The 7 Ways Actors Leave TV Shows
THEY MAKE A LIFE CHANGE
We're talking bigger than breakups: A new baby, new relationship, family crisis – something that makes people uproot their lives. When Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones were itching to leave Parks and Recreation, their characters, Ann Perkins and Chris Traeger, made the decision to move out of town. And when Steve Carrell's Michael Scott was ready to clock out of The Office, he followed his fiancée home to Colorado to help take care of her elderly parents. Sure, it's less traumatic than a breakup or death, but not an easier way to say goodbye to your faves.
THEY GO THROUGH A BREAKUP
When The Office's Roy and Pam split, audiences only saw Roy (David Denman) in a few more episodes. Similarly, when Aidan and Carrie broke up again in Sex and the City, John Corbett was given the very stylish boot (save for a post-breakup run-in). And when Preston (Isaiah Washington) of Grey's Anatomy left Cristina at the altar, he left the show, too. A split may not be the way most main characters go (Ross and Rachel stuck around after separating on Friends, as did Ted and Robin on How I Met Your Mother), but if a supporting star wants out, a split makes for a clean break – for both actor and character.
THEY GO AWAY TO SCHOOL
The end of high school has been the kiss of death for many a teen series (no offense, Glee), but for a star looking to leave, it's an easy exit. Gilmore Girls saw this happen with two supporting characters: Rory's military school-bound Chilton classmate Tristan (Chad Michael Murray, en route to One Tree Hill), and Dave Rygalski, Lane's bandmate and boyfriend, who departed for college on the west coast (fitting, since the actor who portrayed him, Adam Brody, then popped up on The O.C.).
THEY SWITCH JOBS
In a show where the setting is a workplace (think Grey's or The Office), an easy way to give a character the pink slip is to have them simply get a new job. Ally McBeal's Georgia made fewer and fewer appearances after she left the show's central law firm, Cage amp Fish. Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy's Cristina Yang) left Grey Sloan Memorial to go run a hospital in Switzerland. It happens in shows that aren't set in the professional world, too: When Topher Grace exited That '70s Show, his character, Eric Forman, ditched his Wisconsin hometown to pursue a teaching career in Africa.
THEY GET SICK …
Sicknesses suck: Audiences are stuck seeing the characters they love suffer, knowing the inevitable is just a few episodes away. Take Dawson's Creek's Jen Lindley (Michelle Williams), who passed away from heart disease in the show's series finale, or Six Feet Under's Nate Fisher (Peter Krause), who died of a brain ailment just a few episodes before his series finale. And when Gil Bellows decided to leave Ally McBeal to pursue other projects, his character, Billy Thomas, was diagnosed with – and eventually succumbed to – a brain tumor. Harsh.
… OR THEY DIE
Talk about a shake-up: A death is definitely a dramatic way to let a character or actor go, change the direction of surviving characters' plotlines and leave fans polarized. A few memorable examples? Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton, who wanted to pursue a film career) perishing in a fiery car crash on The O.C.; showrunners getting their revenge on Charlie Sheen by seemingly dropping a piano on his Two and a Half Men character; and most recently, Patrick Dempsey's Derek Shepherd, who flatlined on Grey's.
THEY FALL INTO AN ENDLESS COMA
SPOILER ALERT After Nina Dobrev announced her imminent departure from The Vampire Diaries, fans were waiting to find out how she'd go. But instead of falling into one of the much-used tropes from the previous slides, Elena Gilbert is destined to spend her time teetering between life and death. Her existence is now linked to that of Bonnie (Kat Graham), her best friend, meaning that while Bonnie is alive, Elena can't be.