11 Actors Who Asked for Their Characters to Be Killed Off

AMC Networks
AMC Networks

Sometimes an actor’s relationship with a character just runs its course. Here are 11 actors who asked for their characters to be killed off. Though not all of them got their wish (at least not yet), spoiler alerts abound.

1. DEAN NORRIS // “HANK SCHRADER” ON BREAKING BAD

While his character was a fan favorite, Dean Norris wanted Hank Schrader to be killed off in the middle of Breaking Bad’s final season. However, since the final season was split into two parts, Norris had to stay on until the end. As a result, Norris had to turn down the opportunity to star in a sitcom pilot in order to finish filming Breaking Bad’s fifth season.

“I said, ‘Would it be interesting if Hank died in the first eight?'" Norris explained on CBS This Morning. “[AMC] said, ‘No, we kind of need you for the last eight. We’ve been building that up for the last five years’ ... Obviously, I’m glad that they did.”

2. HARRISON FORD // “HAN SOLO” IN STAR WARS

Before making Return of the Jedi, Harrison Ford expressed his interest in seeing Han Solo die during the final installment in the original Star Wars trilogy. But George Lucas disagreed with Ford, because the filmmaker "didn't think there was any future in dead Han toys." However, more than 30 years later, Ford finally got to see Han Solo’s end in The Force Awakens. In a fan Q&A for Entertainment Weekly, Ford admitted that the character’s death made for a better movie.

“I think it’s a fitting use of the character. I’ve been arguing for Han Solo to die for about 30 years, not because I was tired of him or because he’s boring, but his sacrifice for the other characters would lend gravitas and emotional weight.”

3. SOPHIE TURNER // “SANSA STARK” ON GAME OF THRONES

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Sophie Turner wants her Game of Thrones character Sansa Stark to be killed off before the series ends—because she wants her character to die in a memorable and shocking way. Considering that Game of Thrones will only be on HBO for a few more seasons, and that George R.R. Martin, the creator of the books on which it's based, has yet to complete the saga, there’s a good chance that Turner might get her wish.

“I don’t want to survive,” Turner told The Wall Street Journal. “If you’re on Game of Thrones and you don’t have a cool death scene, then what’s the point?”

4. ADEWALE AKINNUOYE-AGBAJE // “MR. EKO” IN LOST

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje grew more and more unhappy living in Hawaii and working on Lost, and after the death of both of his parents, Akinnuoye-Agbaje wanted to return home to London as soon as possible. Executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse weren’t happy to see him leave, but respected Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s wishes and killed off his character at the beginning of season three.

"Our Mr. Eko plans very quickly derailed,” Lindelof explained. “Adewale’s unhappiness was almost instantaneous. On his second episode, he was expressing extreme dissatisfaction. Originally he was going to be someone who challenged Locke for the spiritual leadership of the castaways."

5. JOHN FRANCIS DALEY // “DR. LANCE SWEETS” ON BONES

Although he was a series regular, John Francis Daley’s Dr. Lance Sweets was killed off on Bones at the actor’s request. Daley got a job directing the Vacation reboot, so instead of just leaving the story halfway through season 10, Dr. Sweets was fatally assaulted.

“The directing job was not something that I could walk away from,” Daley told TVLine.com. “It was such a huge opportunity. It feels like a good next step in my career and my life; I always dreamed of being a director. So to be able to do something like this on such a huge scale—it’s a huge studio movie—it’s definitely not something I could turn my back on. It was a sacrifice for sure.”

6. DAN STEVENS // “MATTHEW CRAWLEY” ON DOWNTON ABBEY

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For three years, Dan Stevens played Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey. But at the end of season three, Stevens wanted to pursue a career on the stage and in movies—so Crawley was killed off in a car accident.

“We were always optioned for three years,” Stevens explained to The Telegraph. “And when that came up, it was a very difficult decision. But it felt like a good time to take stock, to take a moment. From a personal point of view, I wanted a chance to do other things. It is a very monopolizing job. So there is a strange sense of liberation at the same time as great sadness because I am very, very fond of the show and always will be.”

7. SIGOURNEY WEAVER // “ELLEN RIPLEY” IN ALIEN

Alien 3 was supposed to mark the end of a trilogy with the death of Ellen Ripley. At the end of the film, Ripley sacrificed her life to save the planet from a Xenomorph. Apparently, Sigourney Weaver wanted to kill off Ripley because she didn’t want to keep playing the character in movies that sounded awful.

When asked if it was her idea to kill off Ripley during a Q&A at the 2015 London Film and Comic Con, Weaver responded, “Well, yes—because I heard that Fox was gonna do Alien vs. Predator. Which really depressed me because I was very proud of the movies.”

8. ISAAC HAYES // “CHEF” ON SOUTH PARK

In 2006, Isaac Hayes wanted to leave South Park after nine years of voicing Chef, as he was deeply offended with its creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, for criticizing Scientology. Hayes, who has been a Scientologist since 1993, asked to be let out of his contract with South Park. Chef was killed off in the season 10 premiere.

"There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends, and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins," Hayes said in a statement. "As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices."

9. KAL PENN // “DR. LAWRENCE KUTNER” ON HOUSE

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In 2009, during his stint on the medical drama House, Kal Penn took a job at the White House working with the Obama administration. In order to dedicate more time to this new political career, Penn requested that his character, Dr. Lawrence Kutner, be eliminated. The series’ producers and writers obliged and Dr. Kutner committed suicide at the end of season five.

"I was incredibly honored a couple of months ago to get the opportunity to go work in the White House,” Penn told Entertainment Weekly at the time. “I got to know the president and some of the staff during the campaign and had expressed interest in working there, so I'm going to be the associate director in the White House office of public liaison.”

10. T.R. KNIGHT // “DR. GEORGE O’MALLEY” ON GREY’S ANATOMY

Although his character, Dr. George O'Malley, was a fan favorite, the actor who played him, T.R. Knight, found it increasingly difficult to work with Grey’s Anatomy producer Shonda Rhimes. He stated that there was a gradual "breakdown in communication" over the years and that he became frustrated with seeing his screen time dwindle at the beginning of season five. As a result, Knight asked to be written off the TV show, and Dr. O’Malley was subsequently hit by a bus.

"My five-year experience proved to me that I could not trust any answer that was given [about the character George]," Knight explained to Entertainment Weekly. "And with respect, I'm going to leave it at that."

11. JOSH CHARLES // “WILL GARDNER” ON THE GOOD WIFE

In the middle of The Good Wife’s fifth season, Josh Charles’s character, Will Gardner, was fatally shot in the courtroom by his client. While the decision to kill off Gardner was made a year earlier, fans were shocked—and upset. In truth, it was Charles’s decision; he simply decided not to return for season six after his contract was up, as he wanted to pursue other creative projects.

“I had a very short-term deal,” Charles told Deadline. “It was renewed a couple of times over, and at the end of the fourth year my contract was up, and I chose not to renew. It was just a creative decision for me wanting to go and explore new stuff—in my life, in my career.”

In addition, The Good Wife’s creators had to issue an open letter to fans to justify his death: “And when faced with the gut punch of Josh’s decision, made over a year ago, to move on to other creative endeavors, we had a major choice to make,” Robert and Michelle King wrote.

The Long Stride of Tony Little, Infomercial Titan

Mike Coppola, Getty Images for MTV
Mike Coppola, Getty Images for MTV

Tony Little didn’t see it coming. It was 1983, and the aspiring bodybuilder and future Gazelle pitchman was living in Tampa Bay, Florida, winding down his training for the Mr. America competition that was coming up in just six weeks. While driving to the gym, Little stopped at a red light and waited. Suddenly, a school bus materialized on his left, plowing into Little's vehicle and crumpling his driver’s side door.

Dazed and running on adrenaline, Little got out and sprinted over to find the bus was full of children. After seeing that none of the kids were seriously hurt, he promptly passed out. When Little later awoke, he was in the hospital, where he was handed a laundry list of the injuries he had sustained. There were two herniated discs, a cracked vertebrae, a torn rotator cuff, and a dislocated knee. He struggled to maintain his physique in the weight room and made only a perfunctory appearance at that year's Mr. America competition. Little's dreams of becoming a professional bodybuilder had been derailed courtesy of an errant school bus, whose driver had been drunk.

Though it took some time, Little eventually overcame the setback, pivoting from his original goal of being a champion bodybuilder to becoming one of the most recognizable pitchmen in the history of televised advertising. Before he did that, however, he would have to recover from another car accident.

 

For someone so devoted to physical achievement, Little was constantly being undercut by obstacles. During a high school football game, Little—who was a star player on his team in Ohio—ended up tearing the cartilage in his knee after he collided with future NFL player Rob Lytle. From that point on, Little's knee popped out of place whenever he stepped onto the field or went to gym class.

Tony Little is photographed at the premiere of Vh1's 'Celebrity Paranormal Project' in Hollywood, California in 2006
John M. Heller, Getty Images

In There’s Always a Way, his 2009 autobiography, Little wrote about how that injury—and the loss of a potential athletic scholarship—caused him to act out. A friend of his stole a Firebird and took Little for a joyride. When they were caught, Little took the blame; as he was under 18, Little figured he would get by with a slap on the wrist, while his older friend might be tried and convicted of a serious crime as an adult. According to Little, the judge gave him a pass on the condition that he relocate to Tampa Bay, where he could live with his uncle and put some distance between himself and the negative influences in his life. Little agreed.

Because of his previous injury, Little was unable to play football after making the move to Florida; instead, he devoted himself to his new high school’s weight room, where a bad knee was not nearly as limiting. After graduating, he pursued bodybuilding, earning the titles of Junior Mr. America and Mr. Florida. Little envisioned a future where he would be a fitness personality, selling his own line of supplements when he wasn't competing professionally.

The school bus changed all that. Little, who was now unable to train at the level such serious competition required, retreated to his condo, where he said he relied on painkillers to numb the physical and emotional pain of the accident. More misfortune followed: Little accidentally sat in a pool of chemicals at a friend’s manufacturing plant, suffering burns. He also had a bout with meningitis.

While Little was convalescing from this string of ailments and accidents, he saw Jane Fonda on television, trumpeting her line of workout videos. Little was intrigued: Maybe he didn’t need to have bodybuilding credentials to reach a wider audience. Maybe his enthusiastic approach to motivating people would be enough.

By now it was the mid-1980s, and a very good time to get into televised pitching. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed the Cable Communications Policy Act, which deregulated paid airtime for cable networks. Herbalife was the first to sign up, airing an infomercial for their line of nutritional products. Soon, stations were broadcasting all kinds of paid programs. Exercise advice and equipment pitches were abundant, a kind of throwback to department stores that used to feature product demonstrations. It was not enough to read about a Soloflex, which used resistance bands to strengthen muscles. It was better to see it in action.

Now that he was back in shape, Little was ready to make his mark. He was told by his local cable access channel that he could buy 15 half-hours of airtime for $5500. To raise the money, Little started a cleaning service for gyms and health clubs. After airing installments of an exercise program, he was picked up by the Home Shopping Network (HSN). Little made his HSN debut in 1987. With his energetic pitch and trademark ponytail, he sold 400 workout videos in four hours.

 

Little was on the home-shopping and infomercial circuit for years before landing his breakthrough project. In 1996, the Ohio-based company Fitness Quest was preparing to launch their Gazelle, an elliptical trainer that could raise the heart rate without any impact on joints. People used their hands and feet to move in a long stride that felt effortless.

Little felt he would be the perfect spokesperson for the Gazelle and entered into an arrangement with Bob Schnabel, the company's president. The night before the infomercial was scheduled to shoot, Little was driving when he got into another serious car accident that required 200 stitches in his face. Little called Schnabel to break the news, and was told he’d have to be replaced.

Tony Little demonstrates a Gazelle during an MTV upfront presentation in New York in 2016
Mike Coppola, Getty Images for MTV

Undaunted, Little flew from Florida to Ohio to speak to Schnabel in person. By insisting that he could make the story inspirational (and that he could cover up his injuries with make-up), Little managed to convince Schnabel to proceed with the infomercial as planned. The Gazelle ended up with $1.5 billion in revenue, with Little’s other ventures—Cheeks sandals, bison meat, and a therapeutic pillow—bringing the total sales of his endorsed products to more than $3 billion. Little later reprised his Gazelle pitch for a Geico commercial, which also served as a stealth ad for the machine—which is still on the market.

While pitching wound up being relatively low-impact, it was not completely without problems. Little once said that the accumulation of appearances—more than 10,000 in all—has done some damage to his neck because of constantly having to swivel his head between the camera and the model demonstrating his product.

Those appearances have made Little synonymous with the machine. In 2013, the Smithsonian's National Zoo wondered what to name their new baby gazelle. The answer: Little Tony.

Stranger Things Fans Can Now Buy a 6-Foot-Tall Demogorgon Sprinkler

BigMouth Inc., Amazon
BigMouth Inc., Amazon

Some fans watch a show and then talk about it. Others create art inspired by it. Others develop far-out theories. But sometimes, fans go even further than that—like when pool accessory company BigMouth Inc. revealed its massive Stranger Things-inspired, inflatable Demogorgon sprinkler, which is now available for any fan to purchase.

The sprinkler, the perfect gift for those wishing to combine their love of sci-fi monstrosities and thorough lawn irrigation, stands 6 feet tall and can be connected to any standard hose, allowing it to spurt water from its horrifying open face, according to House Beautiful. And for fans thinking it can only be found in the far corners of the internet, fear not: the sprinkler is available now at Target and on Amazon.

If you want a less flashy way to show off your Stranger Things fandom this summer, BigMouth Inc. also sells a plethora of other novelty items based on the show, like an Upside Down-themed pool tube, Scoops Ahoy floating cupholders, and a float based on one of Eleven’s trademark waffles. (See all the options on Amazon here.)

This marks the latest in a series of collaborations for the hugely successful Netflix series. Prior to its release, Stranger Things teamed with both H&M and Nike to release clothing and shoes inspired by the series. It also collaborated with Coca-Cola to produce a limited edition collection of New Coke cans inspired by a moment in the third season.

We’re glad there’s a plethora of Stranger Things merchandise available, even the terrifying Demogorgon sprinkler—it sounds just ridiculous enough to buy right away. It's available at Target or Amazon for $100.

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