Fans of The Vampire Diaries were shocked, dismayed, and super sad to hear that Nina Dobrev, the series star from the beginning, had declared that this season would be her last. Quite honestly, I've been through this before and I feel you — back in 2009, the actress left Degrassi (my guilty pleasure show), to star in TVD. But Dobrev's Elena is a lot more central to Mystic Falls, which as most of us wondering if will Elena/Nina Dobrev ever return to The Vampire Diaries , even for a second? Rumors are swirling that the 26-year-old actress is willing to come back as Elena for a The Vampire Diaries movie or the series finale, but there hasn't been any confirmation from Dobrev herself. But seeing how TV history has gone, many stars who made big departures from their shows often return when it really matters. Update: Elena will return... in 60 or so TVD years.
Things have already gotten emotional as Dobrev filmed her final Vampire Diaries scenes with her co-stars and posted about it on Instagram. "Just finished filming my last Stefan and Elena scene with the amazing [Paul Wesley]," she wrote in the caption of a photo of her and Wesley. "Crazy. So many emotions. I’m lost for words. [sic]" But the question that remains is whether or not Elena's exit will be very final, like Mischa Barton's from The OC (remember when Marissa got shot?) or open-ended, like everyone who ever starred on ER (remember how George Clooney and Julianna Margulies kept coming back?).
So don't lose hope, Elena fans. Dobrev could always turn up again, if characters of TV past are any indication. Here are some such characters and actors who have returned to their old shows:
Steve Carrell in The Office
It was a sad, sad day at Dunder Mifflin when Carrell's hilarious, but lovable Michael Scott decided to pack it up and leave Scranton with soulmate Holly Flax in Season 7. But everyone's favorite Best Boss did make it back for the series finale and made it back in time for Dwight Schrute's wedding to Angela Martin.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, The Office creator Greg Daniels said that Carrell's appearance was such a secret that the cast and crew even kept NBC from finding out about it. "It was important for them to not know about Steve Carrell appearing, but the show was so important to those of us who worked on it," he said. "It wouldn’t have been a big finale without him."
Ian Somerhalder & Everyone Else on Lost
The ABC drama saw a lot of comings and goings throughout its run, but Somerhalder (Boone) was among those who left and returned for the show's sixth and final season, including Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet), Dominic Monaghan (Charlie), Harold Perrineau (Michael Dawson), Cynthia Watros (Libby), and Katey Sagal (Helen). Quite a reunion on the island.
“I think it’s safe to say… we sort of discussed that… it’s truly incredible that… I am going to be coming back,” Somerhalder told fans and EW at Comic-Con before the show's finale in 2010. "It’s just a matter of timing and getting me down there."
Jeffrey Dean Morgan on Grey's Anatomy
In Season 2, Dr. Izzie Stevens (played by Katherine Heigl) skirted a lot of ethics when it came to patient Denny Duquette — they fell in love and she cut his LVAD wire in order to get him a heart transplant, which is a big no-no for doctors. But in the season finale, Denny has a stroke and died, leaving Izzie devastated and with him went actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan. But it wasn't the last time viewers would see Denny — or Morgan — on the show. The actor reprised his role in several episodes after Denny's death, either in dream sequences or hallucinations up until Season 5, proving that even character death can't stop a return engagement.
Sherry Stringfield on ER
The '90s medical drama had quite the revolving door when it came to actors leaving and coming back to the hospital. Clooney, Margulies, Marvel's Agents of SHIELD's Ming-Na, and others left the show and returned, but most notably actress Sherry Stringfield came back to the show in Season 8 after leaving her role as the popular Dr. Susan Lewis in Season 3.
"Series television is either a nightmare or the best thing in the whole world. It really depends on, I think, where you are in your life," Stringfield told the Chicago Tribune in 2001. "It's a lot easier for me this time having a family, because with a kid, you're not going anywhere. So I was really starting to crave a schedule and I'm actually really enjoying that now."
Luke Perry on Beverly Hills, 90210
The 48-year-old actor exited his iconic role as hunky heartthrob Dylan McKay in the sixth season, but returned in Season 9 as a "Special Guest Star" and even directed one episode. But he decided to not to come back as Dylan in The CW's 90210 , even though Kelly Taylor (played by Jennie Garth) was mother to his son on the sequel series.
Michael Rooker in The Walking Dead
Daryl Dixon's loudmouthed brother Merle was left for dead, handcuffed on a roof filled with zombies in Season 1, but it wasn't the last fans would see — or hear — of him. Merle appeared in Daryl's Season 2 hallucinations and then reemerges in the (zombie) flesh in Season 3 working with The Governor.
Images: Tina Rowden/The CW; Screengrab/NBC