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Killing off characters is a poor way to get rid of actors

Autumn+Prescott
Autumn Prescott

Autumn Prescott

Autumn Prescott

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A common strategy for TV writers to dispose of characters is to kill them off. Characters can exit a show if the actor or actress who portrays them feels like it’s time for a change or if contracts or misbehavior prompt executives to send the actor on his or her way.

If a show isn’t running smoothly or an actor is misbehaving, the solution is to announce their departure from the show and get rid of their character in the next season.

This happened to Thomas Gibson who had been on one of the most successful crime shows in recent years, “Criminal Minds.” Gibson’s poor judgment and unforgivable behavior got him fired from the show, despite being on the show for 11 years.

While it’s inevitable that shows will evolve and go through change throughout their syndication, killing off characters is lazy writing when it comes to sending a character off.

Viewers become attached to the characters they’ve watched (for years in some cases.) A character’s departure requires attention to detail and most deserve better than a simple plotline involving an accident and an irreversible death.

Freak accidents and sudden illness among many other predictable plot “twists” have been used to kill off characters time and time again. They’re unoriginal and unfair to the actor that has spent years of building up his or her character.

Take for example, “Grey’s Anatomy.” Over the past 13 years, the hit medical drama has killed off numerous characters, much to fans’ dismay.

From short-lived (literally) characters like Denny Duquette and multiple hospital patients to star characters like Lexie Grey and George O’Malley, the show’s writers are known among fans to be particularly cruel when it comes to kicking someone off the show.

The most debated death among the “Grey’s” fandom has been that of Derek Sheperd, played by Patrick Dempsey. In the show’s 10th season, the main love interest of star character Meredith Grey was killed in a car accident after saving victims from a different car accident only minutes before.

Writers didn’t make it that easy though. Sheperd was transported to a nearby hospital (Not his own, of course. That would have been too simple.) where he was aware of everything that was going on, including his doctors’ mistakes. While he couldn’t communicate, the doctors’ errors ultimately led to his death, outraging fans.

While it was well-known that Dempsey wanted to leave the show, and did so voluntarily, his character’s death was sloppy and didn’t do him justice.

Ten seasons on a show is something of a milestone, and Sheperd could have been sent off in a number of ways.

He could have gone to work for the president, like he had been talking about and debating on doing for months. He could have gone on a number of job-related journeys like fellow characters Preston Burke, who left Seattle to evetually run his own cardio thoracic research hospital, and Arizona Robbins, who will be exiting the fictional world of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital to pursue job opportunities across the country.

Instead, writers decided to kill him off in an easy-to-explain car accident that has been the cliche of movies and television for decades.

Another controversial death of a character is that of Nina Dobrev’s character Elena Glibert. While the character technically wasn’t killed off, she was put into a deep sleep by one of the shows numerous villains.

Elena was mentioned constantly after her “death” and the chance of bringing her back to life was ultimately the goal of every character on the show, especially her on-again-off-again boyfriend Damon Salvator.

The plot of a spell suddenly being cast on Elena to make her sleep — until her best friend Bonnie died — seems unoriginal, just like every plot does that involves the death of a character for a story’s convenience.

Writers and show makers have a responsibility to their audience to create a story. By not dealing with the obstacle of an actor leaving and just throwing in a predictable demise, the writers miss out on a big opportunity to add depth to the character.

By killing characters off, writers also eliminate the chance of the actor or actress ever returning to the show. Many times, characters who leave a show will often come back with guest appearances. This is a treat for the audience and the cast.

When a character dies, however, they can never make a comeback on the show for the rest of its run, unless it’s a supernatural drama, which is a whole other story.

Killing characters off is a lazy way for producers and writers to get rid of their problems quickly. Eliminating the character entirely ruins their plot and is too quick of an end to their run on the show, which sometimes spans years and years.

Characters and audiences deserve more than a quick end to their most loved fictional character.

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About the Writer
Autumn Prescott, Special Projects Editor


Birthday: Aug. 2, 2001
Hobbies/Interests: NHS, drama club, Freshman Mentors.
Favorite Quote: "Find out who you are and do it on purpose."...

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Killing off characters is a poor way to get rid of actors