Informing Actors They Are Leaving the Show


I was just reading one of the other blog posts regarding characters leaving shows and it made me think about a related topic. The other post was talking about noticeable changes in shows when a character leaves and I believe that they were talking about more minor characters leaving than in The Office when Michael, the main character leaves but this is definitely a case of a show changing due to a character leaving as well. In The Office, when Michael left, the show was truly never the same, and I think that it was a very popular opinion that the show was far less funny without him on it. While Will Ferrell worked as the main character for a short period of time, I think general interest in the show decreased significantly as time passed after Steve Carrell left. While I think it is interesting to look at how shows change when certain characters leave, the question that popped into my head when reading the blog about this was “how soon before actors are released from a show are they given notice of this?” and also “at what point in the storyline creating and script writing process are decisions made to cut a certain character from the script?”

For example, in the show Power, (Not using specific names incase of spoilers) but one of the main 5 or 6 characters was abruptly murdered towards the end of season 3. When this happened, I wondered to myself “when did they decide to have his character killed off? If the plan was for him to be killed off at the end of season 3, did they tell him this when he first signed onto the show before season 1, or maybe before season 3 they let him know that this was the plan? Basically, I wonder if there could be a change in the script the episode before that makes them want to then kill him off and he is suddenly informed that the next episode will be his last. In short, how far ahead of time are actors typically informed that they will be released from the show as they no longer are relevant to the storyline?

It is an interesting thing to think about because you would think that there is a certain amount of time beforehand that an actor should be warned that they will no longer be needed for the job they are performing so that they can go find other roles in different shows or movies if necessary. On the other hand however, you would also think that a director and producer should have the power to change the script in whatever way they like at any point. If this is the case then the producer could have a sudden realization that he wants to take the show in a different direction one episode, and could rewrite that episode so that a actor is killed off, thus giving no time to inform him of this beforehand. Because there is no show out there that has its entire script for a season set in concrete before the shooting of the season begins (other than shows like Narcos on Netflix that release a whole season at one time) then I imagine there are many cases where actors show up to work one day and find out that this is their last week of shooting because their character is going to be killed off.

Whenever a character leaves a show, I always wonder if it is because of a personal conflict that is forcing them to no longer be able to act on the show, or if it was a decision on the part of the writers. In summation, this blog is me questioning what the process is like of informing an actor that they will be leaving a show when it is the scriptwriters’ decision to cut them out, and specifically, how far in advance is the actor informed of this decision on average?


-Max Lissette

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4 Responses to Informing Actors They Are Leaving the Show

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I stopped watching The Office after Steve Carrell left. I just don’t find Will Ferrell particularly funny, and Michael Scott was my favorite part of the show. I do wonder, though, how much longer the show could have run (successfully) had he stayed. My guess is that the show would have run its course either way. It is interesting though to consider the ways in which the personal lives of actors consequently affect the narrative arcs of shows. I never watched Glee, but I once read about how the writers had to respond to and approach Cory Montieth’s untimely death. I’m sure that process looks a lot different than it would if the actor simply chose to move on from the show, but it’s probably significant nonetheless.

    -Callie Sartain

  2. mediaphiles says:

    I definitely think a show takes on a new life when a main character leaves. I do think, however, is often a better alternative than keeping the character with a different actor. My mom used to watch a lot of soap operas, and they seemed to have a different actor for the same character every other week. Very interesting post! – Sarah King

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I think this is a really interesting concept and proves that there is so much that happens behind the scenes that the viewer is not aware of. The actual reasons for characters leaving a show probably affect how they find out that they are leaving; for example, if an actor’s contract is not renewed because he or she requested higher pay that was denied, this might merit a different termination than one whose character has simply run its course. The first thing I thought of while reading this was when Joey (from Friends) finds out that his character is written off of his soap opera and he gets upset and his feelings are clear in his final scene on the fictional show. Clearly real actors cannot do this, but I do wonder how unwanted termination affects their performance.

    Arianna Gershon

  4. mediaphiles says:

    This such an interesting point. Sometimes we forget to question what happens behind the scenes of these type of production, filming lifestyles. I wonder the same thing: does getting killed off always mean a problem has encountered or could it just be like any other job where sometimes people have to quit on good terms and pursue something else for awhile. It adds another element of drama to the show and could even possibly be to amp up the ratings and get people searching and asking why that person got killed off (hence looking up the drama behind why they did). This makes me think of Megan Fox and the Transformers sagas, everyone freaked out about that.
    Kendall Fischlein

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