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Top 10 TV Couples That Split When Actors Wanted Out

VO: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden
These actor exits split some great couples. For this list, we’ll be going over some of the unexpected departures and deaths of characters that broke up couples, due to one or both of the actors involved leaving the show. Naturally, there will be spoilers ahead. Our list includes “Lost,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “The 100,” “That ‘70s Show,” “Downton Abbey,” and more! Join MsMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 TV Couples That Ended Shockingly When Actors Wanted Out.
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Top 10 TV Couples That Ended Shockingly When Actors Wanted Out


These actor exits split some great couples. Welcome to MsMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 TV Couples That Ended Shockingly When Actors Wanted Out.

For this list, we’ll be going over some of the unexpected departures and deaths of characters that broke up couples, due to one or both of the actors involved leaving the show. Naturally, there will be spoilers ahead.

#10: Alex Danvers & Maggie Sawyer
“Supergirl” (2015-)


The relationship between Supergirl’s sister Alex Danvers and detective Maggie Sawyer won audiences over not only because it was a sweet one that helped Alex realize she was gay, but also for being a healthy relationship between two capable and intelligent women. Sadly, Maggie’s actress Floriana Lima was only signed on to the show for a year; leading the couple to break up after getting engaged, because they had different visions for their future, with Alex wanting children, while Maggie did not. “Sanvers” lives on in our hearts though.

#9: Charlie Pace & Claire Littleton
“Lost” (2004-10)


This ship never quite got out to sea. Charlie Pace is a washed-up rock-star and former drug addict, while Claire is a young single mother. Their adorable chemistry sadly never blooms into a complete relationship, though, as Charlie sacrifices himself while trying to help her and the rest of the plane crash survivors off the island. Although Charlie’s sacrifice was quite moving, it wasn’t entirely unexpected, since it had been foreshadowed all season and his actor, Dominic Monaghan, had expressed several times that he was ready to move on from the character. At least they were given a second chance together in “The End.”

#8: Willow Rosenberg & Daniel ‘Oz’ Osbourne
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003)


Willow’s a witch, while Oz is a werewolf. Although the combo alone may have seemed destined to fail, they were still rather good together, for the most part. However, the couple abruptly parted ways after Oz sleeps with another werewolf while transformed, leading him to depart town, and the show, to better control himself in his transformed state. The duo briefly reunites, but Willow has already begun to move on with someone else. The split and Oz’s departure were the result of Oz’s actor Seth Green leaving the show, both due to the writers having trouble finding things for him to do, and because of Green’s burgeoning movie career.

#7: Archie & Edith Bunker
“Archie Bunker’s Place” (1979-83)


Archie Bunker was the bad-tempered and frequently bigoted patriarch of “All in the Family,” as well as its sequel “Archie Bunker’s Place,” while Edith was his sweet, if absent-minded, and much more understanding wife. Their long-running onscreen relationship came to an end when Edith dies of a stroke off-screen, leaving Archie and fans of the show devastated. The character’s death was at the behest of her actress, Jean Stapleton, though, as she feared being typecast in submissive roles, given that she was a feminist herself.

#6: Clarke Griffin & Lexa
“The 100” (2014-)


Although Lincoln’s shocking death brought on by his actor’s death also doomed his relationship with Octavia, for our money we had to give it to Clarke and Lexa. Both leaders of their respective factions, Clarke and Lexa were another example of a great lesbian couple with a tragic separation. Although the writers were criticized for killing Lexa off so soon after the two had gotten together, the root cause of Lexa’s demise was that her actress, Alycia Debnam-Carey, had been cast on another show in a regular role.

#5: Rayna Jaymes & Deacon Claybourne
“Nashville” (2012-18)


Country singer Rayna Jaymes and her band leader Deacon Claybourne had a rocky time on their road to love, so fans were quite dismayed when, less than a season after finally getting married and after the show had been revitalized following its switch to a new network, Rayna dies after getting into a car accident. For “Nashville” to lose one of its longtime leads and to see Rayna and Deacon split apart proved rather surprising, even if it was rumored beforehand. While actress Connie Britton has remained vague about her reasons for leaving, the show, and Deacon, were definitely not the same without her.

#4: Donna Pinciotti & Eric Forman
“That ‘70s Show” (1998-2006)


The quintessential boy and girl next door couple, Eric Forman and Donna Pinciotti seemed destined to go the distance, despite several sizeable setbacks. However, despite being the arguable protagonist of the series, Eric left the show at the end of Season 7 to teach in Africa, later breaking up with Donna over the phone. Topher Grace, who played Eric, was beginning a movie career and wanted to move on from the show, although thankfully he did show back up for the finale; giving hope that these two could still get back together.

#3: Matthew & Lady Mary Crawley
“Downton Abbey” (2010-15)


Actor Dan Stevens, who played Matthew Crawley, chose not to renew his contract for another three years and he wanted to move on to other projects. Matthew and Mary were a back-and-forth couple, whose romance the audience always rooted for, so it came as a punch to the gut when Matthew died in a car accident on the way home from the hospital after meeting his infant son. And in the Christmas special too! This show had another shocking death and actor exit that same season, when Sybil died during childbirth, leaving Tom Branson a widower. Yet, it was Mathew’s exist that forever changed the series.

#2: Sam Malone & Diane Chambers
“Cheers” (1982-93)


A classic odd couple and the forerunner of most modern TV “will they/won’t they” romances, Sam and Diane captivated “Cheers” fans for five years with their combative chemistry. Yet, just when it seemed like these two fractious lovers were about to settle down and get married, Diane leaves Sam to pursue her writing career. Her departure was due to Shelley Long wanting to leave, in part because she did not want the role to become stale, but also to spend more time with her daughter. Although Diane did return for the series finale, things didn’t quite end up happily ever after for her and Sam.

Before we get to our to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

Wally West & Jesse Quick
“The Flash” (2014-)

Allison Argent & Isaac Lahey
“Teen Wolf” (2011-17)

Anna Wu & Morgan Grimes
“Chuck” (2007-12)

#1: Derek Shepherd & Meredith Grey
“Grey’s Anatomy” (2005-)


Derek “McDreamy” Shepard and Meredith Grey, or “Merder” as they’re known together, were the undisputed “it” couple of “Grey’s Anatomy” for many years, following a lengthy “will-they/won’t they” dance. So, it came as quite a surprise when Derek’s actor Patrick Dempsey decided to leave the show after 11 seasons. Granted, most viewers can respect that Dempsey wanted to spend more time with his family, but even so, seeing Derek die in a car crash and Meredith grieve while pregnant was hard for many “Grey’s Anatomy” fans to endure.
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