5 Creators That Gleefully Killed Off a Character Because They Hated the Actor Who Played Them
Sometimes, the death of a character in a TV series is something that’s regrettable, but necessary for the story. Even if the character in question is a fan favorite, their blood is occasionally demanded by the gods of whatever universe they’re living in, and we must bid a tearful adieu. Game of Thrones, before it shit the bed harder than a food-poisoned Vegas bachelor party, made an art of having all of its characters tread that line.
On the other hand, sometimes characters get killed off because the actor behind them is a fucking nightmare, and even if the plot suffers, behind the scenes, they’re popping champagne.
Here are five characters who their creators and co-workers were all too happy to see shuffle off this mortal coil…
Chevy Chase, ‘Community’
A premier asshole in entertainment, of course, is Chevy Chase. The fact that the man who made Fletch evokes no joy in my memory now is a testament to the amount of bullshit he’s pulled. Since the early days of SNL, he’s had a reputation for a piss-poor attitude, narcissism so severe even Hollywood couldn’t excuse it and a penchant for slapping, flicking and pulling at his co-workers like they were human Bop Its.
When, unsurprisingly for a horrible old white man, Chase decided to toss a bit of casual racism into the putrid stew of personal experience he’d created, that was the last straw. After reportedly using a racial slur on the set of Community, despite the production itself not being the most sterling of workplaces, it was enough to get his character Pierce’s ticker popped on television.
Carla’s Husband, ‘Cheers’
Cheers is one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, and arguing otherwise isn’t good for much besides engagement bait. The pilot episode is practically a textbook for television writers, and it had a loving stranglehold on the nation for years. The series finale remains one of the most-watched pieces of television in history, garnering 100 million people and their 200 million eyeballs (give or take a few, depending on fireworks accidents). So, if you were lucky enough to get a role on the show, it might have been a good idea to have some respect for the cast and crew.
Rhea Perlman, who played Carla, was maybe the biggest fish in a big pond. She stole scenes on a show packed with talent, the acting equivalent of a Louvre heist. When the show decided to give Carla a love interest, they tapped Jay Thomas to play her husband, Eddie. Eddie, by all accounts, was a nice guy. The actor who played him? Not so much. On the radio, he was asked what it was like to be on Cheers, and he shared some rude words that sealed his fate: “Brutal. I have to kiss Rhea Perlman.”
Perlman and the rest of the cast weren’t fans of the joke, and they killed off his character with an equal amount of respect: by having him run over by a Zamboni. They also revealed him as having a second secret marriage, a misogynistic footnote that might have been a nod to his behavior.
I’ll give you a peek behind the scenes of the comedy business, albeit at a lower station. When a comedian describes someone as “a really nice person,” that usually means they’re about as funny as a dog funeral. No one’s going to tell them to quit, because they’re not bothering anybody and they’ll probably help you move, but their comedic instincts leave a lot to be desired, starting with their existence.
The actor who played Susan, George Costanza’s bride-to-be on Seinfeld, was by all accounts, a really nice person. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast found her difficult to act with, like a comedic EMP dampening the laughs on their shared scenes. Now, firing someone who’s an absolute sweetheart but not particularly naturally funny is a tough thing to do, unless you’re Larry David. It only took him overhearing Julia Louis-Dreyfus opine to Jason Alexander “Don’t you wish you could just kill her?” for him to put it on the page. Susan would quickly and famously fall victim to the toxicity of cheap wedding envelope paste.
Chef, ‘South Park’
I’ve never met Matt Stone or Trey Parker, though I’m a big fan of their music. I do have a gut feeling, though, that there might not be a more poisonous personality trait to have if you want to stay in their good graces than hypocrisy. When the strategy you’ve built your career on is poking every bear in sight, the first pearl-clutch dismantles the whole back catalog. Even worse if the thing that crinkles your collar is a dumb as fuck religion that maybe-maybe-not disappears people.
So when Isaac Hayes and his iconic voice decided Trey and Matt had gone too far by making fun of his beloved Church of Scientology, the duo made it clear just what they thought of his sudden moral awakening. They said goodbye to the beloved character by killing him off in a gruesomely funny scene that feels pulled from a young psychopath’s math class daydream. Just for extra kicks, the entire episode surrounding the death was a takedown of Scientology stand-in, “Super Adventure Club.”
Dr. O’Malley, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’
For every other entry on this list, the end of the character in question was the creator’s decision. This one, involving Dr. George O’Malley on Grey’s Anatomy, was orchestrated by the actor themself. Now, long before A.I., if an actor decided he wasn’t going to play a character anymore, you were pretty much shit out of luck. So when T.R. Knight, who played O’Malley, didn’t like the direction of the show or his character, he informed Shonda Rhimes et al that his likeness would no longer be available.
As far as I can tell, and with additional evidence I’m about to share, Rhimes was not a fan of his decision. So why am I including it on a list of characters creators were happy to kill off? Because of the sheer catharsis she clearly felt in giving his character a horrible death. This wasn’t cartoon cut-out gore, either. Dr. O’Malley left the show as an unrecognizable pile of gore produced by a bus accident, the TV writer’s equivalent of broadcasting a face on a dartboard.
Eli Yudin is a stand-up comedian in Brooklyn. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @eliyudin and listen to his podcast, What A Time to Be Alive, about the five weirdest news stories of the week, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts.