The television landscape saw some major changes in 2018.
From Roseanne Barr’s social media meltdown — and subsequent cancellation and firing — to a Grey’s Anatomy cast shakeup, some of TV’s most popular shows are finishing off 2018 with a drastically different look than when the year began. There were selfless sacrifices, not-so-sad goodbyes and sentimental send-offs. Oh yeah, and there was also that little matter of a USA legal drama who saw an actress depart to head across the pond, marry a real-life prince and become the Duchess of Sussex.
Read on for more on the biggest cast change-ups in this year of TV.
Roseanne Barr, Roseanne
One of the biggest entertainment stories of the year, Roseanne Barr added her name to the all-time list of most shocking TV departures when she was fired by ABC in May after sending a series of racist tweets in reference to Valerie Jarrett, a former senior advisor to President Barack Obama. The successful revival of Barr’s eponymous sitcom was subsequently cancelled ahead of its second season — and later rebooted, without Barr, as The Conners. But the 66-year-old actress and comedian wasn’t done speaking her mind, releasing a statement after it was revealed on The Conners that Barr’s character died of an opioid overdose. “[The character’s death] lent an unnecessary grim and morbid dimension to an otherwise happy family show,” Barr’s statement expressed. “This was a choice the network did not have to make. Roseanne was the only show on television that directly addressed the deep divisions threatening the very fabric of our society.”
Sarah Drew & Jessica Capshaw, Grey’s Anatomy
The departures of two popular Grey’s Anatomy stars, Sarah Drew and Jessica Capshaw, came as a shock in March, when ABC confirmed to ET that the longtime regulars would not be walking the halls of Grey Sloan in season 15. In their final episode, Drew’s April Kepner married a former flame and Capshaw’s Arizona Robbins moved to New York City to start a new clinic (and presumably reunite with Callie Torres). Drew spoke to ET in August about possibly revisiting April down the line. “I really do feel like I said goodbye to her, and it was an epic farewell, a beautiful farewell, and I did feel like I closed the door on my life as April Kepner,” she said, “but those people are my family, that community is my family, so I’m certainly not saying, ‘No.'”
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
House of Cards premiere its sixth and final season in November 2018, without Kevin Spacey in the lead role as corrupt politician Frank Underwood. Spacey was fired from the award-winning Netflix drama amid production on the final season following multiple accusations of sexual abuse and misconduct, which he has denied. On Dec. 24, the 59-year-old actor posted a bizarre video to his personal YouTube account, appearing in-character as Underwood, speaking length about the perils of “believing the worst without evidence,” and teasing a possible return to the series. “You trusted me, even though you knew you shouldn’t,” Spacey sneered in the clip. “So we’re not done, no matter what anyone says. And besides, I know what you want. You want me back.” ET has learned that Netflix was not involved with this video, and the streaming service did not have a comment.
Clayne Crawford, Lethal Weapon
Lethal Weapon may be a buddy cop dramedy on TV, but behind the scenes it seems it was anything but cheery. Clayne Crawford, who played Martin Riggs, was fired in May after he was reprimanded twice for his on-set behavior. Coincidentally, Riggs’ fate was left up in the air at the end of the sophomore season and as a result of Crawford’s firing, he was killed off in the season three opener. (He was effectively replaced by Seann William Scott.) In October, Damon Wayans revealed in an interview that he intended on quitting the show. “I am going to be quitting the show in December after we finish the initial 13 [episodes],” Wayans said. “I don’t know what they’re planning, but that’s what I’m planning.”
Meghan Markle & Patrick J. Adams, Suits
Suits stars Meghan Markle and Patrick J. Adams announced their departures from the USA Network legal drama after seven seasons in November 2017 and January, respectively, but their final episode didn’t air until April — just weeks before Markle’s royal wedding to Prince Harry. Adams, along with his Suits co-stars, attended the wedding ceremony at Windsor Castle. “It’s been a real transition not having them on set,” Suits star Gabriel Macht told ET in April. “There is a bit of a void — not to say that we haven’t gotten an incredible cast of actors who have come on board with us and the ensemble is so fresh and new. It’s part of the old, but it’s very new.”
Emmy Rossum & Cameron Monaghan, Shameless
Shameless’ leading lady Emmy Rossum dropped a shocking announcement in August, when she revealed that she would be departing the Showtime series after nine seasons. “The opportunity to play Fiona has been a gift. There are few characters — female or otherwise — as layered and dynamic,” she wrote on Facebook. “I know you will continue on without me, for now… Try not to think of me as gone, just think of me as moving down the block.” Rossum’s co-star Cameron Monaghan followed suit in October, officially confirming his exit in an Instagram post. “This role has been a joy to inhabit, a wild and special ride, and I’d like to thank #Shameless as well as you, the viewers, for being there with him,” he wrote, sharing he knew about his departure since 2017. “Goodbye, Ian Clayton Gallagher. We’ll meet again?”
Andrew Lincoln & Lauren Cohan, The Walking Dead
Andrew Lincoln slayed his final zombie as Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead, but his time away won’t be for long. “This will be my last season playing the part of Rick Grimes,” Lincoln said in his emotional announcement at Comic-Con in July. “My relationship with Rick Grimes is far from over. And a sort of large part of me will always be a machete-wielding, stetson-wearing, zombie-slaying sheriff deputy from London, England.” Months later, after a wounded Rick was whisked away by helicopter to an undisclosed location, AMC announced in November that Lincoln would reprise his role in a series of new films. Meanwhile, Lincoln’s co-star Lauren Cohan had a much quieter exit, as she left for her new ABC dramedy, Whiskey Cavalier.
Pauley Perrette, NCIS
NCIS fan favorite Pauley Perrette departed the long-running CBS procedural in May, after 15 seasons as forensic scientist Abby Sciuto. “I will definitely miss Abby,” Perrette told ET of saying goodbye to the series. “And a world without Abby is strange…It’s been quite a journey.” Throughout her tenure on the show, the actress’ character garnered a devoted legion of fans, who wrote letters and reached out on social media to tell Perrette just how much Abby means to them. And the feeling is mutual. “I say, ‘I love her as much as you do,’ which is true,” the 49-year-old actress said of her response to all the fan love. “And I say, ‘thank you,’ and I say, ‘I love you, guys,’ because I do. I love the Abby fans, there is nobody like them.”
Ruth Wilson & Joshua Jackson, The Affair
Ruth Wilson’s character, Alison Lockhart, was killed off during season four of The Affair, and the actress was surprisingly blunt when asked about her departure from the show — and a possible return. “I’m not coming back, because she’s dead,” the 36-year-old actress told Gayle King during an interview on CBS This Morning in August. “I did want to leave, but I’m not allowed to talk about why.” The next month, a source told ET that Wilson’s co-star, Joshua Jackson, would also likely not be returning as Cole Lockhart for the fifth and final season of the Showtime series. According to the source, series creator Sarah Treem was still trying to work out a potential one-episode return for the actor, but “he left on very distinct terms.” A separate source told ET at the time that nothing is official and this may not be the last viewers see of Jackson’s character.
Annabelle Attanasio, Bull
Bull addressed Annabelle Attanasio’s absence in the season three premiere, revealing her character — tech wiz Cable — to be one of 37 victims who died in a fatal bridge collapse. Attanasio abruptly left the show in between seasons to pursue another opportunity. “The only way to explain the character not appearing for that period of time is to have her die,” showrunner Glenn Gordon Caron told ET in September, who said keeping the character alive “would’ve broken a trust with the viewer.” “It felt like a really interesting story opportunity… It wasn’t something that we wanted or sought out, so much as we were asked to react to.”
George Eads, MacGyver
In November, ET confirmed MacGyver star George Eads was quitting the Atlanta-based CBS action drama after less than three seasons, reportedly to spend more time with his young daughter in Los Angeles. Eads, who plays former Delta Force operator and Mac’s partner Jack Dalton, will bid farewell to his character and the series in his final episode, set to air sometime in 2019.
Danny Masterson, The Ranch
In December 2017, a Netflix spokesperson revealed that Danny Masterson was being written out of the Netflix comedy The Ranch after reports broke that the 41-year-old actor was under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department over multiple sexual assault allegations stemming from the early 2000s. Masterson has denied the allegations against him. The actor appeared in only the first ten episodes of The Ranch’s third season, which premiered in June 2018. Dax Shepard joined the cast following Masterson’s departure, and made his debut in the second half of season three, which began streaming on Dec. 7.
Connie Britton, 9-1-1
Last year, Connie Britton made her debut as emergency call-center worker Abby Clark on the first season of Ryan Murphy’s first responder procedural, 9-1-1, but in August, Fox co-chairman Gary Newman revealed that there were no plans for her to return in season two. “We love Connie Britton, [but] it was always envisioned to be a one-year role,” Newman told reporters at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. “So it wasn’t a surprise [that she left]. If Connie expressed interest and had time in the future, I know Ryan [Murphy] would be thrilled to bring her back to the show.” In season two, which premiered in September, Jennifer Love Hewitt joined the cast as emergency operator Maddie Buckley.
Monica Raymund, Chicago Fire
In May, Monica Raymund confirmed that she’d be departing Chicago Fire after six seasons as paramedic Gabriela Dawson on the NBC emergency drama. “I’m not sure the exact moment when it happened, but I knew that my six-year contract was coming to an end and I felt like I was hungry to explore a different role, a different story,” Raymund told the Chicago Tribune of deciding to depart the long-running show. “It’s kind of a double-edged sword because on the one hand, it’s wonderful to be employed for that long and to have job security. And to be able to delve into a storyline and to flush it out over that amount of time. To get that opportunity is extremely rare and special… But sometimes you have to take a risk to diversify your opportunities.”
Daniel Lissing, When Calls the Heart
Australian actor Daniel Lissing, who starred as Canadian Mountie Jack Thornton for five seasons of Hallmark Channel’s When Calls the Heart, shocked the show’s dedicated fans when his fan-favorite character was killed off in April, following his decision to move on to other projects. “It’s something that I’ll always be proud of and always hold close to my heart,” Lissing shared of his time on the show when he sat down with ET in November. “I miss it, of course I do. This is my family… All I can hope is the fans will continue to enjoy When Calls the Heart as much as they always have, and they’ll continue to support me in my career and the decisions I make moving forward.”
Chelsea Peretti, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Chelsea Peretti announced her exit from the beloved cop comedy in October, tweeting a lengthy message to fans explaining her surprise decision to leave midway through the upcoming sixth season. “I won’t be doing a full season of Brooklyn Nine Nine in Season 6. But that doesn’t mean I won’t ever be back, winky face emoji, heart emoji,” the fan favorite wrote. “I want to thank you for the hours you spent watching Gina be Gina: confident, idiotic-but-smart, pithy, and infused with rhythm and cell-phone radiation.”
Jeremy Jordan & Chris Wood, Supergirl
Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) lost two of her closest confidantes at the end of the CW superhero series’ third season in May, when Mon-El (Chris Wood) and Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan) departed for heroic endeavors in the future with the Legion of Superheroes. However, it seemed more of a “see you later” than a goodbye, as Jordan was merely downgraded to a recurring character for the show’s fourth season, and shared a positive farewell message with fans on Instagram. “Although you may not see him puttering around the DEO every week, I love everyone in National City too much to stay away forever. Winn WILL return in Season 4,” Jordan wrote. “Your favorite little cardigan wearing hobbit has plenty of stories left to tell.”
Willa Holland & Paul Blackthorne, Arrow
Two of Arrow’s original cast members departed the CW superhero series following its sixth season earlier this year. Willa Holland, who played Thea, the younger sister of Green Arrow Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) left the the door open for a possible return in future episodes when she left Star City to right her father’s wrongs, while Paul Blackthorne’s character, former police captain and mayor Quentin Lance, met a more tragic end, sacrificing himself to save Earth-2’s Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy).