It’s easy to imagine that stars have a protective shield around them. We think that with great celebrity and fame comes power and protection. That’s not always the case, however, as some of your favorite stars have been given the axe even during the heights of their careers. Many of them probably – albeit, falsely – believe that the power they receive after having a hit on their hands can make them invincible. But at the end of the day, stars are just like us and they can get fired for any reason. If the big boss doesn’t like what’s going on on their sets, anyone can get caught in the crosshairs.
Take Charlie Sheen, for example. The controversial actor was one of the highest paid actors on TV at the time that he was bumped from his high-rated sitcom Two and a Half Men. After throwing tantrums and creating a hostile working environment, the suits at the top got rid of him. He quickly learned that he’s not actually invincible. Other stars on this list left their shows for other reasons altogether – creative differences, scheduling issues, etc. Because of its nature, however, all of these firings led to media speculation. Check out the most public conflicts these stars had that led to them getting the boot.
Isaiah Washington (Grey’s Anatomy)
Just a few years after Grey’s Anatomy took primetime network television by storm, the medical drama was struck with controversy. After actor Isaiah Washington allegedly used an extremely hateful anti-LGBT term against co-star T.R. Knight, boss Shonda Rhimes fired him from the show. The show was such a huge hit at the time and the press relentlessly reported on the very public firing. Years later he commented on the debacle that made headlines nationwide back in 2007. “Contrary to popular belief, I’m glad it happened,” Washington told reporters in 2014. “Now I’m a better husband, a better father, better business person, better producer for it.” We certainly wonder if Washington and Rhimes will ever work together again.
Leah Remini (The Talk)
After the hilarious and feisty Leah Remini’s hit series The King of Queens wrapped production back in 2007 she took a break to focus on what she wanted to do next. In 2010 she was cast in the morning talk show The Talk as one of the original hosts. After the first season wrapped and she was not brought back, she took to Twitter to criticize co-host Sharon Osbourne for the decision. Osbourne responded by claiming that it was Remini’s attitude that led to the boot. Fortunately for Remini she’s doing just fine – her controversial A&E docu-series detailing her (and others’) exodus from her self-described cult won an Emmy last year.
Selma Blair (Anger Management)
Following a very public feud with Charlie Sheen on the short-lived sitcom Anger Management, he successfully got her fired from the show. Deadline reported that the controversial actor allegedly sent an extremely offensive and expletive text to Blair saying that she was out. The Legally Blonde star was apparently very open about Sheen’s incredibly inappropriate behavior on set and when word got to Sheen that she was unhappy with his tactics, he retaliated. Her career didn’t suffer a blow fortunately and will next star in the upcoming horror thriller film The Great Illusion.
Valerie Harper (Valerie)
In Hollywood, just because your own name is the name of the show, doesn’t necessarily mean your job is safe. Actress Valerie Harper was fired from her own series and the show’s title went from Valerie to The Harper Family. After a salary dispute with the network executives over at NBC she was fired as a result. She retaliated by suing them and although the charges were dismissed, the jury found that Harper was correct in that NBC wrongfully fired her. They were forced to pay her a large sum in compensation.
Jenny McCarthy (The View)
The View producers brought on Jenny McCarthy knowing her controversial views on anti-vaccinations. Her views were so divisive that they actually stemmed protests across the country and as a result she was bumped from the show. After her exit she told Andy Cohen on What What Happens Live that the producers wanted the show to go in a different direction than what she had in mind. She said that she didn’t feel like she could be herself on the morning talk show.
Columbus Short (Scandal)
This firing surely holds up the show’s title. Columbus Short was one of the leads in Shonda Rhimes’ hit series Scandal but was abruptly fired after the show’s third season. Following a very public and abusive blow up with his wife, dancer Tanee McCall, at the time Rhimes had enough and gave him the axe. He later confirmed the abuse and added that he also was dealing with serious substance abuse issues at the time as well.
Erinn Hayes (Kevin Can Wait)
Although there was much hubbub over the firing of Kevin James’s wife abrupt death over at his show Kevin Can Wait, he went on to explain actress Erinn Hayes’s exit. “We were literally just running out of ideas,” he told Vanity Fair. Fans speculated that she was fired to make room for new series regular, and James’s former co-star, Leah Remini but he denied the rumors. Hayes is doing just fine, thank you for asking. She will next star in the Amazon comedy series The Dangerous Book for Boys.
John Amos (Good Times)
Good Times set out to be ahead of its time by tackling social and racial issues most often left untouched in the sitcom world. John Amos had some concerns about the direction the show was heading in, however, and set out to make things right. When he went to the show’s creator with his concerns, he was suddenly booted from the show. He defended his choice to raise concerns about the racial elements he disagreed with years later in an a 2017 interview with Oprah.
Cindy Williams (Laverne and Shirley)
Again – just because you may star as the title character in your own TV show, doesn’t mean your safe from getting the axe. Cindy Williams played the lovable Shirley on the hit sitcom Laverne and Shirley. After she became pregnant, the producers were inpatient and unwilling to accommodate her. The hold up as a result created additional tensions with co-star Penny Marshall and the network fired her. Marshall went on to wrap up the series without Williams.
Brian Williams (NBC Nightly News)
The most important value for a journalist to possess is honesty. The journalist must dedicate themselves to seeking and reporting the truth. When Brian Williams failed to hold up his pledge after lying about a news report that he was involved in a helicopter crash while covering the Iraq war. Turns out that event never happened and after some serious controversy he was fired from NBC Nightly News. He issued an apology and after some time off he did eventually return to the air.
Mackenzie Phillips (One Day at a Time)
Actress Mackenzie Phillips dealt with a number of issues while working on the hit sitcom One Day at a Time. In her memoir High on Arrival she discusses candidly her addiction issues throughout her life. After her substance abuse trickled into her work (she missed rehearsals on the show) she was fired by the network. In her memoir she wrote: “My priorities were so screwed up that I walked out of here thinking that it was roughly the equivalent of losing the phone book. You can always get another one.”
Lisa Bonet (A Different World)
When actress Lisa Bonet was offered her own spin-off show of The Cosby Show, she was unstoppable. Fans and the network were eager to see the gorgeous talent reprise her role. When she became pregnant, however, the network refused to accommodate her. Instead they fired her from her own TV series and brought the attention of the series to her co-stars Kadeem Hardison and Jasmine Guy instead. She last appeared in the hit Showtime thriller series Ray Donovan.
Robert Downey, Jr. (Ally McBeal)
Now that you know Robert Downey, Jr. from his star-reviving performance as Tony Stark in the Iron Man and Avengers films it’s hard to remember his deeply troubled, and well-documented past. For years the actor faced troubles with the law and his own health as a result of his illegal substance abuse issues. While working on the hit drama Ally McBeal, he was fired as the romantic lead after being under the influence on set.
Thomas Gibson (Criminal Minds)
Fans were bummed to learn that their favorite Thomas Gibson was fired from the crime procedural Criminal Minds. His firing brought to light a number of issues the temperamental actor had with producers on the show. In one alleged incident, in fact, he even kicked one of the producers. As a result of dealing with a number of issues with the producers, the network had had enough. They fired him and the actor went on to attend anger management.
Janet Hubert (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
Janet Hubert and star/producer Will Smith butt heads on the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. So much so, in fact, that Hubert was eventually fired from the set. After cutting her episodes – and her paycheck – in half she refused to adhere to the networks demands. When they fired her she blamed Smith for the decision. He says it was her attitude that led to the decision. We may never know the true reasons for her firing but at least we have the show in syndication today.
Shannen Doherty (Beverly Hills, 90210)
For years Shannen Doherty was a tabloid fixture for her on-set behavior and heavy partying during her peak stardom in the ’90s. Gossip columnists loved to write and speculate about her antics. Her disagreeable behavior caught up with her on the set of Beverly Hills, 90210. After dealing with several fallouts with her fellow actors and showing up late for work, the network had had enough and she was cut from the series. Years later she was fired from another TV series, Charmed, after fighting her co-star Alyssa Milano.
Suzanne Somers (Three’s Company)
Suzanne Somers created an empire as an actress, model, self-help guru, and entrepreneur. At the height of her career she was starring on the hit sitcom Three’s Company. She was eventually kicked off after she demanded a whopping 500% pay increase. On top of that she demanded the network give her 10% of the show’s entire ownership – yikes! When they declined she retaliated by not even bothering to show up to work. The network called her bluff and fired her from the show altogether.
Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men)
Now back to troublemaker Charlie Sheen. He is notorious for his wild and inappropriate behavior on and off the set. While battling substance abuse issues during the peak of Two and a Half Men he also demanded a 50% pay increase. CBS was exhausted by the actor and couldn’t take anymore. They decided to fire him and bring in new actors and bump up his co-stars visibility to compensate for the loss of the wild actor.
Stana Katic (Castle)
The circumstances around Stana Katic’s firing from Castle were more ambiguous than some of the other high-profile exits on this list. It is rumored, however, that she and costar Nathan Fillion just couldn’t get along. It was even reported that the two (who were never romantically-involved) were sent to couple’s therapy to work out the issues that plagued the set. At the end of the day the network fired her. She later commented on the debacle: “it hurt and it was a harsh ending.”
Chandler Riggs (The Walking Dead)
The Walking Dead is still one of TV’s highest rated shows today. Fans just can’t get enough of those creepy zombies. A brief scandal struck the cast though when Chandler Riggs was abruptly written off the series after his character suffered a lethal bite from an enemy. The young actor’s father was vocal in criticizing the network for the decision to fire him two weeks before his 18th birthday. “I never trusted [executive producer Scott] Gimple or AMC but Chandler did,” he said. “I know how much it hurt him.”
Jessica Biel (7th Heaven)
For years Jessica Biel was TV’s good girl. She starred as the sweet and innocent Mary on the family drama 7th Heaven. Eager to break out of the good girl mold the show put her in, she did a racy photoshoot for Gear magazine. The result was not great and the producers were displeased with the shots. As a result they limited the role her character played until eventually they scrapped Mary from the series altogether.
Adam Richman (Man Finds Food)
You know host Adam Richman for all those crazy eats on the hit Travel Channel shows Man v. Food and Amazing Eats. He made many angry when he posted a picture of himself in a suit that didn’t fit with the caption “thinspiration.” Many interpreted the post as Richman promoting poor body image ideas. He apologized for the gaff but not before the network pulled the plug on his show. They just didn’t want to mess with their squeaky clean image.
Mandy Patinkin (Criminal Minds)
Homeland’s Mandy Patinkin is an iconic actor on the both the Broadway stage and on your TV screens. He was cast as a lead role in the crime procedural Criminal Minds in 2005. He immediately regretted doing the show and the network fired him. He was very public about the decision. “The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to do Criminal Minds in the first place,” he said. “I thought it was something very different.”
Jay Thomas (Cheers)
Blink and you’ll miss it but Jay Thomas briefly portrayed hockey player Eddie LeBec on the classic sitcom Cheers. He was quickly removed, however, after making inappropriate comments about his co-star Rhea Perlman on his own radio show. When asked what it was like to work with his on-screen he spent a lot of time complaining about working with her. The network caught wind of the incident and booted him from the show. It’s also rumored that Perlman was listening the entire time.
Jeremy Clarkson (Top Gear)
Top Gear gained a huge following with the passionate and hyper-masculine hosts James May, Richard Hammond, and Jeremy Clarkson. Clarkson was known for his hot temper and eventually it became way too much for the network to bear. He made numerous controversial statements and even went as far as hitting a producer of the show. When he was sacked his co-hosts quit in protest and formed their own rival series called The Grand Tour as a result.
Patrick Dempsey (Grey’s Anatomy)
Here’s a PSA for any star leading a Shonda Rhimes show: no one is safe in Shondaland. Patrick Dempsey learned that the hard way when his character McDreamy was killed off the show. Rhimes was vague about the firing but she did tell comedian Larry Wilmore on his show that she did kill off a character on one of her shows because she didn’t like the actor. She didn’t clarify who she was talking about but many fans suspected she was referring to Dempsey.
Dominic Monaghan (Lost)
When Dominic Monaghan was killed off of the thriller series Lost, he understood the producer’s decision. “It’s a big cast and you don’t work as much as you would like. You get bored, you get frustrated, you get lazy, and your work suffers,” he said at the time. Many members of the main cast were killed off the show but none were as public as Monaghan’s exit. It was also rumored that he acted out on set and was difficult to work with.
Mischa Barton (The O.C.)
For years Mischa Barton dominated the headlines in teen magazines and blogs. Fans loved the charismatic Marissa Cooper in the smash teen drama The O.C. and couldn’t believe their eyes when they watched the lead character die in a car accident in only the show’s third season. According to rumors and sources at the time, Barton displayed poor and unprofessional behavior on set and was partying too hard when not filming. The network couldn’t afford the liability and they gave her character a grand finale.
Half the cast of Once Upon a Time
Sometimes actors really are fired for creative differences. After something just wasn’t working on the set of Once Upon a Time after its sixth season, the creators decided to shake the whole show up. They got rid of half of the cast including stars Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas and brought in new actors as new characters. This worked for the producers for another two more seasons but inevitably cancelled it after the eighth season due to low ratings.
John Rhys-Davies (Sliders)
John Rhys-Davies thought he was safe on the set of the ’90s sci-fi series Sliders even though he clashed regularly with the writers. He disagreed with many of the decisions the team made in regards to his character and the overall plot direction. He even went as far as refusing to recite the lines given to him. The network ordered his character to be written off after the debacle. We’re sure the writers were happy to oblige.
Michael Pitt (Boardwalk Empire)
Details aren’t entirely clear for why Michael Pitt was fired from Boardwalk Empire but he reportedly had a bad attitude and was unprofessional on set. He allegedly would show up to work without his lines memorized and spent more time on scenes than the directors wanted. He was fired by the show’s producer Martin Scorsese via email. During a bizarre conference call in which Pitt kept losing reception, Scorsese interpreted the dropped call as rudeness and cut him from the show.
Roseanne Barr (Roseanne)
The most recent explosive firing comes courtesy of the incredibly controversial Roseanne Barr. Despite her show Roseanne having some of the highest ratings on primetime, ABC decided to fire the comedian after she made yet another racist comment on her Twitter account. Although the network knew about Barr’s past they gave the revival of her show a chance until it became too much of a PR nightmare to continue. The show is currently in limbo with the potential to continue on without Barr.
Katherine Heigl (Grey’s Anatomy)
There’s yet more drama over at Shondaland. Former Grey’s Anatomy star Katherine Heigl very publicly positioned herself against the show’s writers and producers when she announced that she will take her name out of consideration for the Emmys because she didn’t think the material she received was good. Creator Shonda Rhimes didn’t take the news with stride and instead took it as a direct insult to her staff and subsequently fired the actress from the series. Although Heigl apologized to Rhimes that didn’t stop her getting killed off the show.
Paula Deen (Paula’s Home Cooking)
Paula Deen built an empire off the back of her sunny disposition and homestyle cooking. When she was caught making racist comments and creating a hostile work environment at her restaurants she apologized but couldn’t shake off the negative attention she received. As a result, The Food Network fired her from network and cancelled her home cooking show Paula’s Home Cooking. Although it certainly was a blow to her career at first she has since made TV appearances and even competed on Dancing with the Stars.
Lisa Kudrow (Frasier)
Who doesn’t love the adorably quirky Phoebe Buffay on Friends? Lisa Kudrow played her with such expert precision and wit it’s hard to believe any network would fire her from any project. Before Friends she was cast as Roz in another hit sitcom Frasier. After the pilot was screened for the network they decided that her performance just wasn’t working and they brought in Peri Gilpin to take the wheel. It was a blessing in disguise because she was then available for Friends.
Anita Barone (Friends)
While we’re on the topic, there was another highly publicized replacement over at Friends. Anita Barone played Ross’s ex wife Carol for the first season of the show but something just wasn’t working for the suits over at NBC. They decided to shake things up and replace her with Jane Sibbett instead. It was reported that Barone was hoping to become a series regular but the writers just didn’t need anyone else to overshadow the core group of six.
Kim Delaney (CSI: Miami)
Kim Delaney was a well-known actress by the time she was cast in CSI: Miami. Around that time she received a DUI charge and soon after that she was fired from the crime procedural after filming just 10 episodes. The show’s producers say the firing was a direct result of lack of chemistry between her and her male co-star David Caruso. After she was fired she returned to her previous stomping grounds over at another police procedural, NYPD Blue.
Lauren German (Chicago Fire)
Part of the nature of working as a television actor is that there is always the risk of your character getting killed off. This could happen for a number of reasons from salary disputes or just plain plot direction. Many times an actor is killed off to create surprises in the plot. It was a hard decision for showrunner Matt Olmstead to kill off Lauren German from Chicago Fire but says it was necessary to strike an emotional chord with the audience.
Jamie Lynn Spears (Zoey)
Britney’s younger sister Jamie Lynn Spears turned to acting to make her mark. For three years she led the Nickelodeon teen show Zoey 101. After news broke that the 16-year-old was pregnant the network thought it clashed too hard with their squeaky clean image and they cancelled the show. She took time off to focus on motherhood and returned years later following her sister’s footsteps. She released a number of country singles and even sang a duet with Britney on her album Britney Jean.
Brett Butler (Grace Under Fire)
1998 proved to be a difficult year for actress Brett Butler. In just a single day her husband left her, he gave her dog away, and she was fired from her own TV show, Grace Under Fire. Her firing came as a result of her prescription substance use which led to erratic behavior on set. After she was let go ABC watched as the ratings sunk and they decided to just cut the show altogether.
Lisa Nicole Carson (ER and Ally McBeal)
Actress Lisa Nicole Carson developed such a reputation for being difficult on set she was cut from not one, but two huge TV shows: ER and Ally McBeal. Years later she would be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She says the firing was a wake up call. “I didn’t want to believe I had any mental health issues and went into denial,” she told Essence Magazine. “I was supposed to take medicine, and I didn’t. I’m animated and exuberant, and this made it difficult to determine what was my normal and what was actually odd behavior.
Jennette McCurdy (Sam and Cat)
As we’ve seen with Jamie Lynn Spears, Nickelodeon is very serious about upholding their clean, family-friendly image. When racy photos of Jennette McCurdy leaked online, the network decided to cut the show altogether. She most recently starred in the Netflix sci-fi series Between and appeared opposite Dominic Monaghan in the horror thriller Pet. You know her Sam and Cat co-star Ariana Grande as the massive pop star with a number of top 10 hits under her belt including No Tears Left to Cry, Problem, and Into You.
Ellen Degeneres (Ellen)
Shortly after Ellen Degeneres came out, her character on her sitcom Ellen did as well. The backlash to the episode led to a very public blow up between the star, the network, and the general public. Her career took a massive blow for years with executives telling Degeneres that she would never be able to book work again. The joke is on them as she currently wraps up the fifteenth season of her hit daytime talk show.
Michelle Rodriguez (Lost)
When it comes to Michelle Rodriguez’s dismissal on Lost we may never know the real reasons why her character was killed off. The producers claim that her character was always meant to die. Some reports said the firing was a direct result of her DUI arrest and brief jail time for the incident. As rumors swirled relentlessly the producers were forced to go out on the record again and stated that Rodriguez only wanted to be on the show for one season anyway.
Julie McCullough (Growing Pains)
After co-star Kirk Cameron discovered Julie McCullough had posed for Playboy he led his own campaign to boot her from the family-friendly show, Growing Pains. He became more pious during shooting and often clashed with his co-stars on set. He half-apologized for his behavior but it wasn’t enough for McCullough who says she suffered a great ordeal following the public firing. “Kirk thinks people like me are going to H***, if I do then at least I’ll go well informed and well read,” she wrote on her MySpace page years ago.
Taylor Momsen (Gossip Girl)
Rumors about Taylor Momsen’s on-set drama circulated for years before her behavioral issues were actually confirmed. She made it clear in the press that she was done with the show before she actually left. Tabloids reported that there were would be days where the now-rocker wouldn’t even show up to work. When fashion expert Tim Gunn appeared on the set, he famously told Access Hollywood afterwards Momsen’s departure that she was acting like a “little, spoiled, sourpuss.”
Alec Baldwin (Up Late with Alec Baldwin)
After his hilarious sitcom 30 Rock wrapped up in 2013, Baldwin was eager to dive back into the world of politics. He’s been an outspoken figure when it comes to the news of the day for years and he received his own MSNBC news program, Up Late with Alec Baldwin. The show didn’t last long due to a scandal involving Baldwin screaming anti-LGBT slurs at a photographer trying to take his picture on the streets of New York City. The network just didn’t want the hassle.
Nicollette Sheridan (Desperate Housewives)
There are conflicting reports as to why Nicollette Sheridan’s character was killed off the show and the actress was fired. She took the Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry to court for alleged physical abuse on the set. She says their altercation led to her firing from the show. Cherry alleges that it was actually a salary dispute that got her removed from the show. We may never know but at least we can look back at the juicy drama and speculate.
Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)
For years Kevin Spacey was Netflix’s biggest star. The multi-Academy Award-winning actor starred as the manipulative Frank Underwood in the political thriller series House of Cards. He was fired following a slew of harassment allegations against the actor. After his ill-advised response led to a very public PR fail, the streaming platform axed their biggest star from their lineup. While the actor remains in hiding, his co-star Robin Wright will pick up lead duties in the upcoming final season of House of Cards.
Hunter Tylo (The Bold and the Beautiful)
Another show, another actress fired for getting pregnant. Hollywood is notorious for these kinds of stories. When Hunter Tylo was brought in to star in Melrose Place after wrapping on the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful, she was abruptly fired by the show’s producer Aaron Spelling after she announced her pregnancy. She took him to court and won a $4.8 million settlement as a result. She then went back to her role on The Bold and the Beautiful.