Why Was Marissa Cooper Killed on 'The O.C.'? The Real Reason Behind 12 Infamous TV Character Deaths

There's nothing more shocking than the death of a major television character, and TV writers aren't inclined to write off beloved characters lightly. It's a major creative decision to have a TV character meet an untimely death, and one that writers tend to give much thought before committing to. Of course, that's only when the actor or actress who portrays the character doesn't have a reason to drop out of the series. Though it pained fans to see these characters knocked off their respective TV series, once the actor had to go, so did the person they played onscreen. Check out the list of 12 TV stars who were killed off of their TV shows unexpectedly — along with the real reason behind their worldly departure.

by Kaitlin Reilly


This witch was killed off this WB series after a feud with an actress who portrayed her sister.

Image: The WB

Shannen Doherty, 'Charmed'

Doherty doesn’t exactly have the greatest reputation as an actress (just ask the cast of Beverly Hills, 90210) and her problems followed her to the set of Charmed in 2001. After an alleged feud with cast member Alyssa Milano, Doherty’s character, Prue, was killed by a demon. Guess that solves that problem.

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'Two And A Half Men'

This sitcom actor was fired after a very public meltdown.

Image: CBS

Charlie Sheen, 'Two and a Half Men'

Remember back in 2011 when Sheen went on the tirade against Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre? Lorre wasn’t thrilled about that, and Sheen’s sitcom character, Charlie Harper, was hit by a train as soon as quickly as that episode could get made. Sheen was definitely not winning in that scenario.

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'The O.C.'

There are conflicting stories about why the star of the Josh Schwartz drama was killed off so abruptly.

Image: Fox

Mischa Barton, 'The O.C.'

Rumor had it that Barton, who portrayed notorious hot mess Marissa Cooper on the Fox drama, wanted out of the series to pursue a movie career. However, not everyone thought that the decision for Cooper to die in the Season 3 finale was mutualO.C. actor Peter Gallagher stated that he thought Barton was “pretty happy” on the show.

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'South Park'

This voice actor’s religious beliefs made him quit the series.

Image: Comedy Central

Isaac Hayes, 'South Park'

South Park makes fun of everything and everyone — but, according to Hayes, they crossed a serious line in the infamous “Trapped In The Closet” episode, which poked fun at Tom Cruise and Scientology. Hayes, who voiced Chef on the animated series, happens to be a Scientologist, and he quit due to the show’s intolerance against cults… I mean religion. Chef died a horrifically violent (animated) death episodes later.

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'Teen Wolf'

This MTV actress cut ties with her role on the supernatural drama.

Crystal Reed, 'Teen Wolf'

Reed’s decision to leave Teen Wolf wasn’t necessarily a dramatic one, even if her character Allison’s death (by a demon!) sure was. The actress admitted that while leaving the MTV show was hard, she wanted to explore other acting opportunities.

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'Grey's Anatomy'

Drama seemed to follow around the actors on Grey’s Anatomy, but one actor quit over creative differences with the creator.

Image: ABC

T.R. Knight, 'Grey's Anatomy'

Knight got out of his allegedly $14 million contract three years early, due to a breakdown in communication with creator Shonda Rhimes and problems with his character, George. Rhimes had George killed off in a bus accident in 2009.

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'Downton Abbey'

Fans mourned the loss of this recently deceased character.

Image: PBS

Dan Stevens, 'Downton Abbey'

Stevens chose to leave Downton Abbey when his contract was up for renegotiation in 2012 in order to pursue other acting opportunities. His character, Matthew, was killed off in a car accident.

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This guy’s big mouth got him in hot water with the writers.

Image: NBC

Jay Thomas, 'Cheers'

Don’t joke about how awful it is to kiss your co-stars onscreen… you may get the axe. After making several comments about his co-star Rhea Perlman, Thomas’ character Eddie was killed off in a Zamboni accident.

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This actress played an important character on the teen TV series — but didn’t make it to graduation.

Image: TeenNick

Jordan Todosey, 'Degrassi'

The actress received critical acclaim for her role as female-to-male trans student Adam on the TeenNick series, but Adam never had a chance to graduate. Adam died in a car accident in Season 12, allegedly due to Todosey’s desire to move on from the show.

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'Law & Order'

A misunderstanding got this character killed off the original Law & Order.

Image: NBC

Jill Hennessy, 'Law & Order'

In 1996, Hennessy’s Law & Order character, Assistant District Attorney Claire, was killed in a collision with a drunk driver. The reason? Producer Dick Wolf didn’t think that Hennessy wanted to return to the show — something that, according to Hennessy, was due to a miscommunication between Wolf and her agent.

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'The Good Wife'

This heartbreaking death happened for a reason on The Good Wife.

Image: CBS

Josh Charles, 'The Good Wife'

Say it ain’t so. Charles was ready to move on from his role as Will Gardner on the CBS series The Good Wife, but instead of shipping Gardner off to work in Europe the series gave Gardner a very memorable (and very sad) send off. Gardner was shot by an unstable client, ending the love story between Gardner and Alicia Florrick for good.

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'Desperate Housewives'

Rumor had it that the ladies of Wisteria Lane couldn’t stand this actress offscreen, either — and neither could the showrunner.

Image: ABC

Nicollette Sheridan, 'Desperate Housewives'

Sheridan played Edie Britt on the ABC series for the first five seasons. Unfortunately, her character met a tragic fate — and it had more to do with Sheridan than it did with Britt. According to showrunner Marc Cherry, Sheridan’s co-stars were relieved to hear that the star — whom had reportedly been unpleasant to work with — was getting the axe, and the network was even happier to save her $4 million salary.

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