Left: Grey’s Anatomy
Reason: Creative Differences
Est. Salary Loss: $350,000 per episode*
“Grey’s Anatomy” fans present another level of passionate devotion and investment in the plot of a show. T.R. Knight’s character (Dr. O’Malley) died a heroic but sudden death. But Knight’s desire to leave the show so soon was to avoid a worse outcome. After working for five seasons, Knight was informed that he wouldn’t return for season six.
Apparently, this was the final blow for Knight as there was a list of things that made him eager to cut ties with the series, including creative differences with show creator, Shonda Rhimes. After contract negotiations between Knight and ABC, it was decided his character would be killed off “unexpectedly”.
Left: The Aliens Franchise
Reason: To Pursue Other Acting Ventures
Estimated Salary Loss: $1 million per movie*
When Sigourney Weaver left the "Alien" franchise, it was hard to believe she wouldn’t be back. A multifaceted actress, Weaver continued to diversify her resume in the unique roles she chose. Shockingly, in the first Alien film, Fox paid her only $35,000 for what would quickly become a franchise-defining performance.
Thankfully, the director of the second "Alien" film, James Cameron, demanded that she be paid more for the sequel. Cameron was able to negotiate her to a $1 million salary as well as a share of the profits. Weaver later confessed that she had at first agreed to the low pay in the original movie because she believed it was just a “small” film. She certainly must have never expected to become the face of the franchise many years later!
Reason: Demanded a Starring Role
Estimated Salary Loss: $100,000 per episode*
Colonel Henry Blake (played by Stevenson) was an icon of the Viacom-owned, CBS ensemble, "M*A*S*H." Later, however, the actor told "M*A*S*H" writer Ken Levine that he was unsatisfied with his character on the show and was hoping to achieve leading man status elsewhere.
Mclean was written out of the show in season three’s finale. While Stevenson would go on to appear in memorable sitcoms and even got his own show ("The Mclean Stevenson Show"), he never seemed to obtain the caliber of career he was hoping for.
Left: Downton Abbey
Reason: To Pursue Other Opportunities
Estimated Salary Loss: $50,000-$100,000 per episode*
The shocking death of Dan Stevens’ beloved character, Matthew Crawley, will forever be one of the most tragic plotlines in Downton Abbey’s history. Fans never saw the departure coming and, quite frankly, still aren’t over it.
Producers of "Downton Abbey" said that Crawley’s sudden car accident was the only exit that would do justice to the character. Fans may have felt even more betrayed when Stevens revealed that he asked for the write-off. He didn’t want to sign a new contract and desired the freedom to pursue other projects. Though Stevens has since moved on to many projects, he will always be “Matthew” to many.
Left: Breaking Bad
Reason: New Project
Est. Salary Loss: $150,000 per episode*
"Breaking Bad" fans may not have known that the departure of Norris’s character, DEA agent Hank Schrader, from the show was actually his personal request. Norris had his eyes on another project and, instead of having to pass it up, he wanted to be written off of the show.
Somehow he managed to get the show’s producers on his side and he was able to star in "Under the Dome", a Stephen King project. He did later slip back into the shoes of Hank Schrader in "Better Call Saul."