The Biggest TV Show Exits of 2021

Many fan-favorite TV characters have said their goodbyes this year. Learn why from the actors who played them

01 of 17

Jesse Spencer on Chicago Fire

Chicago Fire
Lori Allen/NBC

After 200 episodes of playing Captain Matt Casey on the NBC drama, Spencer explained why it was a good time for him to exit the show.

"This was a difficult decision because I have loved the show from the start but there are other things that I would like to do in the future, and there's some family that I need to take care of and 18 years is a long time," Spencer said in a roundtable interview in October. (The Australian actor starred on House before jumping straight into Chicago Fire.) "I was marking off these milestones and looking to the future … and it was time."

Spencer, who has been a part of the show since it premiered in 2012, said he "couldn't have asked for anything more" on his final day on set, filming on the "burn stage" for a scene.

"It was a kind of fitting way to finish out on the burn stage. We're a fire show," he said. "We started with fire and we ended with it."

02 of 17

Mark Harmon on NCIS

LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 10: "Once A Hero" - When suspicious activity surrounds the death of a decorated Marine veteran, the NCIS team (Mark Harmon) works to clear his name, on NCIS, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images)
Cliff Lipson/CBS Photo Archive via Getty

After 18 seasons, Harmon parted ways with the hit CBS series in October — but maybe not forever. The star played the beloved Special Agent Jethro Gibbs since the show began in 2003, and his character got to say goodbye by deciding to stay in Alaska indefinitely after solving a case.

"I'm not going back, Tim," he told Special Agent Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) while fishing. "I'm not going back home."

Although the departure marks an end of an era for the star, executive producer Steven Binder told PEOPLE in an October statement, "As long-time fans of the show may have noticed over the years…never count Leroy Jethro Gibbs out."

03 of 17

Damian Lewis on Billions

Damian Lewis as Bobby "Axe" Axelrod in BILLIONS “No Direction Home”.
Laurence Cendrowicz/SHOWTIME

Leading man Bobby Axelrod is signing off. Billions star Lewis confirmed the news in October that he would be leaving the Showtime drama after five seasons.

Thanking the network and series co-creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien, the actor tweeted, "A pleasure and a privilege to play Axe for five seasons with some of the smartest, funniest most talented cast and crew I've worked with. I'll miss the Billions family."

He added, "Yep, some jobs are more than just a job…. Love."

04 of 17

Emily VanCamp on The Resident

FOX’s The Resident – Emily VanCamp

After four seasons, the actress ended her time as nurse practitioner Nic Nevin ahead of the medical drama's season 5 premiere. VanCamp opened up to Deadline in October about how prioritizing family influenced her decision to leave.

"I think there comes a moment in every woman's life — in every person's life — where it becomes less about work and more about family," she told the outlet, "and that's what happened while I was making the show. Doing that many episodes in a different city and then you add COVID to that, most of us couldn't see our families for almost a year. It really solidified for me that family is where my heart is at the moment."

Season 5 premiered on Sept. 21 without VanCamp's character, who was said to have been away at a spa before an accident left her with a brain injury.

VanCamp and husband Josh Bowman welcomed their first child together in August 2021.

05 of 17

Torrey DeVitto & Yaya DaCosta on Chicago Med

Torrey DeVitto and Yaya DaCosta
Elizabeth Sisson/NBCU

DeVitto and DaCosta shared that they were leaving their longtime roles as Dr. Natalie Manning and Nurse April Sexton after six seasons.

"It has been such an honor and pure joy to bring Dr. Natalie Manning to life for all of you on Chicago Med for the past 6 seasons. But it is now time for her and me to bow out and say goodbye," DeVitto wrote on Instagram in May.

DaCosta ended her farewell note on Instagram in May, writing, "I'm going to miss everyone dearly, and of course, all of you who watch the show religiously and have also become part of the One Chicago family. With love and gratitude... farewell 🙏🏾"

06 of 17

Kellan Lutz on FBI: Most Wanted

kellan lutz
Mark Schäfer/CBS via Getty Images

In September, Lutz explained why he decided to leave the CBS crime drama in a lengthy statement on Instagram. Lutz made the announcement following the season 3 premiere of FBI: Most Wanted, which saw his character Kenny Crosby get shot and leave his law enforcement team in order to recover.

"Wow. What a night! And yes, you saw that correctly, Crosby won't be chasing down any bad guys for a little while," the actor wrote.

"2020 was a lot for everyone to say the least. For me it started with losing my first daughter, then nearly my wife, and both grandfathers among other things, all in the middle of a global pandemic on the opposite side of the country from my family, friends, and entire support system," he shared.

"If 2020 taught me anything it's how important family truly is," Lutz continued. "After a lot of prayer and reflection I made the difficult decision to move my growing family back to CA so our daughter could grow up with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, just a short drive away."

He ended his note, writing, "I hope Crosby is able to pop in and out here and there in the future but for now- Crosby-over and out. 💪🙏♥️🙌😎"

07 of 17

Megan Boone on The Blacklist

megan boone
Will Hart/NBC

Boone's exit was discussed with The Blacklist writers early on, which made it possible to complete her story ahead of the show's season 8 finale. The actress played Liz Keen opposite James Spader on the long-running NBC show, which leaves Spader, Diego Klattenhoff and Harry Lennix as the remaining original cast, according to Deadline.

After eight years on the show, Boone reflected on her time playing Liz in an emotional statement on Instagram.

"This experience, for me, has been an entire life inside of my own life. These eight years playing Liz Keen have helped me better define the world and myself, as she set out to do the same," Boone wrote in June.

"There have been such an astounding abundance of you over my 150+ episodes that, ironically, I could not list you all here, but… What a list. What a dream. Thank you all," she ended her note.

08 of 17

Tom Cavanagh on The Flash

Tom Cavanagh
Diyah Pera/The CW

Ahead of the CW show's eighth season, Cavanagh decided to officially leave. His exit was originally supposed to be during season 6 but with the pandemic interfering with filming, the star, who played several versions of scientist Harrison Wells, stayed on to end his storyline during the first three episode of season 7, Variety reported in May.

09 of 17

Carlos Valdes on The Flash

carlos valdes
Bettina Strauss/The CW

Valdes, who started the series as Francisco "Cisco" Ramon, is another series regular who departed from the show, following the season 7 finale. Although it's sad to see both Valdes and Tom Cavanagh go, showrunner Eric Wallace said in a statement that they will always be welcomed back for future appearances, according to Variety.

"Tom and Carlos have been an integral part of our show for seven seasons, and will be greatly missed," Wallace said in the statement. "Both are incredible talents who created beloved characters that fans and audiences around the world have come to love. Which is why we are happily keeping the door open for return appearances."

10 of 17

Alan Ritchson on Titans

alan ritchson
Ben Mark Holzberg/HBO Max

The star opened up to EW in September about how he felt leaving the HBO Max drama as Hawk/Hank Hall after three seasons.

"Would I return to Titans? Yes. Do I feel like I found closure and peace? Absolutely," Ritchson told the outlet. "So I'm satisfied if I never return and grateful for the time that I had."

Ritchson will next play Jack Reacher in Amazon Prime Video's upcoming series, Reacher, premiering Feb. 4.

11 of 17

Madeleine Mantock on Charmed

Madeleine Mantock
Colin Bentley/The CW

Mantock called her series exit a "difficult decision" after announcing in July that she would be leaving after the season 3 finale.

"Playing Macy on Charmed for the last three seasons has been an immense privilege and I have so enjoyed working with our fantastic producers, creatives, cast and crew," Mantock said in a statement. "I'm incredibly grateful to The CW and CBS Studios for my time on the show and for being a brilliant support in my difficult decision to leave. Huge thanks to our fans who can look forward to, what I know will be, a spectacular fourth season."

12 of 17

Antonia Thomas on The Good Doctor

Jeff Weddell/ABC via Getty Images

Thomas, who played Dr. Claire Browne since the start of the ABC drama, said she was "really lucky enough to walk away with real friends" upon leaving after four seasons, Deadline reported in June. Although it's goodbye for now, it might not mean forever.

When the star was asked if she would return, she said, "Absolutely."

"I've had conversations with Freddie about coming back, and absolutely, yes," she told the outlet about chatting with costar Freddie Highmore. "Really for me, if there was more time in the year to be able to shoot the show and to be able to go off and do some of the other things that I'm wanting to explore now, I'd do both. It has not been an easy decision for me to leave, so I absolutely would love to come back every now and then and say hi, bring Claire's skills from Guatemala and her stories. I'm very much looking forward to that."

13 of 17

Kristian Alfonoso on Days of Our Lives

Kristian Alfonso
NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

After an incredible run of 37 years on the NBC soap opera, Alfonso discussed why she decided to leave and why she won't ever be coming back in the Aug. 3 cover story of Soap Opera Digest.

Alfonoso first thought of leaving around the time she lost her dad in 2016, but decided to stay on until recently. She said that she had "been really enjoying my time home with my family and catching up with my friends. It just gave me time to really reflect."

Once she made the decision to walk away, she told the outlet, "I felt a sense of relief. It's been a roller coaster, for sure."

As for the possibility of a future return, the actress said that won't happen.

"No, I'm not coming back. I've had a great run and so many wonderful moments on the show and worked with so many wonderful people, met so many wonderful people," she told Soap Opera Digest. "It's time for me to start a new chapter professionally. The time has come."

14 of 17

Emily Wickersham on NCIS

Emily Wickersham
Emily Wickersham in NCIS. Bill Inoshita/CBS via Getty

Wickersham is out as special agent Ellie Bishop following the season 18 finale of NCIS. CBS confirmed Wickersham's exit to PEOPLE in May.

"Hangin this hat and jacket up. What a great ride it's been," the star, who joined the show during season 11 in 2013, wrote alongside a series of black-and-white photos from the set.

"This cast, this crew, are top notch," she continued. "I can't say enough kind words about this group that I've had the pleasure of working with for close to 8 years now and 172 episodes later. This business is finicky and weird and consistency is a rarity. I've been lucky enough to be a part of a show where I got to show up and act and laugh and learn with wonderful people. A moment in time I surely won't forget."

"Thank you CBS and NCIS for including me in a part of television history," Wickersham concluded. "Time goes fast. Eat it up but chew slowly. ❤️#ncis #cbs."

15 of 17

Jesse Williams on Grey's Anatomy

Meredith grey jackson avery
Jesse Williams on Grey's Anatomy. Kelsey McNeal/Walt Disney Television

Williams first appeared as plastic surgeon Dr. Jackson Avery in season 6, and said his final farewell to Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital during season 12 in May.

"I will forever be grateful for the boundless opportunities provided me by Shonda, the network, studio, fellow cast mates, our incredible crew, Krista, Ellen and Debbie," the actor said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE, referring to creator Shonda Rhimes, showrunner Krista Vernoff and co-stars Ellen Pompeo and Debbie Allen.

"As an actor, director and person, I have been obscenely lucky to learn so much from so many and I thank our beautiful fans, who breathe so much energy and appreciation into our shared worlds," he continued.

16 of 17

Mark Consuelos on Riverdale

Mark Consuelos as Hiram Lodge RIVERDALE
The CW

After four seasons of playing Hiram Lodge, the villainous father to ​​Camila Mendes' Veronica Lodge, Consuelos' time on Riverdale has come to an end. The actor bid farewell to his character in a statement in October.

"First and foremost, I would like to thank Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa for this incredible opportunity," he said. "Never before has playing a character that was so bad, felt so good. Huge thanks to the Riverdale fandom, to the brilliant crew and amazing cast, whom I consider dear friends and family."

17 of 17

Regé-Jean Page on Bridgerton

Adjoa Andoh and Regé-Jean Page in Bridgerton. LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

Although Page was only on the popular series for one season, fans were shocked to learn that he would not be returning as Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings, for season two. However, Page told Variety that he never planned on returning; the role was originally pitched to him as a one-season commitment, he said, which was a big part of its appeal.

"It's a one-season arc. It's going to have a beginning, middle, end — give us a year," said Page, who was only contracted for one season of the show, recounting his early conversations with producers about the role. "[I thought] 'That's interesting,' because then it felt like a limited series. I get to come in, I get to contribute my bit and then the Bridgerton family rolls on."

Netflix renewed Bridgerton for a second season in January (and later, added a third and fourth). The new season will follow Lord Anthony Bridgerton, played by Jonathan Bailey, as he attempts to find a wife. Simone Ashley has been cast as his love interest, Kate Sharma.

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