×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The real reason these actors left popular superhero shows

Superheroes may not be willing to give up their crime-fighting crusades, but that doesn't mean the actors playing them, their loved ones, or their enemies feel the same. No matter how much fans might bemoan the changes or how hard a studio may fight to keep actors on board, sometimes the real people bringing these comic book-inspired stories to life simply can't continue.

And should that surprise us so much? No matter how enjoyable or profitable playing a caped crusader may be, real life gets in the way for all of us, and actors are no exception. Sometimes they feel they've gone as far with a character as they can, and other times they need to move on for the sake of their professional ambitions. In other cases, the higher ups step in and take the choice away from the actor.

Whether they left by choice or were handed their walking papers, here's a look at the reasons these actors left popular superhero TV shows.

Amell needed more time to be a husband and a father

In March 2019, news broke that Arrow's eighth season would be its last. Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) heroically sacrifices himself to save his allies from the Anti-Monitor and to help form a new multiverse in CW's massive crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths

In an emotional Facebook video, Amell explained to fans that he'd told Arrow producer Greg Berlanti at the end of season six that he wanted the seventh season to be his last. Fittingly, considering in the series his character had become both a husband and a father, Amell said his decision was informed by the demands on his life outside the show. "A large part of this decision [is] because I'm now a father and a husband," Amell explained, "[and] to say that it has been a real sea change over the past seven-plus years would be a vast understatement."

Arrow's final season was truncated to only 10 episodes. His friends and loved ones honor his life in "Fadeout" — Arrow's series finale — and before the credits roll we see Oliver reunited with his wife Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) in the afterlife.

Routh and Ford didn't have much say in the matter

By Legends of Tomorrow's fifth season, Brandon Routh was one of the only series regulars from the show's first season left on board the Waverider. That changed with Routh's final episode, "Romeo v. Juliet: Dawn of Justness," which saw Routh's character Ray Palmer and Nora Darhk (Courtney Ford — Routh's real-life wife) leave the Legends for good. 

In August 2019, Legends series producers told Deadline Routh and Ford were leaving due to "a creative decision to wrap up their storyline." When Routh spoke to Entertainment Weekly in March 2020 about how things were handled, it was clear he wasn't happy about it. Routh said he wasn't a part of the discussions to have his character exit the show, and that considering the years he'd spent playing Ray Palmer on both Legends and Arrow, that "it made what could've been a happy, positive exit, the opposite." 

One saving grace was that the CW event Crisis on Infinite Earths gave Routh the chance to once again play Superman — a role he first played in 2006's Superman Returns. Routh told EW, "It was an amazing experience... It made all the difference. I honestly don't know what would've happened to season 5 of Legends of Tomorrow if [the Superman role] hadn't been offered." 

Landes looked too much like his co-stars

When Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman first aired in 1993, its cast included Michael Landes, who played Superman's pal Jimmy Olsen. But by the second season, Landes had been let go and was replaced with Justin Whalin, who played Olsen until Lois & Clark ended in 1997. According to Landes, the reason for his departure was a little weird. 

Speaking to Digital Spy in 2016, Landes said he was fired from Lois & Clark because of his face. "[The Lois & Clark producers] said it was because I looked too much like Dean Cain, who played Clark... and Teri Hatcher, who played Lois," Landes said. "Part of me was like, 'So what, I didn't look like them 22 episodes ago?'"

Fortunately for Landes, the firing wasn't a career-ending event and his outlook on it has changed. "At the time, I was bummed out," Landes told Digital Spy. "But then you end up getting so many other jobs. Had I stayed, I would've just been the third fiddle on that show for years."

The long hours were too much for Ruby Rose

Only a couple of days after Batwoman's first season concluded in May 2020, its lead Ruby Rose announced she would not be returning to the series, without citing any specific reasons for her departure. 

It didn't take long for speculation to spring up around the net, and one early candidate was a back problem Rose endured. In September 2019, Rose revealed she'd suffered a spinal injury while performing stunts for Batwoman that proved serious enough she needed emergency surgery to stop her spinal cord from being severed. While it would be understandable if an injury that scary dissuaded Rose from continuing, anonymous sources have since come forward to claim the back injury wasn't a factor. 

A day after Rose announced she was leaving Batwoman, word arose that her leaving had more to do with her demanding work schedule. Variety reported that "multiple sources" claimed Rose was not happy with her long hours on the set, and that unhappiness led to "friction" between her and the rest of the cast and crew. The decision for Rose to leave was apparently a mutual one agreed upon by Rose, CW, and Warner Bros. 

Felicity felt her time was over

Only a few weeks after the announcement that Arrow's eighth season would be its last, Emily Bett Rickards told fans that final truncated season would happen without her character Felicity — Oliver Queen's longtime love interest, who'd finally married the vigilante. In what has to be a fairly unique way to announce this kind of thing, Rickards let her fans know with a rhyming poem on her Instagram page.  

A couple of months later, Rickards was blunt about not wanting to return for the Arrow series finale. "I don't know if anybody is going to like what I'm saying, but I feel like Felicity has done her time," Rickards told Collider. "We knew this was coming for a while — for over a year — so the whole thing is exactly what we wanted to happen."

Thankfully for Felicity fans, someone apparently managed to change Rickards' mind. While she was still absent for most of Arrow's final season, Felicity reunites with Oliver Queen in the afterlife in the series finale.

Seth Green wanted a shot at the big screen

For two seasons, Seth Green played Oz – Buffy the Vampire Slayer's resident man of few words. Starting off as a recurring character and love interest to Willow (Alyson Hanigan), Oz eventually becomes a werewolf after being bitten by his young nephew. Green was a series regular by the show's third season, though he was written off the show in the beginning of season 4. 

The bio for Green's official website reads that Oz "was always better served in a recurring capacity and [Buffy creator Joss Whedon] and I both felt it was better to revert to that status." But in a response to a fan question that has since been removed from the site (via Everything's Swirling), Green was a little more blunt about his reasons for leaving, writing that once he was promoted to a series regular that Buffy not only monopolized his time, but that his character never seemed to have much to do. "I began having other opportunities," he explained, "and working on a show five days a week, 12-14 hours a day, in scene with 10 people, waiting for hours to say a line like 'I think Buffy's right,' precluded me from taking advantage of them." 

Arthur Darvill wanted to return to Broadchurch

When the Time Master Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) disappeared after Legends of Tomorrow's second season, it was more than a little weird considering he's the guy who brought the ragtag group of heroes together. Legends without Rip was kind of like Charlie's Angels without Charlie. Darvill eventually returned in a recurring role, and in the season 3 finale his character sacrifices his life for the Legends in their battle against the demon Mallus.

It turns out Darvill left the Waverider to bring help bring a conclusion to another series. A few years before Legends of Tomorrow premiered, Darvill was cast as Reverend Paul Coates on the British crime drama Broadchurch. For the show's third and final series, Darvill had to exit Legends entirely.

"They were very kind on Legends — Broadchurch is something that's been going on for a while, so they had to work around that," Darvill told Digital Spy in 2016. "I was so pleased to finish off that journey on Broadchurch."

After his character's ultimate sacrifice in 2018, Legends showrunner Phil Klemmer spoke fondly of Darvill while expressing the opinion that the show had grown beyond the initial concept that included Rip Hunter, saying, "our love for Arthur Darvill exceeds our need for his character." 

Palicki and Blood thought they'd found a new home

In the middle of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s third season, two of its most popular characters said goodbye. In "Parting Shot," Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) was forced to disavow Agents Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) and Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) after the two were caught spying on a secret Russian facility. Blood would return briefly for season 5's "Rewind," but Palicki was a complete no-show. 

The thing is, neither Palicki nor Blood expected to be saying goodbye to their characters for good. Their departure from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was meant to act as the introduction to a new seriesMarvel's Most Wanted. The series would have also featured Delroy Lindo as adventurer Dominic Fortune, Fernanda Andrade as Fortune's niece Christina Santos, and Oded Fehr as an undisclosed villain. 

Unfortunately, after watching the pilot ABC passed on Marvel's Most Wanted, saying the show "did not feel as strong as some of the other pilots that we shot," leaving Palicki and Blood without a Marvel home. When Entertainment Weekly asked Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. producers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen about Palicki and Blood returning, it seemed the show had moved on. "Once an agent, always an agent, so it's always out there in the ether," Whedon said. "But right now we're taking a breather."

Brooks is busy with other projects

Mehcad Brooks was a one of the original series regulars on Supergirl, starting as an early love interest for the show's Kryptonian hero as well as her touchstone to her more famous cousin. Over the course of the series he went from his more familiar role as a photojournalist to the vigilante Guardian, and eventually he became the Editor-in-Chief of CatCo.

In July 2019, news broke that Brooks would leave Supergirl in the middle of season 5. Rather than noting any backstage drama, the Entertainment Weekly article announcing his departure cited Brooks' desire to focus on movies. It also said he was developing a cable series and working on a book. 

It didn't take long before a couple of the projects Brooks had in mind were revealed. A month after the announcement that he would leave SupergirlThe Hollywood Reporter listed Brooks as one of the actors cast in 2021's Mortal Kombat reboot. Also, in January 2020, Brooks starred in the Netflix Original Tyler Perry thriller A Fall from Grace.

Rosenbaum wanted to do something new

A prequel series about Superman? We know how it's going to end, right? Who would want to watch that?

Well, a lot of people watched and loved Smallville, evidenced by its successful ten seasons. In spite of that success, Smallville needed to do most of its final three seasons without its Lex Luthor. Michael Rosenbaum, who played the bald bad guy, told Empire in 2016 that Peter Roth of Warner Bros. tried to get him to stay on board, but he was desperate to do other things. "I think I've done this long enough," Rosenbaum reportedly said to Roth. "I did this character for seven years and I just don't feel like shaving my head for two more years."

Unlike his Smallville co-stars Tom Welling and Erica Durance, Rosenbaum declined to appear in CW's 2019-20 Crisis on Infinite Earths event that featured cameos from actors who'd appeared in DC Comics-inspired movies and TV shows — though according to Rosenbaum, it had more to do with communication than any ill will he felt toward his former character. After being asked by multiple fans, Rosenbaum tweeted, "Their offer: No Script. No idea what I'm doing. No idea when I'm shooting. Basically no money. And the real kick in the ass 'We have to know now.' My simple answer was 'Pass.'" 

Colton Haynes needed to put his health first

When he's introduced in Arrow's first season, Colton Haynes' Roy Harper is a street thug. But by season 3 Haynes was promoted to series regular and his character had become Green Arrow's red-garbed sidekick Arsenal. Unfortunately, by the end of the third season, Haynes left the series. His character was written off Arrow as having faked his own death. 

In 2016, Haynes told Entertainment Weekly that — in spite of building his career since the age of 15 – he left Arrow because his health was at risk. "I asked to step away because I cared more about my mental and physical health than my career at the time," Haynes said. "I've had terminal anxiety my entire life. Physically ill, fainting. I'm 27 years old, and I have an ulcer. I had to step back."

Ultimately Haynes' decision apparently proved to not only be the best thing for him, but the best thing for Arrow. In 2018, Haynes was doing well enough to return to Arrow as a series regular for its final two seasons.

Vondie Curtis-Hall left because no one was safe

On the face of it, there's no mystery to Vondie Curtis-Hall's departure from Netflix's Daredevil. Curtis-Hall played Ben Urich, the newshound who is murdered by Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio) at the end of the first season's penultimate episode. But it was a particularly shocking death to fans, because the character is such a mainstay in the comics. You might equate it, for example, to James Gordon getting killed off in a Batman movie or series. 

The death was so surprising it led to an urban legend. As Brian Cronin wrote in his "Comic Book Legends Revealed" column for CBR, some viewers thought he was killed off because of some kind of rights issue — presumably left over from Fox's ownership of Daredevil's movie rights — leaving Marvel unsure it would be able to use the character after the first season. It seems strange that Marvel would be able to use Daredevil but not Ben Urich, but the legend persists. 

As Cronin points out in his column, Daredevil showrunner Steven DeKnight told THR in 2015 that the decision to kill Urich was made before he was brought on board, and that it had nothing to with any rights issues. The idea, DeKnight said, was "to let the audience know that the gloves were off: just because he was a beloved character in the comics, doesn't mean he's safe."

Lonsdale needed to walk a different path

For Flash's second and third seasons — and a little bit of its fourth – Keiynan Lonsdale played Barry Allen's (Grant Gustin) friend and eventually his sidekick Wally West, a.k.a. Kid Flash. For Legends of Tomorrow's third season, the young hero jumped on board the Waverider to give his time-hopping friends a hand. But in June 2018, Lonsdale took to social media to let his fans know his time as a series regular in the Arrowverse was over. 

Lonsdale noted that he'd "changed a lot" in the previous year, presumably referring to his publicly coming out as bisexual in 2017. "[F]or infinite reasons my perspective on life & what I want from it now is just completely different," Lonsdale wrote on Instagram (via Entertainment Weekly). "Because of that, my heart told me it was the right time to continue my journey on an unknown path, and I'm so damn grateful to both shows for honouring & respecting that with me."

But Lonsdale's made it clear he hasn't written off the Arrowverse for good. He's already made a few recurring appearances on The Flash, including in the late season 6 episode "Death of the Speed Force."

Newmar headed west

For the first two seasons of the campy '60s Batman series, it was Julie Newmar who played the seductive thief Catwoman. In the third season of the show Newmar was replaced by singer and actress Eartha Kitt. It wasn't the first time Newmar needed someone to step in, either: She was unavailable for the 1966 Batman movie because she was filming the ultimately unfinished comedy Monsieur Lecoq.

And it was another scheduling conflict that kept Newmar out of Batman's third season. She was set to appear as the Apache woman Hesh-Ke in the 1969 Western Mackenna's Gold, and reportedly couldn't fit both that and Batman on the same calendar. 

It would take more than a few decades, but Newmar eventually returned to the role. Kind of. She voiced her feline-themed crook in two animated features: 2016's Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and the following year's Batman vs. Two-Face.

Hartley Sawyer's words came back to bite him

In June 2020, shortly after the close of The Flash's sixth season, fans learned that Hartley Sawyer — who had played Ralph Dibny, a.k.a. the Elongated Man, since the show's fourth season — had been fired from the series for misogynistic, racist, homophobic, and otherwise offensive tweets with dates ranging between 2009 and 2014. Both the tweets and Sawyer's Twitter account have since been deleted.

Hours later, Sawyer posted a length apology on Instagram, writing, "I am incredibly sorry, ashamed and disappointed in myself for my ignorance back then. I want to be very clear: this is not reflective of what I think or who I am now." The apology apparently wasn't enough; news of Sawyer's firing broke on June 8. Flash showrunner Eric Wallace posted a statement saying of Sawyer's tweets, "they broke my heart and made me mad as hell." Flash star Grant Gustin and former Arrow lead Stephen Amell soon followed with their support for the decision. Sawyer's former Flash co-star Danielle Nicolet also responded, writing that it was sadly "not the first time I have learned that someone I know, or work with, is not necessarily who they present themselves to be. At least not to MY face... My Black Face..." Among other things, Nicolet added, "I hold no ill will toward my former castmate, or anyone who is on their journey toward self-betterment."