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Secrets That Were Kept From TV Casts During Filming

It's hard to keep a secret, especially in an industry where people make a living exposing those secrets. Sure, leaks in Hollywood are often planned, and true secrets can be kept if all parties are committed enough, but it's much harder with television. The sheer number of people who need to keep their mouths shut, plus the length of production, means that someone might blab something. There is, however, a way to handle that — keeping secrets from the cast.

There are plenty of reasons why writers, producers, and even other actors would want to keep secrets from the cast. They might not want actors to change their performance, especially if it's a mystery the characters they're portraying wouldn't know. There's also value to the raw, emotional reaction that comes with a short-notice reveal. And sometimes, showrunners keep secrets because they don't want tabloids to know the truth and will intentionally mislead them. From the identity of killers to the return of big characters, here are the secrets that were kept from TV casts during filming.

Be warned — there are major spoilers below.

None of the actors on Twin Peaks knew who killed Laura Palmer

"Who killed Laura Palmer?" was the question on everyone's mind in 1990, thanks to the game-changing Twin Peaks. Only three people knew the answer — David Lynch, Mark Frost, and Jennifer Lynch. None of the cast or crew had any idea until that reveal episode was recorded.

Show creators Lynch and Frost planned to keep the mystery going as long as possible, and they only told David's daughter, Jennifer, so she could write The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. The book's back cover described her as one of "three air-breathing mammals to know the identity of Laura's killer."

Actors were given scripts on an episode-by-episode basis, so they weren't any more clued into the mystery than anyone watching. Everyone in the cast had their own guesses, even as the evidence pointed more and more in the direction of Benjamin Horne (Richard Beymer). Meanwhile, Ray Wise was worried it might be his character of Laura's dad, Leland Palmer — not just because he was horrified that a father would kill his daughter but because he didn't want to leave the show.

Wise told The A.V. Club he only found out he was the murderer just before the reveal episode. He was brought into a meeting with Lynch, Frost, Laura/Maddy actress Sheryl Lee, and Richard Beymer, and during the meeting, Lynch leaned over to Wise and said, "Ray, it was you, it was always you."

How I Met Your Mother kept this tragedy under wraps

"Bad News" is one of the most legen-(wait for it)-dary episodes of How I Met Your Mother. The main plot follows Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) dealing with their fertility issues, with Marshall waiting to hear some good news so he can call his father about it. But by the end of the episode, Lily relays some seriously devastating news to Marshall — his father has died of a heart attack. Marshall hugs Lily and says he's not ready for this. It's an emotional moment, one made possible by the writers keeping information from the actors.

According to Jason Segel (via IGN), the original script ended with Lily announcing she was pregnant, but the writers revealed the true ending on the day of shooting. Segel and Alyson Hannigan also arranged it so Segel wouldn't know exactly what Hannigan would say in the final scene. Segel said that, "I knew the overall premise, but she came out, and she was already crying, and it was so heartbreaking, and it made acting very easy." The scene was shot in one take.

Only Ted Danson and Kristen Bell knew the first season twist of The Good Place

The twist ending to season one of The Good Place – all together now, "This is the Bad Place!"  earned high praise at the time and went to inform the direction of the show for the next three seasons. It was also kept secret for all but two members of the cast. Showrunner Michael Schur, the writers, and a handful of producers knew about the twist, but most of the cast and crew were kept in the dark. Only Kristen Bell and Ted Danson knew the secret, which Bell kept concealed even from her family, but Danson spilled it almost immediately to impress his friend, John Krasinski.

The rest of the actors and most of the crew were explicitly told they would learn the twist at the end and not a moment sooner, and this led to some speculation among the cast. Some thought they'd go back to Earth, while some thought the show would change format entirely. Manny Jacinto suspected that Bell and Danson were too big to stick around longer, and the next season would focus on the other characters. The twist was revealed to the other four core cast members just before shooting the finale, and William Jackson Harper told Entertainment Weekly that it was "good not to know" and complimented Schur, Bell, and Danson for "[making] me a Method actor against my will."

The actors weren't told who was behind the mask in Scream

MTV's Scream was powered by the mystery of who was behind the mask. Seriously, who was doing all the killings in Lakewood? Everyone had their guesses, including the cast, before the final episode revealed Piper as the murderer. In an interview with Hollywood Life, Piper actress Amelia Rose Blaire said that she was only told her character was the killer on the last day of shooting episode six. She was kept in the dark for more than half the season, and she "definitely did not see it coming at all."

Most of the cast had their own suspicions about the killer, and Blaire thought it was the character of Kieran (Amadeus Serafini). As she explained, "I was super suspicious of him. He just shows up out of nowhere, and all of a sudden, he's head over heels for Emma (Willa Fitzgerald)." She also thought it might be Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus) "because she had so much motivation from the very beginning." So, Blaire was taken by surprise when she found out the truth, saying, "I never thought Piper would be the one behind the mask."

The identity of the Mother was kept from the HIMYM cast

How I Met Your Mother's ending was planned from season one, and only five people on Earth knew the whole ending — show creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, director Pam Fryman, and Mosby children actors David Henrie and Lyndsy Fonseca. Bays and Thomas had a backup plan to make Victoria (Ashley Williams) the mother if the show was canceled too soon, but when they passed three seasons, they kept their desired ending a secret for years.

Henrie and Fonseca shot the final scenes of the series in 2006, planned ahead of time to keep them age appropriate for the next half decade in cutaways, and the two signed non-disclosure agreements barring them from revealing what they shot. However, the core cast was kept in the dark as long as possible. 

Josh Radnor told The Hollywood Reporter before the finale that he was let in on "one big plot thing" in the first season — most likely the mother's death — though never the whole story. After a Quora user asked when the HIMYM cast learned about the series finale, Neil Patrick Harris responded that he learned at the season eight Christmas party, saying that while "in a very drunken stupor," he "forced" Bays and Thomas to tell him the ending. 

As for Alyson Hannigan, she revealed to News.com.au that she only found out who the mother was right before filming on the big episode began. She was called to the makeup trailer and took a picture in secret with "the Mother" actress Cristin Milioti because producers were worried they might look too similar.

Most of the actors who played Cylons on Battlestar Galactica found out the hard way

The season three finale of Battlestar Galactica revealed four of the series regulars were among the Final Five Cylons. Later on, composer Bear McCreary interviewed four of the Final Five actors, and three of them — Aaron Douglas (Chief Tyrol), Rekha Sharma (Tory Foster), and Michael Hogan (Saul Tigh) — revealed when they learned they were Cylons. They all had slightly different answers, with one thing in common ... they found out the hard way.

Douglas officially discovered the truth just before the episode read-through, but he saw "a piece of paper that [he] was not supposed to see" three months earlier and had to keep quiet about it. He was originally against the idea, but he came on board after a long phone call with showrunner Ron Moore.

Sharma and Hogan found out through similar but separate means. Edward James Olmos convinced Sharma to get a script from the office so she could read ahead, and when she did, Sharma "squealed like a little girl" when she found out the twist. Hogan, meanwhile, heard it from Olmos on set and didn't believe it. He figured Tigh was one of the least likely candidates and would only be a Cylon for cheap shock value. 

Everybody shot J.R. so nobody would know who shot J.R.

Dallas was already a monster hit for CBS, but the question of "who shot J.R.?" turned the show from a popular television show to a worldwide sensation. After dastardly tycoon J.R. Ewing was shot at the end of season three in March 1980 — an event many credit as popularizing television cliffhangers — CBS launched an ad campaign asking who shot J.R. and soon had the entire country talking about it. The resolution, eight months later, was the most-watched episode of television ever to that point, with an estimated 76% of all US viewers tuning in. What allowed this secrecy was, in part, not even the cast knowing who pulled the trigger.

To keep the scene secret, everyone on set was recorded firing the gun ... and not just cast members. As Mary Crosby — who played Kristin Shepard, the woman who actually shot him — told Texas Monthly, "Everybody got to shoot J. R., including the producers ... including the makeup artists, the continuity people." Even actor Larry Hagman, the guy who played J.R., got to shoot J.R. This way, no one could possibly know who shot the tycoon or if he even shot himself. People would often try to outright bribe Dallas cast members for information, and it was all fruitless because none of them knew.

Col. Henry Blake's death on M*A*S*H was kept secret until production

The final scene of "Abyssinia, Henry" is one of the most iconic in the long history of M*A*S*H. Radar (Gary Burghoff) walks into the operating room, solemnly announces that Col. Henry Blake's (McLean Stevenson) plane was shot down with no survivors, and all the surgeons go right back to work. The scene was so raw, so visceral, and so realistic that it sparked a longstanding rumor that the cast didn't learn about Col. Blake's death until Radar announced it, and the scene was their genuine reaction. Snopes declared this rumor false, but the truth isn't all that far off, as it was kept a secret for as long as possible.

Producer Larry Gelbart revealed in his book Laughing Matters that the writers went to great lengths to keep the scene secret. The script was distributed to all the usual parties, except for the last page, which Gelbart kept under literal lock and key in his desk. Only Alan Alda, who by this point was the de facto star of M*A*S*H, was let in on the scene. As for the big reveal, "Abyssinia, Henry" is bookended by two moments in the operating room, and everyone shot the first segment assuming it would be the final scene of the season. But Gelbart pulled everyone aside before they could go to the wrap party and showed them the hidden page and the true final scene, much to the shock of everyone.

The Shameless cast members were kept in the dark about Jimmy's return

After his presumed death in the season three finale of Shameless, Jimmy (Justin Chatwin) briefly returned in the last scene of season four under a new name. Showtime took great care to keep this a secret, going so far (via The Hollywood Reporter) as to not release the episode early for press. As such, everyone was surprised, including members of the Shameless cast, many of whom took to Twitter in real time and announced their surprise.

Steve Howey, Shanola Hampton, Noel Fisher, and Emmy Rossum all tweeted their shock, with none of them having been given a heads-up that Jimmy was coming back. Rossum in particular made calls to the producers and Justin Chatwin after countless replies of "you didn't know?" from fans. She found out that the producers pulled it off by flying Chatwin to Chicago in secret and putting him in a separate hotel so his co-stars would never know.

Kit Harington had to lie about Jon Snow's fate

Jon Snow was killed in the season five finale of Game of Thrones, and speculation about his future began right around his stabbing. After all, George R.R. Martin's books were vague about Jon's fate, and this was a TV show full of dragons and magic. Nonetheless, actor Kit Harington and showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss tried to make it clear Jon was dead-dead. Harington in particular told Entertainment Weekly, "I've been told I'm dead. I'm dead. I'm not coming back next season." Then, after a summer of Harington's every move and hairstyle getting dissected, Jon came back in the season six premiere. That's when we found out that Benioff, Weiss, and Harington had done everything in their power to keep that a secret from even the cast to avoid leaks.

One year after he told EW that he was dead, Harington revealed in a follow-up interview that he was told Jon was coming back for season six shortly after getting the scripts for season five. He was also sworn to secrecy about this fact, and he had to spend the rest of the year convincing his fellow cast members that he wasn't coming back. "At first I thought I would find it fun. ... But I had to lie to a lot of close friends and cast members and crew. The longer it went, the more I felt like I was betraying them." Some cast members didn't buy it for a second, but others believed, including Sophie Turner, who wrote Harington a letter about how much she loved working with him.

Harington did let the secret slip to a few people when keeping it weighed on him too hard. As he explained to Jimmy Fallon, he told a few loved ones ... and a cop to get out of a ticket.

Newhart's legendary ending was kept secret from the normal cast

Comedian Bob Newhart was the star of two shows with pretty similar names — The Bob Newhart Show (1972-1978) and Newhart (1982-1990). The former focused on Chicago psychologist Robert Hartley (Newhart) and his wife, Emily (Suzanne Pleshette). As for the latter, it found the comedian starring as Dick Loudon, an author who moves to Vermont in order to run an inn.

Decades after Newhart went off the air, the series finale still ranks as one of the all-time best ... largely thanks to a crazy crossover. In the episode's final moments, Dick Loudon gets knocked out by a stray golf ball. But in the next scene, we see Newhart's character from The Bob Newhart Show, Robert Hartley, waking up in bed, next to his wife, Emily. He then starts telling her about this dream he had where he was running an inn in Vermont, which means the entirety of Newhart was all in Robert Hartley's head. 

Newhart and the writers went to great lengths to keep the ending secret. They leaked a fake ending to the tabloids where Dick Loudon would go to Heaven and meet God, while Suzanne Pleshette and the producers arranged a pseudonym for her so there'd be no paper trail of her involvement as Emily. Plus, the cast wasn't told anything until near the end. Newhart told Yahoo! Entertainment that the cast found out a few days earlier, but Pleshette claims the cast only found out 20 minutes before they did it.

Likewise, the crew members were also kept in the dark until they came back from dinner, after which they were told a new scene was added and to keep shooting no matter what happened. Pleshette was kept in a trailer for hours and hidden a couple of soundstages away until showtime. Given the amount of secrecy involved, there was no time to rehearse, but she nailed it anyway.