Don’t Quit While You’re Ahead, These Actors Regretted Doing That

Acting is one of the best gigs on Earth, depending on who you ask. You get paid a pretty penny pretending to be someone else in front of a camera. In the process, you gain fans, awards, and reputation, but that isn’t enough for some actors and actresses. Even when it seems like things are going well, a star might feel differently inside. Why would one want to leave a critically acclaimed series that helped launch your career into outer space? We don’t know, but regret is a familiar feeling among those who do this. Continue reading and find out which celebrities regretted leaving a show too early.

Sherry Stringfield’s Misery Leads To Regret

leaving NYPD Blue and ER
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

It’s not every day that an actress can leave one popular show, only to end up on another one and not like either of them. That was the case for Sherry Stringfield, who left NYPD Blue after one season.

She somehow landed on the hospital drama ER not too long later, but that series would make her miserable (she would get sick due to lack of sleep). That’s when she decided to sign an agreement not to work in TV for years. Unfortunately, her career would never take off again after that.

Angus T. Jones Moral Compass Wasn’t Broken

two and half men
David Livingston/Getty Images
David Livingston/Getty Images

For a show called Two and a Half Men that’s predicated on a younger boy playing the “half” part, it would be awkward for him to quit. Angus T. Jones was the half in this series and he rose to fame portraying Jake.

Things looked like they were going well on the outside, but Jones wasn’t satisfied on the inside. He called the show “immoral” and “filthy” and chose to no longer be apart of Two and a Half Men. He hasn’t worked much since.

Three Seasons And Lowe Was Out

left west wing
Paul Harris/Getty Images
Paul Harris/Getty Images

If you remember correctly, Rob Lowe had an early chance at fame in the ’80s as a member of the famed Brat Pack. Then, his career flew under the radar until he landed a role in the political series, The West Wing.

Audiences loved his character Sam Seaborn and everything looked fine. It only took Lowe three seasons until he would end up leaving. It would take him years to rebound from leaving until he found his way on the series Brothers & Sisters in 2006.

Heigl Had To Apologize

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Pinterest

Frankly put, the role of Dr. Isobel “Izzie” Stevens in ABC’s hit drama Grey’s Anatomy was Katherine Heigl’s claim to fame. After a public feud with showrunner and genius that is Shonda Rhimes, Izzie left the show abruptly. Her absence didn’t even resonate well in the series.

In 2016, Heigl sat with Howard Stern and told the media mogul that she apologized to Rhimes. “I went into Shonda and said, ‘I’m so sorry. That wasn’t cool. I should not have said that,'” she said. “I shouldn’t have said anything publicly, but at the time, I didn’t think anybody would notice.”

Caruso Wanted More, But More Didn’t Want Him

smiling for the camera
Jean-Paul Aussenard/WireImage
Jean-Paul Aussenard/WireImage

David Caruso rapidly became a fan favorite on NYPD Blue in only one season. Ironically enough, he ended up leaving after that single season and fans were irate that they couldn’t see their Detective John Kelly.

Meanwhile, Caruso had other goals he wanted to pursue. Caruso desired to make it on the big screen, he didn’t want to be on TV anymore. That didn’t go as planned and the actor made some questionable moves in the films he chose. His career was on a hiatus for some time until he found himself back on TV in CSI: Miami.

Suzanne Somers Requested Too Much And Paid The Price

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Once Suzan Somers became Chrissy Snow on Three’s Company, she instantly became a star. Right before the fifth season, she requested higher pay and percentage of the show’s profits, but the producers said no. She would soon quit after they limited her screen time to 60 seconds.

“To this day, I feel a sadness for not being able to finish out Three’s Company,” Somers told the Television Academy Foundation in 2012. “I still have a heartache that it ended so badly, this wonderful thing.”

It Was “Tragic” For Eccleston

up close and personal
Tommaso Boddi/WireImage
Tommaso Boddi/WireImage

Russell T. Davis spent years of lobbying the BBC and eventually got the chance to reboot the beloved Doctor Who series in 2005. Fans went wild when they found out that Christopher Eccleston would become the Ninth Doctor, and the show was an instant hit.

Still, after one season, Eccleston left due to differences in the creative process with the show’s producers. “It was kind of tragic for me, that I didn’t play him for longer,” Eccleston admitted in 2016. “He’s a beautiful character, and I have a great deal of professional pride and had I done a second season, there would have been a marked improvement in my performance.

Maybe Priestley Should Have Stayed

90210
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Nine seasons deep, and Jason Priestley decided it was time to walk away from the smash show, Beverly Hills, 90210. He earned two Golden Globe nominations during his run, but he thought he explored every aspect of the character he played.

“In retrospect, I do regret leaving,” Priestley told CNN in 2014. “Understanding what I do now about story and character, I believe that [Aaron Spelling] was pushing the story in a direction that would have had Brandon and Kelly end up together at the end of the show and I think I probably should have stuck around to its fruition.”

He Chased The Girl

black tie
Mark Mainz/Getty Images
Mark Mainz/Getty Images

Hollywood has a lot to say about actor Chevy Chase, and they aren’t very nice things. We won’t go there, but rather let Chase explain things himself. The actor was one of the original Saturday Night Live members in 1975, but he left after only one season.

“I tried to pretend that everything was great,” Chase told the Los Angeles Times in 2011 of leaving New York for Los Angeles. “I was leaving really because there was a girl I wanted to marry that I was infatuated without here.” He also said she turned out to be the wrong girl. Sorry, Chase, that’s how life works.

Wheaton Was Young And Didn’t Have A Clue

wheaton the next generation
J. P. Aussenard/WireImage
J. P. Aussenard/WireImage

Star Trek is undoubtedly one of the few shows that stood the test of time. Fans still go crazy over it. Unfortunately, Wil Wheaton thought his stock would rise higher than the intergalactic sci-fi series, so he left when he was only 18.

“I left Star Trek: The Next Generation when I was 18 years old, and initially I thought it was a really smart business career move,” Wheaton said during a Star Trek reunion at the Calgary Expo in 2012. “In some ways, it was, and in more ways, it wasn’t.”

Chappelle Wasn’t Sure Of The Outcome

actor smiling
Chris Polk/FilmMagic
Chris Polk/FilmMagic

At a certain point, comedian Dave Chappelle had the Comedy Central network in the palm of his hands. His ratings for Chappelle’s Show were extraordinarily high, and fans desperately wanted more. That’s when he left it all behind and disappeared from social existence for years.

“It’s very hard to go through something like this because no one’s really done it before. So there’s not too many people that don’t think I’m crazy, right?” said Chappelle. “Okay, fine, I don’t have $50 million or whatever it was. But say I have $10 million in the bank.” Chappelle admitted he would have liked that extra money they offered him.

When Wanting To Be The Superstar Goes Wrong

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M*A*S*H will forever be a TV classic. The massive success the show received made Lt. Colonel Henry Blake or McLean Stevenson uneasy because of all the talented cast. He wanted to be the sole superstar. He eventually left after his contract expired at the end of the third season.

“I’ve never been able to work with a group that’s as talented or scripts that are as good,” Stevenson told The Baltimore Sun in 1990. “I made the mistake of believing that people were enamored of McLean Stevenson when the person they were enamored of was Henry Blake.”

Wright Hopes Top Boy Does Well

wright smiling
Rich Polk/Getty Images for Disney
Rich Polk/Getty Images for Disney

Long before she would help change the landscape of Marvel movies forever as Shuri in Black Panther, Letitia Wright portrayed a young thug on the East Ends of the UK in Top Boy. She endured the role for one season and decided to quit due to her character’s morals.

“I learned a lot on that show, but I didn’t do the second season,” Wright answered when asked about the future of the series. “I was scared it would box me in. It was one of the bravest decisions I’ve ever made. I can’t go back on my word and play a character that at the time, I didn’t really find three-dimensional. I hope they do a good job with it.”

Joke’s on Dunkleman

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Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

In the beginning, there were two hosts for American Idol. One of them was Ryan Seacrest, and the other was Brian Dunkleman. The latter left as the show caught fire and became wildly popular to pursue a career in stand-up comedy. That didn’t turn out as he planned.

“[T]he undeniable truth is, I just didn’t have the wisdom at the time to handle what was happening,” Dunkleman wrote in Variety in 2016. “Do I regret not remaining on the show now that it’s coming to an end? Yes. Especially when I open my bank statements.”

Learned Wanted A Challenge

the waltons
Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic
Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

Remember the show, The Waltons? Well, Michael Learned played Olivia Walton on the series from 1972 to 1979. After seven seasons, she would leave because she thought the role didn’t challenge her enough as an actress.

“There’s been times when I’ve regretted it only in that it probably would have been better to complete the whole show,” Learned told Fox News in 2017. “But frankly, when John-Boy came back with a new face and a new voice, it was like something happened.”

Knight Might’ve Made The Wrong Move

speaking at an event
Theo Wargo/Getty Images
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Another Grey’s Anatomy actor bites the dust. This time, it’s T.R. Knight, the man who was in love with the main character, Meredith Grey, and ended up dying in front of her.

After a feud became public between Knight and Isaiah Washington, another character on the series, Washington, would get fired, and Knight felt the damages were unrepairable. Knight got killed off the show, and his career pretty much flatlined after it. It’s a shame because people loved George O’Malley.

Dan Stevens Is Still Apologizing

wearing a hat
Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images
Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

We don’t understand why actors leave a show once they become one of the more popular characters that fans adore. Dan Stevens left Downton Abbey after he was on for three seasons and was a recognized face. To say it was shocking would be an understatement.

“I’m still apologizing to people now,” Stevens said in an interview with The Mirror in March of 2017. “The way Matthew went was out of my hands–but it was rather shocking. “There were some very upset people and I’ve had to apologize to a lot of ­people over the past four years.”

Thomas Gibson Had Creative Differences

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Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic
Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic

For 11 seasons, Thomas Gibson reprised the lead role as Aaron Hotchner in Criminal Minds. Two episodes into the 12th, Gibson got the boot for allegedly kicking a writer thanks to a dispute over the script!

“There were creative differences on the set and a disagreement,” Gibson admitted in a statement at the time. “I regret that it occurred. I love Criminal Minds and have put my heart and soul into it for the last 12 years.”

Matt Smith Also Has Doctor Regrets

photoshoot
Mike Marsland/WireImage
Mike Marsland/WireImage

Christopher Eccleston wasn’t the only one to leave Doctor Who. In this instance, Matt Smith departed for a different reason and the source of his regret was nowhere near the same as Eccleston’s. Smith felt bad for one thing.

“That’s one of my great regrets, that I didn’t get a full season with Jenna [Coleman],” he said at a panel at New York Comic-Con. The man only regretted not getting to star alongside the lovely actress.

Maybe A Break Was All Mischa Barton Needed

The Oc
JEAN-BAPTISTE LACROIX/AFP via Getty Images
JEAN-BAPTISTE LACROIX/AFP via Getty Images

Mischa Barton played Marissa Cooper in The O.C. from 2003 to 2006. Three years was more than enough for her because it soon became too much. “I think I just got to the point where I was like, ‘I’m not sure I’m enjoying this anymore,'” Barton said.

That’s when she went to England for “real self-exploration.” She probably realized that she should have stayed because, in an interview from 2019, Barton said shes open for making a return. “Yeah, sure. I’m more than willing to resurrect Marissa and make that happen,” Barton said.

Marg Helgenberger’s Sights Were Set On Broadway

Marg Helgenberger
CBS
CBS

The original CSI: Crime Scene Investigation was a huge hit that spawned multiple spin-offs. Marg Helgenberger played Catherine Willows on the police drama, which is her best-known role. She left the show after 12 seasons.

Upon announcing her departure, she told THR, “Letting go of a show that has been an enormous part of my life for 12 years isn’t easy.” We guess not, as she hasn’t had too many major acting gigs since CSI.

Trai Byers Supposedly Thought He Was Above Empire

Trai Byers as Andre Lyon in Season 6 of EMPIRE
FOX via Getty Images
FOX via Getty Images

Long before the Jussie Smollett drama unfolded, there were rumors that Empire actor Trai Byers wanted out of the show because he felt he was too good for it. Page Six reported in 2016 that an insider said Byers was feeling “that he studied at Yale and he’s a ‘true thespian’ … The character is beneath him. He has an idea of himself as being this big Shakespearean actor.”

Supposedly, multiple sources confirmed this. But Byers is still on the show, so he and Empire’s producers must have worked something out.

Topher Grace’s Departure Doomed That ’70s Show

Topher Grace
Fox/The Carsey-Werner Company
Fox/The Carsey-Werner Company

When Topher Grace left That ’70s Show, his character Eric Forman was written out of the storyline. Grace felt he was missing out on bigger opportunities by staying on the show. Things have worked out OK for Grace, however, with a role in Spider-Man 3 and lots of indie films.

He’s come to realize how fortunate he was to be on the show. “It occurred to me that I was really lucky to have been on a sitcom for a lot of years,” he told Looper. “I realized… that I didn’t really need a lot more money… I didn’t care [about exposure or a big paycheck].”

E.R. Was Anthony Edwards’ Heyday

American actor Anthony Edwards, star of the television series, 'E.R.'
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In his role as Dr. Mark Greene on the drama E.R., Anthony Edwards was a huge hit. The job earned him a Golden Globe, six Screen Actors Guild Awards, and four consecutive Primetime Emmy Awards nominations.

However, he left the show after eight seasons and has largely been absent from the public eye ever since. Don’t feel too bad for him, though. In a 2013 Reddit AMA, he stated that he got to spend lots of quality time with his family when he left.

When Contract Negotiations Failed, Christopher Meloni Walked

Christopher Meloni filming on location for
Bobby Bank / Contributor
Bobby Bank / Contributor

Fans of Law & Order: SVU were deeply saddened when Christopher Meloni, who played Detective Elliot Stabler, left the show after its twelfth season. The reason? He and NBC were unable to come to an agreement regarding his contract renewal.

When asked by Andy Cohen whether he regretted walking away, Meloni responded, “Not for a day. Not for a day.” Hopefully, his fans are as forgiving of him as he is of himself!