9 Celebrities Who Walked Out On Popular Shows To Good And Bad Results For Their Career

August 19, 2013  |  
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When I heard last week that Laura Prepon, who plays Alex Vause on Orange Is The New Black, was leaving the show because she hadn’t signed a contract to be tied down to the second season, I was heartbroken. Not literally, but you get my attempt to be over-dramatic. Of course, she’s not the main character, but she’s the main reason Piper is in prison, and the sexual tension between Piper and Alex was a big part of the whole shabang. So what is she going to do next? Who knows. But she’s not the first famous person to drop out of a popular television show at its peak thinking the show needs them more than they need it. Sometimes these stars move on to bigger and better things. And sometimes…well, their careers end up at a standstill. Here are a few folks who left their massive hit shows to good and bad results.


Tisha Campbell-Martin

Talk about making and breaking a show. When Tisha Campbell Martin started appearing less and less during season four to the point that she disappeared and only re-appeared in the last three episodes of the series (but not in the same scenes with Martin Lawrence), it really flipped the show upside down. The focus became less about Martin and Gina, and more about Pam, Tommy, Cole, and a lot of other story-lines that just weren’t as interesting. Of course, she left the show in 1997 saying that she had been sexually harassed by Lawrence and that the work environment had become too tense to work in. She even filed a lawsuit. After parting ways with the show, Campbell-Martin went on to do the movie Sprung and had cameos and guest appearances in different movies and TV shows here and there. Her career definitely received a resurgence when she starred as Janet “Jay” Kyle on the ABC comedy, My Wife and Kids. She also had a role on the short-lived series, The Protector on Lifetime.


Dave Chappelle

Perhaps one of the biggest show departures ever, who can forget when Dave Chappelle left behind Chappelle’s Show in 2005? After an epic second season, everybody and their mothers knew Dave Chappelle’s name and his memorable skits, so many that it was a bother to the comedian. Chappelle did a stand-up act the year he decided to leave the show behind where he admitted to the crowd that despite its success, “The show is ruining my life.” It was supposed to come back for season three in May of 2005, but Chappelle left it behind for a trip to South Africa to just mentally rejuvenate himself. Since then, Chappelle has released Dave Chappelle’s Block Party and appeared on Oprah, but aside from that, he’s done stand-up, bulked up, and seems happier than ever living the reclusive life.


Lisa Bonet

Bonet has of course departed from two popular shows in her lifetime. Once on her own, the other…by being forced out. She was originally the central focus of A Different World, but she left after season one when she became pregnant with daughter Zoe, with then-husband Lenny Kravitz. Bonet would later try to make a return to the Cosby Show soon after departing from A Different World (a pregnant central character on World was just too much for TV back then), but by 1991, the show that made her a star fired her due to “creative differences” and didn’t ask her to even return for the series finale.

After she left A Different World, the focus then went to Whitley (Jasmine Guy), Dwayne (Kadeem Hardison) and the other colorful cast of characters at Hillman College. It wound up being a major success. Since leaving TV sitcoms, Bonet has been in just a handful of movies and had a few guest TV roles over the years. But mostly, she’s decided to focus on being a wife (to hottie actor Jason Momoa) and mother.

Jill Marie Jones PF

Jill Marie Jones

Toni Childs was not the most beloved character on the popular show Girlfriends, but you can’t deny that when she left the program in 2006, her absence was felt (the ratings declined after she left as well). After leaving in season six due to the end of her contract, it was assumed (and spoken by Mara Brock Akil) that Jones just didn’t want to return. However, Jones said in an interview that she would have been open to returning, but just wanted to explore film options first. Unfortunately, she never returned. Since then, Jones has done some films, including The Perfect Holiday and The Longshots, and she even had a small role in American Horror Story: Asylum, but we wouldn’t say folks have been knocking down her door with roles. We miss seeing her face on TV!

Ian Wilson/WENN

George Clooney

Leaving ER might have been the smartest decision for Clooney’s career, but at the time, it was an exit that left a lot of women getting their “Human Nature” on (“Why? WHY!?”). From 1994 to 1999, Clooney played Dr. Doug Ross, and did so until his contract ended and he chose not to get it renewed so that he could focus on his flourishing film career. Clooney had already starred in films like From Dusk Til Dawn, Batman & Robin, and Out of Sight with Jennifer Lopez before his departure. But after leaving, his career exploded. The move was a genius idea, as he became one of Hollywood’s biggest actors, directors, producers, and ladies’ men.

Esther Rolle

Though Good Times was a hit with those looking for a different side of the African-American experience to be shown on television, some people weren’t too happy with the direction of the show, including its main two cast members. John Amos (who played James Evans) was fired after season three because of backstage drama with show producer Norman Lear. By season four, Esther Rolle was ready to be done with the show after being openly critical about the show’s reliance on the character of J.J., and how they dumbed him down for the camera. So she left, and when she did, the viewership for the show decreased big time. So producers reached back out to Rolle, and she cleaned the show up with her stipulations to return: Her salary was increased, the scripts were improved, and J.J. was made a more responsible character by the time Rolle returned for the last season.


Nikki Nelson / WENN.com


Tia Mowry Hardrict

Raise your hand if you still watch The Game.

I was one of those fans who actually watched The Game from the beginning, back when it premiered (and was subsequently canceled) on the CW. The storyline was great, the acting was good, and there were so many black faces! But by the time the show moved to BET, they decided to fast-forward the storyline and folks became shells of their former selves. Especially the character of Melanie, who became a sneaky, underhanded footballer’s wife. Maybe Mowry-Hardrict she realized this too, because she wound up leaving the show in 2012. Since then, Mowry has focused on her hit reality TV show Tia & Tamera, and is currently working on her new Nick at Nite program, Instant Mom. Definitely winning!

Image Source: WENN.com

Katherine Heigl

If there’s anything you can learn from Katherine Heigl, it’s that you shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds you. Despite having won an Emmy Award for her role as Izzie Stevens on Grey’s Anatomy, by the 2008-2009 season, she was ready to go and asking for a lighter work schedule. To make things more dramatic, she started talking crap about the show’s writers. Heigl took her name off of the list for Emmy contention in 2008, blaming show writers: “I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention. In addition, I did not want to potentially take away an opportunity from an actress who was given such materials.”

Though she went on to stay on the show until 2010, she made an agreement with Shonda Rhimes to be released from her contract as soon as possible after not showing up to work that year. She has since tried to focus on film, but unfortunately, she hasn’t had a box office winner since 2007’s Knocked Up, which she did while still on Grey’s. Ironically, she went on to call the popular movie a little “sexist”…

Source: Brian To/WENN.com

Tracee Ellis Ross

Reed Between The Lines wasn’t necessarily the number one show on television, but for a BET comedy, it actually did pretty well! Unfortunately, Ellis Ross chose to dip out from the show in 2012 for what was reportedly the chance to star on an NBC pilot called Bad Girls about women in federal prison. Unfortunately, seeing as how that news dropped a year later and we haven’t seen this show on NBC (and instead have been blessed with Orange Is The New Black), we’ll just assume plans fell through…

Since then, Ross hasn’t really been in anything except for the Lifetime movie Five. She is focusing on her website, and Reed Between The Lines is literally just at a standstill.

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