15 Actors Who Sensationally Quit Their TV Shows

Celebs November 27, 2017 By Hugo

Landing yourself a leading role on a hit TV series is the stuff of dreams for any jobbing actor. Granted, it may not have the kudos that comes from being an A-list movie star, but it's certainly the next best thing.

However, judging by these actors, having your artistic dreams fulfilled can pose problems of a different kind. Here are 15 high-profile actors who sensationally quit their TV shows.

1. Steve Carrell- The Office

Ricky Gervais always pokes fun at Steve Carrell for making a name out of his own TV show, which first achieved success as a British sitcom that Gervais both wrote, starred and directed, but the American equivalent's success was just as astronomical and gave its lead actor Steve Carrell, who portrays the idiosyncratic office boss Gervais did, A-list status.


Of course, achieving A-list status as a TV actor often means movies are only around the corner, a reality which prompted Carrell to take on more movie roles and leave the famous role behind. Because of this, the final season only saw guest bosses instead, although he did make a surprise return for the show's final episode.

2. Rob Lowe- The West Wing

Rob Lowe has always been an actor ubiquitous to American audiences yet his ascent into the A-list never truly materialised, but he did achieve both critical and commercial success on Aron Sorkin's brilliant show, The West Wing. 

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After three seasons, however, he left due to unreasonable salary demands, and ever since Lowe's career has never been the same, with guest starring roles in Californication and a bit part in Parks and Recreation providing little solace.

3. Shelley Long- Cheers!

Cheers! was a massive hit, and it remains one of the most successful TV shows of all time, with its ample Emmy nominations setting the gold standard for well-done television.

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Though with such success comes the possibility of even more, which was likely the reason behind the departure of one of its main stars, Shelley Long who quit after four seasons in search of movie stardom. Not that it worked. In fact, casting aside the cult classic Beverley Hills Cop, Long's film career withered away, and with that, her career did too.

4. David Duchovny- The X-Files

This handsome stud has made a $60m fortune following the success of his roles in the hit shows The X-Files and Californication, while notable parts in movies like Evolution also boosted his silver screen presence. But back in 1996, Duchovny thought 20th Century Fox wasn't sharing out the show's immense success with the actors and decided to leave after six seasons.

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He did return alongside his co-star Gillian Anderson in 2016, but his career, at least on the screen, never fulfilled its initial promise and instead found continued success on the small screen playing the role of the hedonist writer Hank Moody on Showtime's Californication.  

5. Suzanne Somers- Three's Company

Remember Three's Company? It was pretty much a show about two jarring girls and a dude living in a Santa Barbara flat, but it was nonetheless a hit, with Suzanne Somer's ditzy character Chrisy Snow proving a favourite with audiences.

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Despite the success of the show, contract negotiations over a new salary stalled, and with that so did Snow's storyline until producers eventually fired her.

However, in a 2014 interview, Somers aimed to dispell the myth that she left the show out of greed, and instead said her decision "cost her millions of dollars" but still made the decision to walk because of the unequal levels of pay that were being offered in comparison to male stars on lesser-known TV shows.

6. Charlie Sheen- Two and a Half Men

Despite Sheen earning a mammoth $2m an episode at the peak of the show's success, Sheen regularly insulted the series creator Chuck Lorre in interviews which may have been the motivating factor behind his dismissal.

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What followed was a short-lived stint on Anger Managment before its cancellation in 2014, and three years on, Sheen's career looks all but over. 

7. Christopher Abbott- Girls

Lena Dunham's hit HBO show Girls is coming up to its sixth and final season next month, but the show suffered from politics and in-fighting in only its first season when Marnie's clingy and overbearing boyfriend portrayed by Christopher Abbot refused to be a part of the show's second season.

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Explaining that he didn't see eye-to-eye with the character, Abbot left but did make surprise guest appearances in seasons three and five once he knew his acting career probably wasn't working out the way he had hoped it would.

8. Jeff Conaway- Taxi

Jeff Conaway is a name most people would recognise because along with Danny Devito, Conway was one of Taxi's star actors. The show, which spanned five seasons and numerous Emmys, followed employees working at a New York City taxi company dreaming of bigger and better things, which is quite ironic when you realise Conaway's departure stemmed from wanting to leave the show behind and become a movie star.


The actor even went as far as admitting that his acting chops made those around him look bad though once he got his wish, he struggled to find good roles. Conaway died in 2011, aged 60. 

9. Sherry Stringfield- ER

While most actors leave shows in pursuit of movie stardom or roles they feel are more befitting of their newfound status, Sherry Stringfield was quite the opposite and after two seasons wanted nothing more than to leave the hit show, ER.

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Having confessed to being miserable on set (despite working with George Clooney every day), Stringfield was granted her wish but had to sign a contract barring her from working on TV for a good few years.

10. McLean Stevenson- M*A*S*H

McLean Stevenson left M*A*S*H after two seasons because he intended to seek new roles away from the show, but as is the case with most on this list, his risk failed to pay off.

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Speaking about his decision, the late actor admitted to The L.A. Times that leaving the show was a mistake.

11. Michael MoriartyLaw & Order

Taking a political stance in Hollywood seems to be in vogue following Donald Trump's controversial election victory late last year, but it wasn't always that way, as Micahel Moriarty of Law & Order found out.


Encouraging other actors like himself to speak out against the U.S Attorney General at the time, Janet Reno, who fervently believed in television censorship, Moriarty was dismayed that no one else in Hollywood wanted to speak out so decided to move to Canada, a place that will likely be populated by half of Hollywood if the dissatisfaction towards President Trump continues.  

12. Farrah Fawcett- Charlie's Angels

Farrah Fawcett established herself as not only a famous actress in the 1970s but a sex symbol too once the success of season one's Charlie's Angels took off, but Fawcett quickly jumped ship.

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The reason behind her departure is unknown with some believing her move was geared towards a quick jump to movies while others speculated the strain of filming the TV show had impacted on her marriage to Lee Majors.

13. Shannen Doherty- Charmed

Shannen Doherty already had a reputation for being an on-set diva when she left the hit show, Beverley Hills, 90210 following a fist fight with cast member Jennie Garth, which Tori Spelling, another actress on the show who didn't like Doherty, admitted was one of the reasons she got her fired because it gave her an excuse to ask her father and producer of the show, Arron Spelling, to fire her.

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But Doherty's troubles with cast members wouldn't end there. After landing a role in what would become the hit series, Charmed, producers fired her after continued fights with her co-star Alyssa Milano. 

14. Pamela Anderson- Baywatch

Pamela Anderson was just a jobbing Canadian actress and glamour model before she relocated to Los Angeles and landed the iconic role of C.J. Parker on the NBC series Baywatch. However, after five years of frolicking around in a bikini and being the lust of millions of teenage boys,  Pamela Anderson made the bold decision to quit the show.

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But the decision would prove the beginning of the end of Anderson's once-promising acting career, and though she starred on the show VIP for four seasons her credits after Baywatch were mostly in bad B-movies.

15. Katherine Heigl- Grey's Anatomy

While Katherine Heigl never quit Grey's Anatomy, her candid views on the writing suggested she wanted to be shown the door. After all, when an actor receives an Emmy nomination, their typical response is one of gratitude, but Grey's Anatomy star Katherine Heigl made the unusual decision to withdraw her Emmy nomination in 2008 because she thought the writing wasn't up to scratch!

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In her very own words, she stated, "I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination." 

Unsuprinslgly, the insulted writers gave her character skin cancer, and Dr. Stevens was no more.

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