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Actors Who Had No Idea A Co-Star's Onscreen Death Was Coming

The rise of so-called spoiler culture has made TV and film studios more careful about safeguarding story secrets. Anything from a social media post from a crew member to an actor revealing the wrong details during a press tour can let the cat out of the bag, as Tom Holland has learned again and again. It's gotten to the point that — particularly when it comes to big movie franchises like Marvel's superhero fare — you can't help but wonder if any of the actors are even given a script. 

In some cases, actors aren't even told about about the deaths of their co-stars' characters. Sometimes they find out the day of filming, sometimes scripts are carefully censored, sometimes fake scenes are written to fool the cast, and sometimes the actors don't know what happened until the rest of us do. 

Ranging from cosmic genocide to forgotten grandkids, here are actors who had no idea their co-stars' onscreen deaths were coming.

SPOILERS follow for multiple films and TV shows. You've been warned!

Haley wasn't invited to her granddad's funeral

Since Modern Family's first season, Fred Willard enjoyed a recurring role as Grandpa Frank, father to Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell). In the January 2020 episode "Legacy," after watching Phil and Frank share a touching father/son moment, we learn Frank died shortly thereafter. Phil eulogizes his father, saying, "My takeaway from our day was, don't miss the chance to let the people you appreciate know that."

If there is ever a book written about the history of spoilers, at least part of a chapter needs to be reserved for Sarah Hyland, who plays Haley on Modern Family. Hyland didn't know her TV grandfather was going to die, yet still managed to spoil it. 

Shortly after the airing of "Legacy," Hyland took to Instagram (via E! News) to tell her followers she had no idea Grandpa Frank was going to die. "I don't read scripts of episodes of Modern Family that I'm not in, so I just found out that my grandpa's dead along with all of you," Hyland wrote in an Instagram story. "I still feel special." After some fans pointed out she'd just dropped a pretty big spoiler, Hyland posted again, "I guess I should've put a spoiler alert for Grandpa Frank dying, but I was just caught off-guard. Like, as his granddaughter, you think I'd be invited to his funeral."

The Avengers didn't know who was getting "snapped"

When audiences left screenings of 2018's Avengers: Infinity War, they'd experienced one of the most soul-crushing climaxes of any superhero comic book film. Having finally gathered all five of the six Infinity Stones, the intergalactic madman Thanos (Josh Brolin) appears in Wakanda and makes a beeline for the android Vision (Paul Bettany), the wielder of the Mind Stone. After singlehandedly fighting and brushing aside the Avengers, Thanos finally has all six stones and with a single snap of his fingers he wipes out half of all life in the universe — including a huge chunk of the gathered heroes. 

According to Infinity War Executive Producer Trinh Tran, none of the actors knew who would be a victim of Thanos' fateful snap until the day of filming. On the "Beyond the Battle: Wakanda" feature on the Avengers: Infinity War Blu-ray, Tran says, "We had gathered the whole entire talent there, circled around our directors, and basically revealed to them that morning of, when they came on set, that that scene was happening, that some of them were going to be, you know, disappearing."

So apparently the Infinity War actors apparently didn't get much more warning than their characters that half of them would soon be dust in the wind. We imagine people like Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, and Elizabeth Olsen must have said to themselves, "Well, I guess I get a lot more time off while we're filming the sequel!"

In Game of Thrones, some actors were as surprised as the rest of us

From its first season's beheading of Ned Stark (Sean Bean) to the gut-wrenching Red Wedding, Game of Thrones quickly earned a reputation for one of the few places on television where no one was safe. In 2019, the Associated Press spoke to the cast and learned some of the series' deaths were just as surprising to the cast members. 

Even Ned Stark's death wasn't readily accepted by all the cast. Conleth Hill, who played the cunning adviser Varys, said of Ned's death scene, "Even while we were filming I kept thinking, 'Oh someone will save him.'"

More shocking was the death of Oberyn Martell, a.k.a. the Viper (Pedro Pascal). Isaac Hempstead Wright, who played Bran Stark, said he hadn't read the script for the episode and so, like many viewers, he thought Martell was getting the better of the Mountain in their duel. Lancel Lannister actor Eugene Simon likewise said, "I was utterly shocked... His skull just gets crushed and he's done."

But it's clear the Thrones death that not only surprised the most but broke the most hearts was that of Hodor (Kristian Nairn). Hill said he was blindsided by the death, and Shireen Baratheon actress Kerry Ingram said no other death on the show hit her as hard. "I was just so shocked because I didn't know what was going to happen... The acting, the way that it was presented was just incredible."

The Magicians tricked the cast

The end of The Magicians' fourth season killed its initial protagonist, Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph). In the season finale, Quentin sacrifices himself to save his friends and to stop the villain Everett (Brian Markinson). Penny-40 (Arjun Gupta) allows Quentin to briefly ascend from the Underworld so he can see his friends' touching tribute — a slow, sad rendition of a-ha's "Take On Me." 

Even as Ralph's co-stars were playing mourners, they didn't know the character was dead for good. In fact, they didn't know until the episode aired. Ralph told Entertainment Weekly a dummy scene was added to the end of the script which undid Coldwater's death. "So, everyone — the crew and [the cast] — was under the impression that's what was actually going to happen," Ralph said. "They were playing it like he died for real. They just didn't know it was going to be a forever decision."

Ralph said he was under a gag order for about a year before the airing of the season 4 finale and had to keep what he knew from his co-stars. In fact, as he spoke with EW, he still hadn't talked to the other actors on the show about his departure. He told EW, "after my call you with you, I'm going to be contacting everybody else and just saying goodbye."

The series itself only lasted a season longer than its former lead. In March 2020, news broke that The Magicians' fifth season would be its last

Bucky thought he was at a wedding

Avengers: Endgame ends the MCU's Infinity Saga with the death of two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's founding Avengers — Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr). The Avengers and other MCU characters gather at Stark's cabin to pay tribute to Iron Man, but apparently not everyone was in on what was actually going on until after the cameras started rolling. 

On The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Sebastian Stan — who plays Bucky in the MCU — said at first he had no idea he was attending Tony Stark's memorial service. "I was told there was a wedding," Stan told Fallon. "I was, like, 'who's getting married?'... But everyone was dressed very formal... two people weren't there and I guessed that was the bride and the groom."

So not only did Stan not know Black Widow and Iron Man were dead, he apparently thought they were tying the knot. And he thought that even though Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) was there? It's tough to blame him considering how much he was left in the dark, but it's funny to consider the kind of movie Avengers: Endgame would have to be in order to not only reveal how the Avengers defeated Thanos and reversed the deaths of half the universe, but also saw Tony Stark abruptly break up with Pepper so he and Black Widow could finally reveal their very, very hidden love for one another.