castmate T.R. Knight a gay slur during an argument with Patrick Dempsey. But that didn’t mean that Knight was exactly a Rhimes favorite. Knight now says Rhimes wrote him out of the show because she did not want him to come out as a gay man, a claim Rhimes has denied as preposterous.
Knight’s character was killed during the show’s sixth season premiere episode, but his screen time was cut in half during season five. Entertainment Weekly reported that during the first five episodes of the season, he was only onscreen for 48 minutes. Knight later made some exaggerated claims about his demise, stating “[m]y five-year experience proved to me that I could not trust any answer that was given [about George],” he told Entertainment Weekly. “No other series regular character had ever disappeared like mine did this past season.” Knight fired back at Rhimes by claiming he asked to be let go over his creative objections to the way George was presented.
Rhimes’ other show, Scandal, has not been free from, well, Scandal. Columbus Short was an original cast member who got along well with the cast and crew. But Short’s personal life went off the rails in 2014, when Short was arrested for beating his then-wife in front of their children. Just two weeks later he was arrested again, this time for allegedly pushing her. Less than a month later, in March of 2014, Short was accused of attacking a man in a bar, punching him in the nose and leaving him unconscious. Despite his legal and personal troubles, Short could not control himself. He held a knife to his wife’s throat and threatened to kill her, prompting her to file for divorce and get a restraining order.
Short’s his foray into domestic violence forced Rhimes to oust him from the hit drama. He issued statement about the mess, telling press, “At this time I must confirm my exit from a show I’ve called home for three years … I would like to first thank Shonda Rhimes for the opportunity to work with such an amazing cast. Thank you … ABC and Shondaland for allowing me to play such a pivotal role in the Scandal series … Everything must come to an end and unfortunately the time has come for Harrison Wright to exit the canvas. I wish nothing but the best for Shonda, Kerry [Washington] and the rest of the cast.”
Grey’s Anatomy fans still haven’t forgiven Rhimes for killing off fan favorite Patrick Dempsey, aka McDreamy, after a car crash during season 11’s finale in 2015. Rumors suggest that Dempsey was moping behind the scenes and that Rhimes simply tired of his attitude.
Initially Rhimes and Dempsey both said there was no bad blood between them, but details of his demise started leaking from the set. Radar Online claimed that Dempsey was cheating on his wife with a very young production assistant on Grey’s Anatomy, a rumor that Dempsey later seemed to confirm by separating from his wife. A source said that Dempsey was also “complaining about the storyline of his character, and felt he wasn’t getting enough screen time.”
Rhimes allegedly suspended and then terminated Dempsey, while removing the young staff member from the set entirely. Dempsey’s spokesperson said the allegations were “absurd,” but his wife filed for divorce a few weeks before his character bit the dust.
As for Rhimes, actors are advised to not cross her. When The Nightly Show asked Rhimes if she’d ever killed a character because she didn’t like the actor, Rhimes said, “Yes. And I’m not naming names.”
You might not know the name Maggie Roswell, but you probably know her work, since she was the voice actor behind The Simpsons’ character Maude Flanders. According to producers, Roswell left the show because “she no longer wanted to commute to Los Angeles from her Denver home.”
But that’s not exactly what Roswell said in an interview with The LA Times, where Roswell maintained that she was fired for asking for a raise. Fox was paying Roswell $1200 to $2000 per episode and she sought a raise to $6,000 for each episode. Fox offered her a tiny $150 per episode boost, which she found insulting. As Roswell explained, “the raise didn’t even cover the cost of having to fly to Los Angeles to record her portions of the scripts.”
Although Flanders was voiced by other actors, eventually the character was sent to the big animated heaven in the sky.
Although Lost star Dominic Monaghan said he wasn’t exactly sad about being killed off, he also offered a critique of TV’s then-top rated show. “It’s a big cast and you don’t work as much as you would like. You get bored, you get frustrated, you get lazy, and your work suffers,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “And there are other things out there.” Monaghan admitted he was bossy, trying to order the writers around. “I’ve always tried to appeal to the writers that I thought [Charlie] was an incredibly capable character even though he had all these issues…I thought, ‘I don’t want to see this character become neutered.’…They never went for it.”
There was more to Monaghan’s exit than meets the eye. The National Enquirer reported that Monaghan was actually bitter and angry after his five-year relationship with co-star Evangeline Lilly ended when she moved on with a production assistant. Monaghan had a reputation for speaking out of turn, once telling fans on Twitter that co-star Matthew Fox “beats women”. Monaghan’s surly behavior ensured that his co-stars were happy to see him go.
Bad girl Shannen Doherty brought lots of attitude to her role on Beverly Hills, 90210, eventually leading to her termination for constantly fighting with cast and crew. Doherty made a big comeback in the late 1990s, returning to TV in 1998 with a show about witches called Charmed. Doherty may have been older, but she was not necessarily wiser, constantly bickering with her co-star Alyssa Milano. The rumored conflict between the actresses allegedly led to Doherty’s character, Prue, being killed off the show.
Milano spoke of the conflicts on an episode of Watch What Happens Live, telling host Andy Cohen, “I can tell you that we were on the air with her for three years and there were definitely some rough days. Holly [Marie Combs] and Shannen were best friends for like, ten years before the show started so it was very much sort of like high school.”
Doherty admitted that the set was filled with drama and animosity. “There was too much drama on the set and not enough passion for the work,” she said. “I’ll miss Holly a lot … there were never, ever, ever any problems between the two of us.”
Mischa Barton became famous for her role as Marissa Cooper on The O.C., but fans were shocked when the character was suddenly killed in a car wreck during season three. The decision to kill the character had just as much to do with personality conflicts as it did with creative direction. Showrunners were tired of dealing with Barton’s spoiled and bad behavior. Barton reportedly thought she was too good for television, preferring to become a film star instead.
Barton became part of a crowd that was more famous for their hard-partying than their work. “Almost overnight it was like this switch had been turned on,” Barton told People about her days of debauchery with Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton. “We thought, ‘Work hard, play hard.’ It was a train I could not get off of … I was living a jet-set lifestyle. There were a lot of enablers around, people to fly you around and to make it all possible.”
She also told Metro, “[The O.C. was] something I came so close to not doing. I had a really great thing with film. People say be grateful for what you have but it certainly not the kind of thing I was expecting it to be … I’ve kind of seen it all.”