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Awkward Love Scenes Celebs Filmed With Their Exes

Most people who go through a bad breakup have to worry about aftereffects like awkward run-ins at their favorite bar, how to fairly split time with mutual friends, or perhaps even navigating tricky custody disputes. What most people don't have to concern themselves with is how to convincingly lock lips with their exes at work.

For actors, even a bitter split doesn't stop the cameras from rolling, and if a pair of former offscreen lovebirds just so happen to play romantic partners on television or film, they may have to continue doing so despite any personal animosity that might be left over after the breakup. For the following actors, the failings of their personal relationships didn't extend to their characters — and they had to pretend to have fond feelings for each other, no matter what they were going through in real life. Here are some celebrities whose acting chops were really put to the test by filming love scenes with their former flames.

Mamma Mi-ughhhh

Sparks flew between actors Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper after the two played young lovers in the 2008 musical adaptation Mamma Mia! The duo broke up a few years later and moved on from that relationship without making too many headlines. When Universal Pictures decided to bring both of them back a decade later for the sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, things started to get a little strange for everyone involved.

Seyfried's husband Tom Sadoski wasn't exactly thrilled about the fact that she'd be sharing some screen sizzle with her ex, as she told The Mirror. "I think he has the same kind of issues that I would have if we were hanging out with his ex-girlfriend from long ago," she admitted. "I'd guess he assumed Dominic is in love with me the way he's in love with me. And it's just not the case." Although Seyfried thought Sadoski's reaction was "sweet," and Cooper himself compared production to a "school reunion," that's a lot of extra pressure for a pair to be under during production. To make matters worse, co-star Cher made sure to jokingly tell Seyfried she "dodged a bullet" while Cooper could hear it. Now that's something to sing about.

Vampire love is eternal

When Vampire Diaries co-stars Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder first made it official that their onscreen chemistry had blossomed off the set in 2011, their characters were also at the beginning of a turbulent romance. A few close calls notwithstanding, things ended up working out for their characters, Elena Gilbert and Damon Salvatore, throughout the rest of the series; unfortunately, the same can't be said for Dobrev and Somerhalder, who had to keep filming love scenes together even after their real-life split.

The two smiled and joked about the discomfort during a 2014 People's Choice Awards acceptance speech, but Dobrev took it a step further by walking away from the show that made her a household name after its sixth season. Somerhalder continued to star in the series for the remaining two years, while Dobrev's character was said to be in a sort of vampire coma, and Somerhalder then proceeded to marry Nikki Reed, whom Dobrev had previously been friendly with. The three would later put to bed any feud rumors between them, but it was still a cringeworthy reunion when Dobrev returned for the series finale and had to film a happy ending, complete with a passionate embrace and kiss, with her old beau. That bites.

Love life's DOA

It's one thing to work with an ex many years after a breakup, but it's something else entirely to share the screen with a former partner during a split, especially when there are love scenes involved. That's exactly what happened to Jennifer Aniston and Tate Donovan, who decided to call off their engagement just before he was invited to guest star as her character's new romantic interest on Friends. The brief courtship of Rachel Green and night club investor Joshua Burgin might have been convincing enough, but that only goes to show just how committed the actors were.

Donovan later explained that he had regularly visited the set of the hit NBC series while he was dating Aniston, making nice with the producers and her co-stars along the way. Somehow that didn't transpire into a guest spot until shortly after they quietly decided to call it quits, which meant things got incredibly weird for everyone involved. "We'd broken up, and the producers were like, 'Hey, would you want to do six episodes on the show?' And I was like, 'Well, maybe it'd be good to work through this breakup," he told Huffpost Live. "It was April, and I remember calling her, and she thought it was an April Fool's Day joke." They agreed to work together, thinking it might actually help them get through the breakup, but according to Donovan, getting romantic with her in front of the cameras was nothing short of miserable. "It was horrible. It was so tough," he explained. "I remember just getting back to my dressing room and just weeping." Welp. At least they didn't have to play each other's lobsters.

One tree... still?

Young love makes people do crazy things sometimes, like marrying a co-star after only a year of dating and working together under the intense spotlight of tabloid culture. For Sophia Bush and Chad Michael Murray, who played onscreen love interests Brooke and Lucas on the WB's hit teen soap One Tree Hill, that proved to be a monumental mistake. Their quickie marriage (which she later said she felt pressured by the public to enter into) lasted just a matter of months before they separated ... and had to continue pretending to be madly in love with one another for the show.

Bush maintained at the time that she was a "strong girl" who could easily "keep them separate" when it came to her personal and professional interests, and she stuck to her guns later. On Watch What Happens Live in 2014, she said, "At the end of the day, we're grown-ups ... We were just two stupid kids who had no business being in a relationship in the first place." That kind of maturity probably didn't stop it from being awkward, however, when she had to swap spit with him after the rumor mill linked him with celebutante Paris Hilton.

What goes around, goes around

Perhaps no love scene involving real-life exes will ever be quite as purposefully awkward as the ones Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake shot for Bad Teacher. The pair, who had previously worked together on Shrek the Third, dated for several years before confirming their breakup in 2007 and sending the gossip mill into overdrive with the release of his highly suggestive music video for "What Goes Around ... Comes Around."

As if sharing space on a cast list again wasn't weird enough after so much drama, they were also expected to play love interests in their next collaboration ... and weird ones, too. One scene in particular involved them simulating over-the-clothes sex, which culminated in the stomach-churning line "Even your forehead is sexy." Although Diaz insisted she and Timberlake were fine with working together again and enjoyed the chance "to make a movie where [they] get to laugh together" for old times' sake, she also had to admit the scene in question was ridiculous, saying "It was absurd!" They probably don't prepare you for moments like these in film school.

Twin eeks

As if Twin Peaks needed more layers of weirdness, Kyle MacLachlan's long-dormant romantic history with co-star Laura Dern came crashing back for both of them while filming a scene for David Lynch's 2017 sequel season, Twin Peaks: The Return. The two had a relationship together in the '80s, so when Dern was cast in the long-awaited third season as Agent Dale Cooper's love interest Diane Evans, they approached the reunion with consummate professionalism.

"Laura is just wonderful and a very special person. So, we had this scene we had to do together — we both knew going in which was going to require some nakedness on both our parts," he told Ellen DeGeneres of their big hotel scene in the series finale. "David [Lynch] would sit down and say 'This is what you're going to do,' and he talks you through it. So, you feel pretty comfortable, and Laura and I would sit down and go 'Okay, here we go. Welcome back 25 years later.'" Despite their commitment to being grown-ups about it all, however, MacLachlan admitted they couldn't help but giggle at the uncomfortable situation they were put in after so many years apart. "It was pretty weird," he explained. "We had a couple of laughs for sure." The fact that the scene in question sees her character covering up his face to stave off some bad memories makes the scene even more discomfiting to watch.

Baby alias

The pregnancies of female stars do tend to make things more complicated, especially when it comes to ongoing small-screen productions, and that was especially true for Jennifer Garner when she was expecting her first child with Ben Affleck while finishing up her work on TV's Alias. Why? Well, she and the producers agreed to write the bump into Sydney Bristow's storyline for the show's final season, which seems reasonable and agreeable enough ... except the supposed father of her bundle-to-be was supposed to be her longtime love interest on the show Michael Vaughn, who was played by none other than her real-life ex-boyfriend Michael Vartan.

The two had dated for a few months after her divorce from Scott Foley and before her marriage to Affleck, so when he was asked to deliver an emotional plot twist that would culminate in him filming sweet beachside kissing scenes with his ex while she was very visibly expecting her next love's little one, well, it was a bit cruel. To his credit, Vartan only ever spoke nicely about Garner's growing family, saying it was all "very cool." However, one might wonder whether he was putting his double agent deception skills to the test again by putting such a happy face on what was clearly not an ideal situation.  

Gossip swirl

Co-stars dating on the set of teen soaps is obviously not uncommon, but what made a difference for Blake Lively and Penn Badgley, who dated onscreen and off for three years during Gossip Girl, was keeping the noise off their personal relationship to a minimum. Producers later claimed to be unaware of any relationship speed bumps away from the set — which is pretty impressive, considering they were expected to keep it hot and heavy with one another when the cameras were around no matter how their private connection was holding up.

On Watch What Happens Live, however, Badgley fielded a caller question about his best and worst onscreen kiss and decided to give both honors to Lively. "I'll say Blake [Lively] because we actually had a relationship at the time," he said of the best kiss. "And then the worst, maybe Blake after we broke up." Badgley credited himself and Lively for keeping it "consummately professional" throughout the rest of their working relationship, but he wasn't shy about how difficult it was. "I think we should both pat ourselves on the back for getting [through it]," he said. "We handled it." The real test came along in the series finale when Serena van der Woodsen and Dan Humphrey decided to get hitched in the series finale, long after the actors had gone their separate ways. Sometimes, truth is way more dramatic than fiction.  

The big bang doozy

Another couple who managed to keep their offscreen dalliances a secret: Big Bang Theory stars Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco, who dated for two years. In fact, it wasn't until after they'd split that they even publicly confirmed what was happening between them. As Cuoco told CBS Watch! Magazine (via Today), "It was such a huge part of my life and no one knew about it. It was a wonderful relationship, but we never spoke a word about it and never went anywhere together." After the two called it quits in 2010, the intensity of their characters' relationship only increased, and the two were ultimately wed onscreen ... twice. There've been countless kissing and quirky love scenes since their real-life breakup, and it's not anywhere near over for either of them.

Galecki told The View that the only reason he and Cuoco are able to continue pulling off the nerdy romance of Leonard and Penny is "massive doses of mutual love and respect." The actor added, "It's not easy, but with those two ingredients pretty much anything is possible, and we are dear, dear friends." Galecki has certainly continued to put on a good face about it all, even offering "much love" to his "fake wife" and her new husband on her big wedding day in 2018.