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Actors Who Regret Their '90s TV Roles

If you're looking for fame and fortune, you could do a whole lot worse than landing an acting gig on a major TV series. But needless to say, it takes quite a bit of skill and luck to get the lead in a popular show. And such an accomplishment was even harder to achieve back in the 1990s, when TV consisted of little more than a few broadcast networks and couple of obscure cable outlets. 

Of course, starring in a TV series, even back in the go-go '90s, isn't always as great as it seems from the outside looking in. And back during that crazy decade, a number of actors and actresses apparently weren't careful with what they wished for, and they landed big roles on shows that they later (or almost instantly) came to regret. From sci-fi actors to sitcom stars, here are some familiar faces from classic '90s television shows who, for what it's worth, wish they hadn't accepted the part in the first place.

Roy Scheider was openly embarrassed of SeaQuest

In the modern era of prestige television, acclaimed film actors don't face much discussion that their careers are slipping because they've take on a role in a Netflix miniseries or HBO project. But back in the '90s, it was newsworthy when a movie star would stoop to TV. In 1993, Roy Scheider — the taciturn and soulful star of Jaws and a two-time Academy Award nominee for his work in All That Jazz and The French Connection — took on his first weekly series gig with the NBC sci-fi show SeaQuest DSV. Later renamed SeaQuest 2032, it followed the adventures of a high-tech oceanic submarine in the 21st century, its crew led by Captain Nathan Bridger (portrayed by Scheider).

In its first season, SeaQuest attracted middling viewing figures and so-so reviews but still earned a renewal from NBC. However, that renewal came with some network interference and an ordered retooling that turned the show into what Scheider told the Orlando Sentinel was "total childish trash," "Saturday afternoon 4 o'clock junk," and "old, tired, time-warp robot crap." Scheider tried to get out of his contract, and while it took him a while, he finally left the show during its third and final season.

Shannen Doherty wasn't charmed with Charmed

Charmed executive producer Aaron Spelling had a history with actress Shannen Doherty. She'd become a big star and a teen idol on Beverly Hills, 90210, until she got fired in 1994 for starting too much backstage drama, which culminated in an alleged fistfight with co-star Jennie Garth. This was all relayed to unhappy executive producer Spelling by his daughter, cast member Tori Spelling, causing Doherty's departure from the show. 

Nevertheless, Spelling let bygones be bygones and hired Doherty to play Prue Halliwell, one of the three main characters on Charmed, a supernatural soap about San Francisco sisters who also happen to be powerful witches. Once again, Doherty would exit the show long before its end, but this time, she quit, as opposed to being terminated. Doherty departed in 2001 after three seasons, her character killed off and replaced by Rose McGowan as newly discovered Halliwell sister Paige. 

Shortly thereafter, Doherty explained to Movieline that she left in part because she felt her acting skills were going to waste. "On Charmed, there were a couple of moments when I gave the most brutally honest performance I could ever have given as an actor. What you saw came from my gut," Doherty said. "And when I looked at those moments, I knew that they weren't being given their proper due because they were on Charmed. It's a show for 12-year-olds!"

John Rhys-Davies thought the Sliders scripts stunk

Sliders was a Fox sci-fi and adventure show about a motley crew who travel or "slide" through various parallel dimensions and alternate historical timelines. A young genius named Quinn (Jerry O'Connell) led the sliders, which also included his mentor, Professor Arturo (John Rhys-Davies). For its first three seasons, Sliders was a witty, crackling, science-oriented show ... that never ranked higher than #89 in the Nielsen ratings. Fox justifiably canceled Sliders in 1997, but the Sci-Fi Channel saved it from oblivion and ordered a new batch of episodes. 

And that's when Rhys-Davies left the show, as he was already exasperated with what he perceived to be poorly composed scripts full of "incomprehensible gibberish." "I would go to [the writers] and complain," he told Digital Spy. "But they would say, 'John, why don't you just say the words as written?' And I'd say, 'I'll you what, I will actually say the words as written when you can actually write intelligent sentences!'" While he called his castmates "a lovely bunch of people to work with," Rhys-Davies called the show itself "the single biggest missed opportunity of my life."

Janet Hubert didn't bow down to the Fresh Prince

When Philadelphia teen Will (Will Smith) got sent to live with his auntie and uncle in Bel-Air on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, that auntie, Aunt Vivian, was portrayed by Janet Hubert. But when the show's fourth season premiered in 1993, Daphne Maxwell-Reid suddenly occupied the role. Smith told an Atlanta radio station (via E! Online) that Hubert's ego got her booted off the show. "Janet Hubert wanted the show to be The Aunt Viv of Bel-Air Show," Smith said, adding that, "She's mad now but she's been mad all along." He then mentioned that Hubert resented him because while she'd put in her dues as an actress for years, "this snotty-nosed punk comes along and gets a show." 

In a stand-up set years later, Fresh Prince cast member Alfonso Ribeiro mentioned that Hubert "would literally go off on people" making it "very difficult for us to work," which let to Maxwell-Reid replacing her. Of course, these days, Hubert doesn't feel the same way about the situation. "The world has let me know that my place on that show was very, very, very loved," Hubert told omg! Insider in 2013. "I felt demonized and beaten up and crucified for many many years; no one came forward in my defense."

Johnny Depp jumped from 21 Jump Street

Johnny Depp is among the most bankable movie stars of the 21st century, top-lining big films like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Pirates of the Caribbean saga, and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Before that, he specialized in quirky and progressive '90s fare, especially Tim Burton movies such as Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands, and Sleepy Hollow. But before all that, Depp was a TV star, part of the cast of a high-concept police drama on a brand new, little-watched network. 

One of the Fox network's first-ever primetime shows, 21 Jump Street premiered in 1987, and it detailed the stories of a group of youthful-looking police officers who infiltrate high schools and other teen environments to bust drug dealers and other criminals. Depp led the cast as Officer Tom Hanson, a role he played for 82 episodes, for exactly as long as his four-year Jump Street contract required. He made a clean break from the show in 1990, right around the theatrical release of his movie Cry-Baby, directed by underground film legend John Waters. 

"I don't want to bite the hand that feeds me or anything like that," Depp told the Los Angeles Times. "But I would much rather do movies with John Waters than be undercover in a high school carrying a gun. Cops undercover in high school, in my option, is borderline fascist." Depp added that he'd "rather pump gas" than star in another TV series.

Mandy Patinkin left Chicago for New York

In the fall of 1994, CBS and NBC both debuted shows set in the intense world of Chicago hospitals, with Chicago Hope and ER, respectively. ER wound up the much bigger hit, finishing the season at #2 in the ratings, but Chicago Hope held its own, finishing at #28 and winning an Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Emmy Award for Mandy Patinkin, who starred as Dr. Jeffrey Geiger, a talented and cocksure surgeon with a traumatic past. 

Chicago Hope was yet another triumph in a career that already included a Tony Award for Evita and a treasured performance as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride. And yet Patinkin wasn't happy. In July 1995, newswires reported that Patinkin had asked to be released from his five-year contract in order to spend more time with his young sons in New York, whom he missed after spending a season living and shooting in Hollywood. "I lost one year traveling back and forth doing this job. And I can't lose anymore," Patinkin said. The actor returned to the show for a handful of episodes so as to deal with Dr. Geiger's departure, and then he was done.

Bea Arthur thought The Golden Girls lost its shine

Today, it's a cult hit beloved by a wide cross-section of demographics, but when it was on the air, The Golden Girls was a massive success. From 1985 to 1992, the sitcom about four women of a certain age living and loving in Miami was a top ten smash for NBC. It was innovative in several ways. Networks had rarely programmed shows about old people, especially women, and it predicted the many sitcoms that followed (Friends, How I Met Your Mother, New Girl) about friend groups that became de facto family units. It's also one of the rare shows where the entire main cast won Emmy Awards. Nevertheless, Bea Arthur, previously best known for her starring role on the controversial '70s sitcom Maude, had her issues with the series.

Golden Girls Forever author Jim Colucci told Fox News that by 1991, Arthur "made it very clear that she was done" with the show. "She thought the quality was starting to slip. She wanted to go out while it was still a good show, and she felt she was done with it." Arthur reportedly also took the jokes made about Dorothy being "big and ugly" kind of personally. At any rate, The Golden Girls ended in 1992 with Dorothy getting married and leaving Miami. The remaining cast continued on together for the quickly-canceled spinoff The Golden Palace, which finds the other golden girls running a hotel.

Janeane Garofalo's time on SNL was a very dark period

Janeane Garofalo was among the first and biggest stars of 1990s "alternative comedy," which was more personal, informal, and conversational than traditional stand-up. That made her a modern-day comedy icon, a reputation she solidified co-starring on Fox's quirky cult classic sketch comedy series The Ben Stiller Show and in the 1994 Generation X classic Reality Bites. That same year, Garofalo landed one of the most sought after gigs in television — a spot in the cast of Saturday Night Live. 

However, the 1994-95 season was one of the most tumultuous, messy, and unloved periods in SNL's long history, as exposed by a New York magazine behind-the-scenes feature. The cast had ballooned to 17 people, all struggling to differentiate themselves and get airtime, and the hostile backstage atmosphere got to Garofalo, a situation she likened to "fraternity hazing." She reportedly told friends that SNL, where she was largely relegated to brief and minor roles in sketches, had been "the most miserable experience" of her life, and one pal told New York that the show "absolutely destroyed her as a person." Garofalo left the show midway through her one and only season.

George Carlin hated his own show

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, it seemed like nearly every comedian got their own sitcom. Roseanne Barr, Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen, and Ellen DeGeneres, among others, all successfully turned their unique stage acts into network comedies. And Fox decided to attempt the format with a giant of comedy, one of the form's longest-serving and most influential figures — George Carlin. The George Carlin Show, created by The Simpsons co-developer Sam Simon, debuted on Fox in January 1994 and featured its star as George O'Grady, a New York taxi driver who spent most of his time holding court in a bar and delivering Carlin-esque opinions about politicians and life's little annoyances.

Carlin had dismal viewership (it ranked #82 in the 1993-94 TV ratings) but glowing reviews, and Fox brought it back for a second season ... and even fewer people watched it. Fox cancelled it, much to the relief of Carlin himself, who was evidently having some behind-the-scene struggles. "Lesson learned," the comedian wrote of the show in his diary, "always check mental health of creative partner beforehand. Loved the actors, loved the crew. Had a great time. Couldn't wait to get the f*** out of there."

Elle Macpherson considers Friends an enemy

Friends was such a popular show during the height of NBC's "Must See TV" era that it never fell out of the annual top ten of Nielsen's rankings of most-watched shows, and as a result, it could land some high-profile guest stars. Among the major celebrities who stopped in for an episode or two were Reese Witherspoon, Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, and Elle Macpherson. In 1999 and 2000, the Australian supermodel appeared on five episodes of Friends as Janine, a model who moves in with (and briefly dates) Joey when he needs a roommate.

While the gig helped Macpherson transition from modeling into acting and gave her some huge exposure, she came to resent it. "If I'd known how important it was in the U.S. or how long it would be on TV, I may not have chosen to do it," Macpherson told TV Week (via Australia's News.com), explaining how she didn't quite grasp that reruns live forever. "It was a lot of pressure if you look at it in the way that it will be around for 20 or 30 years." At the time the episodes were produced, Macpherson apparently had some inkling of that because she passed on an offer to stay on the show for a little while longer.

Julie White only had so much grace under Fire

Julie White won a Tony Award for The Little Dog Laughed and played Judy Witwicky in three Transformers movies, although she's likely still most recognizable for her 1993–1997 stint on Grace Under Fire. White portrayed Nadine Swoboda, best friend and next-door neighbor to main character Grace Kelly, played by comic Brett Butler. But White and Butler's off-screen relationship was a bit more complicated. "Brett was very instrumental in getting me cast in that role, but bless her heart, she was just a wreck," White told the Chicago Tribune. 

Too many fights with Butler led show creator Chuck Lorre to leave the show after its first season, according to the Los Angeles Times, and then Butler's past issues with substance abuse reared up in October 1996 when the show shut down production so the actress could seek treatment for a painkiller addiction. Additionally, the star refused to follow scripts, so producers would carefully piece together episodes in the editing room. 

Meanwhile, White claims she grew so "hideously bored" that she took golf lessons as a form of self-care. During the fourth season of the show, White couldn't take any more shenanigans and successfully petitioned to be released from her contract. "It was a horrible job," White told Backstage in 2015. "I was a single mom of a little kid, and it was so much more money than I'd ever made on anything that I had to stick with it. ... I saved enough money so I didn't have to do anything like that again."

Kate Mulgrew didn't appreciate where Voyager voyaged

Kate Mulgrew made TV history in 1995. As Kathryn Janeway on UPN's Star Trek: Voyager, she became the first female captain and lead character in the Star Trek franchise. Voyager was easily the biggest hit for the brand new UPN, far outdrawing all of the network's other shows and the only one of its launch lineup to get renewed for a second season. 

But by 1997, the action on Voyager had apparently gotten a little stale, and the ratings reflected that, with millions tuning out. According to Closer Weekly, producers wanted to attract as many young and male viewers as possible, and so Voyager added a new character, Seven of Nine, a human absorbed by the vast and evil Borg who slowly rediscovered her humanity after she was rescued by Captain Janeway. And the character was portrayed by 29-year old, conventionally attractive actress Jeri Ryan in very form-fitting costumes.

As a result, the show's ratings picked up, posters of Ryan in character sold briskly, and Voyager became "The Seven of Nine Show," with less focus on Janeway, the rare female character at the time treated like a leader and capable captain first and whose appearance and sexuality were rarely if ever mentioned. This dynamic created friction between the actresses and a whole lot of frustration for Mulgrew. And when Ryan's arrival led to more success, Mulgrew found it "insulting" and "difficult."

However, Mulgrew eventually came to change her mind on the subject. "This is on me, not Jeri. She came in and did what she was asked to do," Mulgrew told Closer Weekly. "I'd hoped against hope that Janeway would be sufficient."