TORONTO — Erinn Hayes’s recently announced departure from the Kevin James TV comedy “Kevin Can Wait” has sparked shock and outrage among fans.
But for many actors, it seems the possibility of being killed off a show is one that’s always on their minds.
Last week, CBS announced Hayes will not be returning to play the wife of Kevin Gable, played by James, on the sitcom. Instead she’ll be killed off, paving the way for a reunion with Leah Remini, James’s TV wife for nine seasons on “The King of Queens.”
“I think it’s … built into every actor’s mentality to assume as a show wraps either an episode or a season, to think that you’re unemployed and you’ll never work again,” Maria Doyle Kennedy, who plays Mrs. S on “Orphan Black,” said on the set before the latest and final season kicked off in June.
“I was always nervous, especially after Paul (a main monitor of the clones) died too in the third season,” said Jordan Gavaris, who plays Felix on the show.
“There would be characters where you felt like, ‘Yeah, these are fantastic characters. I bet we’re really going to see an arc develop for these people,’ and then you’d watch them trickle into the table read the following week … only to see on the page that their character was dead and you’re just kind of like, ‘Whoa, this is one of those shows.”’
Montreal actor Yanic Truesdale of “Gilmore Girls” said he never assumed he’d be a part of the next season until he got the official word.
“Every week there’s an actor that is not renewed, or fired,” he said in an interview when Netflix revived the series last November.
“The seven-year contract that you sign when you audition is basically to protect the studio for you not to be able to leave. But it doesn’t protect you from being fired.”
Receiving such news can still be devastating, not just the person who’s being axed but also their castmates.
When Samira Wiley was told her “Orange is the New Black” character would be killed off in season 4, she said she initially took it personally. After reading the script, she understood it was a necessary part of the story, but her castmates didn’t know until a week before shooting the episode.
“By the time we went and shot it, the news was very, very fresh for them,” she said in an interview. “So in a way, even though it was happening to me and I was the one who really had to bear the crux of it, I felt like I needed to take care of other people because they were so profoundly sad.”
For some actors, going out in a blaze of glory can ease the blow.
“Merle Dixon definitely went out with a bang,” said Michael Rooker, referring to his character on AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
“He came in with a bang so he might as well go out. When I got the phone call I said, ‘Well, if I’m going to go out, I’m going to go out an ass-kicker.”
Rooker knew three weeks before he had to shoot his final scene, which he said is a long time compared to the notice some actors are given.
“They get a week, some people get less than a week,” said Rooker.
“Degrassi” hasn’t killed many characters, but when it does, it’s always been in an organic way that serves the story, said executive producer Linda Schuyler.
“Any death that’s happened on ‘Degrassi’ has been … to illustrate a particular issue and not to be vindictive to the actor,” she said.
“And always, whenever something big like that would happen with a character, I would bring them into my office and we’d talk it through with them beforehand so that they wouldn’t just one day get surprised about what would happen.”
Alexander Ludwig of “Vikings” sees a positive aspect to being killed off a show.
“Leaving can also be the best thing that happens to any actor, it’s just if you’re leaving the right way,” he said.
“If and when I die on this show, it needs to be extremely powerful and that serves everything I came on the show for…. To me, dying, if nothing comes of it, then that’s a problem.
“If you don’t feel like you’ve shown enough of your character or you’ve been able to show at least one side to your character that makes it interesting, then that is my fear _ of leaving without leaving a mark.”