TV Stars Who Left Hit Shows

It’s never easy to say goodbye, even if it’s a television goodbye. While no TV show can last forever – well, Law & Order: SVU is in the running – the cast doesn’t always stay as long. Many actors choose to leave after their contracts end. Some give the networks a lengthy heads-up, while others just seem to up and vanish, leaving the writers to scramble (see below!). Regardless, the show must go on.

One of the most talked about exits was in May 2017, when Sophia Bush Opens a New Window. decided to leave Chicago P.D. Opens a New Window. after season 4. She played the lead role of Detective Erin Lindsay on the NBC drama and was written out of the show with a cliffhanger – her character was offered a job in New York to join the FBI. Many thought this could mean she would pop up on Law & Order: SVU – another show written by Dick Wolf which has done a crossover with P.D. before – but over the years, it was made apparent that was not happening.

In multiple interviews since her exit, Bush explained that she went to her bosses between the third and fourth seasons and told them if things didn’t “drastically” change, she would be leaving at the end of the year. Then, in December 2018, she opened up about the decision while on Dax Shepard Opens a New Window. ’s “Armchair Expert” podcast.

“I quit because, what I’ve learned is, I’ve been so programmed to be a good girl and to be a work horse and be a tug boat, that I have always prioritized tugging the ship for the crew, for the show, for the group, ahead of my own health … My body was, like, falling apart, because I was really, really unhappy,” she revealed, before later adding she felt “ignored” and recalled the time she told a coworker, “I feel like I was standing butt-naked, bruised and bleeding in the middle of Times Square, screaming at the top of my lungs and not a single person stopped to ask if they could help me.”

She also referenced the show as “a consistent onslaught barrage of abusive behavior.” Bush noted: “You start to lose your way when someone assaults you in a room full of people and everyone literally looks away, looks at the floor, looks at the ceiling, and you’re the one woman in the room and every man who’s twice your size doesn’t do something.”

For more TV stars who walked away from hit shows, scroll through the gallery below.

Chris Meloni

After 12 seasons of playing Elliot Stabler on Law & Order: SVU, Christopher Meloni Opens a New Window. decided to walk away from the longtime hit drama. Although he abruptly left after the season 12 finale was filmed, leaving writers scrambling to address it in season 13, he has stayed close to the cast and crew and is open to return for the series finale – whenever that may be.

Credit: Getty Images

Josh Charles

When Josh Charles’ contract was up following season 5 of The Good Wife, he decided to step away from the CBS drama. His character, Will Gardner, was shockingly shot and killed during the show. The show continued for two more seasons and his ghost appeared in the series finale. 

Credit: David M. Russell/CBS

Katherine Heigl

“It’s what I wanted.” That’s what Katherine Heigl Opens a New Window. said after wrapping on Grey’s Anatomy Opens a New Window. midway through season 6. She left to spend more time with her family, specifically her then newly-adopted daughter, but the exit wasn’t without its drama. In 2008, she made a statement that she wanted to be out of an Emmy consideration because the writing of her character wasn’t good enough. Ellen Pompeo Opens a New Window. also spoke out about her departure in a 2016 interview. “You could understand why she wanted to go — when you’re offered $12 million a movie and you’re only 26. But Katie’s problem is that she should not have renewed her contract,” Pompeo told the New York Post at the time. “She re-upped, took a big raise and then tried to get off the show. And then her movie career did not take off.” Heigl’s character, Izzie Stevens, has never returned to the series.

Credit: Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images

Andrew Lincoln

The Walking Dead Opens a New Window. fans were shocked when Andrew Lincoln Opens a New Window. decided to exit the AMC hit after nine seasons, in order to spend more time with his family. However, after his final episode, the creator revealed he had signed on for several Rick Grimes-centric films in the coming years.

Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Nicollette Sheridan

After starring in The CW’s Dynasty reboot for a season and a half, Nicolette Sheridan announced she would not return for the third season in order to take care of her terminally ill mother. 

Credit: Quantrell D. Colbert/The CW

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