List of television actors who died during production

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search

The following is a list of television actors who died during production of the television show in which they were appearing. In many cases, a show will handle the death of an actor by killing off their character or otherwise writing them out of the show. In other cases, the show may recast the part with another actor. In extreme cases, the show may be cancelled outright.


Actor Character Show Number of appearances Date of death Cause of death Season in production Effect on production
Nana Bryant Julia – Margaret Williams' mother Make Room for Daddy 1955 unknown 3 No on-screen explanation given; the character simply stopped appearing midway through the third season
John Hamilton Perry White Adventures of Superman 1958 Heart attack Character was planned to be away on a secret assignment, replaced as Daily Planet editor by his brother, portrayed by Pierre Watkin. No episodes with this were produced, due to the subsequent death of star George Reeves.
George Reeves Superman Adventures of Superman 1959 Ballistic trauma to the head 6 Series cancelled.
Ward Bond Major Seth Adams Wagon Train Approximately 130 1960 Heart attack 4 No on-screen explanation given; the character simply stopped appearing midway through the fourth season and was replaced by John McIntire (Christopher Hale) as the "new wagon master."
Joseph Kearns George Wilson Dennis the Menace 100 1962 Cerebral hemorrhage 3 Character written out. With Season 3 episodes still in production, the first two episodes filmed after Kearns' death do not feature Mr. Wilson nor any acknowledgement of why he is absent; the episodes simply focus on other characters. Starting with the last six episodes of Season 3, the character of John Wilson (Gale Gordon as George's brother) is introduced and will remain for the rest of the series' run; the initial explanation of George's absence is that he is "away" on business. George (along with wife, Martha) are officially written out in the fourth-season premiere as having moved, and after a few scattered mentions in a few subsequent episodes are not referred to again.
Dick Powell Host The Dick Powell Show 41 1963-01-02 Lung cancer 2 Replaced by several other actors as host, until the series was cancelled at the end of the season.
Henry Kulky Chief Curly Jones Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea 22 1965-02-12 Heart attack 1 Character written out and replaced during the second season by Chief Sharkey, portrayed by Terry Becker.
Alice Pearce Gladys Kravitz Bewitched Approximately 60 1966 Ovarian cancer 2 Character recast with Sandra Gould filling the role, starting with Season 3. With Season 2 production still continuing when Pearce died, an interim character – Harriet Kravitz (Mary Grace Canfield), Gladys' sister-in-law – is introduced, with the explanation that Gladys is away visiting her mother, while Harriet visits with Abner to keep house.
Smiley Burnette Charley Pratt Petticoat Junction 1967 Leukemia 4 Character retired without explanation, and replaced by Floyd Smoot (Rufe Davis) and later, Wendell Gibbs (Byron Foulger).
Marion Lorne Aunt Clara Bewitched 27 1968-05-09 Heart attack 4 Character written out without explanation and replaced during the sixth season by Esmeralda, portrayed by Alice Ghostley.
Bea Benaderet Kate Bradley Petticoat Junction 163 1968-10-13 Lung cancer 5 No on-screen acknowledgement or direct comment on her death is ever made. The character of Kate Bradley is said to be "out of town." Kate's absence is alluded to in passing in the season seven premiere episode when her daughters, Billie Jo and Bobbie Jo (Meredith MacRae and Lori Saunders) comment wistfully, "Mom taught us to swim in that very same water tower." And in another episode, a special hotel guest is said to be staying in the "Kate Bradley Memorial Suite." Benaderet's character was replaced by Dr. Janet Craig, played by June Lockhart.
Barton MacLane General Martin Peterson I Dream of Jeannie 35 1969 Double pneumonia 4 Character written out without explanation and replaced during the fifth season by General Winfield Schaeffer, portrayed by Vinton Hayworth.
Frank Silvera Don Sebastian Montoya The High Chaparral 14 1970-06-11 Accidental electrocution 3 Character written out.
Arthur Leslie Jack Walker Coronation Street 1970-06-30 Heart attack Character killed off.
Pete Duel Hannibal Heyes (Joshua Smith) Alias Smith and Jones 33 1971 Ballistic trauma to the head, self-inflicted 2 Character recast with Roger Davis, the series' narrator.
Dan Blocker Hoss Cartwright Bonanza 400-plus 1972 Pulmonary embolism following surgery 13 No on-screen acknowledgement was given, although Hoss' death is alluded to in at least two episodes. A previous character – Candy Canaday, played by David Canary – returns to the series to replace Hoss; however, Blocker's death was partially cited as a reason for the series' ratings going into decline in the fall of 1972 and eventual cancellation.
Roger Delgado The Master Doctor Who 1973 Traffic collision 10 Character regenerated.
Patricia Cutts Blanche Hunt Coronation Street 2 1974-09-06 Suicide by barbiturate poisoning Character recast, role taken over by Maggie Jones.
Barbara Colby Julie Erskine Phyllis 3 1975-07-24 Ballistic trauma, inflicted during drive-by shooting 1 Character recast with Liz Torres taking over the role.
Graham Haberfield Jerry Booth Coronation Street 1975-10-18 Heart failure Character killed off.
Freddie Prinze Chico Rodriguez Chico and the Man 62 1977-01-29 Ballistic trauma to the head, self-inflicted 3 Episodes completed prior to Prinze's death were aired on schedule. The first aired episode after Prinze's death included an on-air acknowledgement from Jack Albertson (Prinze's co-star) thanking everyone for their kind words and outpouring of sympathy. Following the airing of Prinze's last completed episode, for the rest of season three, Chico's absence is explained as being "away" (either on business or visiting his father), with completed scripts focusing on other characters and Chico's lines either removed or rewritten for other characters. Starting with Season 4, Chico was replaced by a 12-year-old boy named Raul (Gabriel Melgar), while other characters initially continued to explain that Chico was away. Finally, in the very special episode "Raul Runs Away," aired January 20, 1978 (nearly one year after Prinze's death), it is explained that Chico had died but with no explanation of the circumstances. However, the ratings declined and, with Prinze's death a primary factor, the series was cancelled in the spring of 1978.[1]
Diana Hyland Joan Bradford Eight is Enough 4 1977-03-27 Breast cancer 1 Character killed off before the beginning of the next season. Joan's death is addressed in the second-season premiere, and a new character, played by Betty Buckley, is introduced early in the second season.
Zara Cully "Mother" Olivia Jefferson The Jeffersons 1978-02-28 Lung cancer 4 Character killed off and addressed briefly in an early Season 5 episode.
Will Geer "Grandpa" Zeb Walton The Waltons 1978-04-22 Respiratory failure 6 Character killed off, with his death addressed in the seventh-season premiere.
Jack Soo Detective Nick Yemana Barney Miller 1979-01-11 Esophageal cancer 5 Character killed off. A special tribute episode, with Soo's castmates giving out-of-character tributes to him, was aired in the spring of 1979.
Richard Beckinsale Lennie Godber Going Straight 6 1979-03-19 Heart attack 1 Series not renewed for a second series.
Stan Bloomers 5 Series cancelled. Planned sixth episode was never filmed.
Mary McCarty Nurse Clara "Starch" Willoughby Trapper John, M.D. 22 1980 Heart attack 1 Character retired; in the Season 2 premiere, it is explained Starch had gotten married, moved away and retired. Afterward, the character is replaced by Nurse Ernestine Shoop (Madge Sinclair).
Jim Davis Jock Ewing Dallas 1981 Multiple myeloma 3 Character killed off after an extended absence.
Michael Thoma Greg Cranfield Fame 7 1982-09-03 Cancer 1 Mr Cranfield was due to be sacked but the pupils forced the school board to reconsider. His job was saved but the actor died shortly after the episode was filmed. In the episode "Tough Act to Follow", the character died of a heart attack; the episode was dedicated to Thoma.
Will Lee Mr. Hooper Sesame Street 1982-12-07 Heart attack 15 Character killed off, with his death addressed in a very special episode, aired almost a year after his death. Shows featuring Mr. Hooper that were taped prior to Lee's death were aired, with no acknowledgement of the reason for his absence from between his final aired appearance (in early 1983) until the airing of the "Goodbye, Mr. Hooper" episode on November 24, 1983.
Peter Dudley Bert Tilsley Coronation Street 1983-10-20 Heart attack Character killed off.
Michael Conrad Phil Esterhaus Hill Street Blues 1983-11-22 Urethral cancer 4 Character killed off. Episodes completed prior to his death were aired, with the first episode completed after Conrad's death addressing Esterhaus' death.
John Comer Sid Last of the Summer Wine 47 1984-02-11 Throat cancer 7 Character killed off, death mentioned on screen in following episodes.
Jack Howarth Albert Tatlock Coronation Street 1984-03-31 Liver complaint Character killed off.
Bernard Youens Stan Ogden Coronation Street 1984-08-27 Gangrene Character killed off.
Toke Townley Sam Pearson Emmerdale 1984-09-27 Heart attack Character killed off.
Jon-Erik Hexum Mac Harper Cover Up 7 1984-10-18 Ballistic trauma to the head, accidentally self-inflicted with a blank cartridge 1 Character killed off and replaced by Jack Striker, portrayed by Antony Hamilton.
Lennard Pearce Grandad Only Fools & Horses 26 1984-12-15 Heart attack 4 Pearce died while filming the series four episode "Hole in One" (several scenes were subsequently re-shot with Buster Merryfield).
Nicholas Colasanto Coach Ernie Pantusso Cheers 1985-02-12 Heart ailment 3 Character killed off at the beginning of the next season and replaced as bartender by Woody Boyd, portrayed by Woody Harrelson.
Dolph Sweet Carl Kanisky Gimme a Break! 88 1985-05-08 Cancer 4 Character killed off, and his character's death was addressed in the fifth-season premiere.
Selma Diamond Selma Hacker Night Court 1985-05-13 Lung cancer 2 Character killed off and addressed in the third-season premiere.
Samantha Smith Elizabeth Culver Lime Street 4 1985-08-25 Crash of Bar Harbor Airlines Flight 1808 1 Production initially continued, but series cancelled after airing only five out of eight episodes produced.
Bill Scott Gruffi Gummi Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears 13 1985-11-29 Heart attack 1 Replaced during the second season by Corey Burton.
Florence Halop Florence Kleiner Night Court 1986-07-15 Lung cancer 3 Character killed off and addressed in the fourth-season premiere. Her successor was played by 32-year-old Marsha Warfield, who remained for the rest of the series run.
Ted Knight Henry Rush The Ted Knight Show 1986-08-26 Cancer 6 Series cancelled; production was to have resumed in September 1986, with Knight planning on returning to work.
Roger C. Carmel Cyclonus, Bruticus The Transformers 1986-11-11 Congestive heart failure 3 Bruticus written out. Replaced as voice of Cyclonus during the fourth season by Jack Angel.
Joe Gladwin Wally Batty Last of the Summer Wine 45 1987-03-11 9 Character killed off, death mentioned on screen in following episodes.
Jack Haig Monsieur Roger LeClerc 'Allo 'Allo! 51 1989-07-04 Cancer 5 Character written out, and replaced by his brother Ernest LeClerc, portrayed by Derek Royle.
Derek Royle Monsieur Ernest LeClerc 'Allo 'Allo! 8 1990-01-23 Cancer 6 Character recast, role taken over by Robin Parkinson.
Jim Henson various Muppets, most notably Ernie and Kermit the Frog Sesame Street 1990-05-16 Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome 21 Replaced by other Muppet performers, most notably Steve Whitmire, who assumed the roles of Ernie and Kermit. A number of other characters, however, were retired outside of special occasions.
Arthur Pentelow Henry Wilks Emmerdale 1991-08-06 Heart attack Character killed off.
Redd Foxx Alphonso Royal The Royal Family 7 1991-10-11 Heart attack 1 Character killed off; show retooled before being cancelled at the end of the season.
Richard Hunt Various Muppets Sesame Street 1992-01-07 AIDS complications 22 Replaced by other Muppet performers. David Rudman has taken over the majority of the characters that were not retired due to Richard's death.
Larry Riley Frank Williams Knots Landing 111 1992-06-06 AIDS-related kidney failure 13 Unknown.
Linda Gary Aunt May Spider-Man 28 1995-10-05 Brain cancer 3 Replaced during the fourth season by Julie Bennett.
David Doyle Lou Pickles Rugrats 1997-02-26 Heart attack 5 Replaced by Joe Alaskey.
Phil Hartman Bill McNeal NewsRadio 1998-05-28 Ballistic trauma, inflicted by his wife, Brynn Hartman 5 Character killed off at the beginning of the season in a tribute episode. Long time friend Jon Lovitz joined the cast for the fifth (and final) season.
Troy McClure, Lionel Hutz, et al. The Simpsons 54 Major recurring characters of Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz retired, occasionally being used in background shots.
Phil Leeds Judge Dennis 'Happy' Boyle Ally McBeal 5 1998-08-16 Pneumonia 2 Character killed off.
David Strickland Todd Stities Suddenly Susan 1999-03-22 Suicide by hanging 3 Character disappears without explanation.
Buster Merryfield Uncle Albert Only Fools & Horses 1999-06-23 Brain tumour 7 Merryfield died in 1999 and Albert's death was written into the next episode.
Bill Owen Compo Simmonite Last of the Summer Wine 186 1999-07-12 Pancreatic cancer 21 Character killed off and addressed in a special episode. Bill Owen's son Tom Owen plays character's on screen son Tom Simmonite in following episodes.
Mary Kay Bergman Liane Cartman, Sheila Broflovski, et al. South Park 44 1999-11-11 Ballistic trauma, self-inflicted suicide 3 Replaced by other voice actresses.
Madeline Kahn Pauline Fox Cosby 60 1999-12-03 Ovarian cancer 4 Character presumably killed off. A special tribute episode, with Kahn's castmates giving out-of-character tributes to her, was aired a few weeks after her death.
Nancy Marchand Livia Soprano The Sopranos 2000-06-18 Lung cancer and emphysema 3 Character killed off.
Kathleen Freeman Mrs. Gordon As Told by Ginger 2001-08-23 Lung cancer 2 Character written out. Original Ending of episode "No Hope For Courtney" was to have Mrs. Gordon come back to work as a teacher.
Gordon Wharmby Wesley Pegden Last of the Summer Wine 139 2002-05-18 Lung cancer 23 Character killed off, death implied on screen in following episodes.
Lynne Thigpen Ella Mae Farmer The District 2003-03-12 Cerebral hemorrhage 3 Character killed off. Third season finale included a tribute to her character.
Luna the Moon Bear in the Big Blue House 4 Show went on four-year hiatus.
Thora Hird Edie Pegden Last of the Summer Wine 152 2003-03-15 Stroke 24 Character killed off, death implied on screen in following episodes.
Harry Goz Captain Hazel "Hank" Murphy Sealab 2021 2003-09-06 Multiple myeloma 3 Character written out as having left Sealab to fight in "The Great Spice Wars". Replaced by his son Michael as Captain Bellerophon "Tornado" Shanks.
Jaclyn Linetsky Caillou Caillou 2003-09-08 Traffic accident Replaced by Annie Bovaird.
Megan O'Connor 15/Love Character killed off.
Vadim Schneider Sébastien Dubé Character killed off.
John Ritter Paul Hennessy 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter 2003-09-11 Undiagnosed aortic dissection 2 Character killed off, with his death explained in a subsequent episode. A new character, portrayed by James Garner, was introduced to replace Ritter's character.
Clifford Clifford the Big Red Dog 68 Series ended; replaced by prequel Clifford's Puppy Days.
Tony Capstick Policeman Last of the Summer Wine 33 2003-10-23 25 Character written out.
Richard Biggs Milo Morton Strong Medicine 2004-05-22 Aortic dissection 5 Character killed off.
Jerry Orbach Lennie Briscoe Law & Order: Trial by Jury 2 2004-12-28 Prostate cancer 1 Character never seen again; character's off-screen death mentioned on other shows within the Law & Order franchise.
Stan Richards Seth Armstrong Emmerdale 2005-02-11 Emphysema Character killed off.
John Spencer Leo McGarry The West Wing 2005-12-16 Heart attack 7 Character killed off with a heart attack; running mate Matt Santos (portrayed by Jimmy Smits) wins presidential election.[2]
Mako Iwamatsu Iroh Avatar: The Last Airbender 31 2006 Esophageal cancer 2 Voice work already completed for the second season, had one non-speaking appearance in the beginning of the next season and was replaced by Greg Baldwin, who accurately imitated his predecessor's voice and voiced the character for the third and final season, along with two guest appearances in season two of the sequel series.
Steve Irwin Crocodile Hunter The Crocodile Hunter 2006-09-03 Stingray injury 5 Series cancelled.
Christopher Allport Andrew Campbell Mad Men 2008-01-25 Avalanche 1 Character killed off.
Stanley Kamel Dr. Charles Kroger Monk 2008-04-08 Heart attack Character killed off with a heart attack and replaced as Adrian Monk's psychiatrist by Dr. Neven Bell, portrayed by Héctor Elizondo.
Clive Hornby Jack Sugden Emmerdale 2008-07-03 Cancer Character killed off.
Kathy Staff Nora Batty Last of the Summer Wine 246 2008-12-13 Brain tumor 29 Character written out.
Maggie Jones Blanche Hunt Coronation Street 2009-12-02 Character killed off.
Elisabeth Sladen Sarah Jane Smith The Sarah Jane Adventures 2011-04-19 Cancer 5 Production suspended before the commencement of filming of three planned 2-part serials, resulting in an abbreviated broadcast season and leaving some story arcs and plot points unresolved.
Andy Whitfield Spartacus Spartacus 2011-09-11 Non-Hodgkin lymphoma 4 Character recast with Liam McIntyre taking over the role.
Betty Driver Betty Williams Coronation Street 2,800-plus 2011-10-15 Pneumonia Character killed off.
Jerry Nelson The Count and other characters Sesame Street 2012-08-23 Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 42 Matt Vogel has taken over many of Jerry's characters. An episode loosely inspired by Jerry's death and centered on The Count aired in 2013.[3]
Larry Hagman J.R. Ewing Dallas 2012-11-23 Acute myeloid leukemia 2 Character killed off with two fatal gunshot wounds (a reference to the "Who shot J.R.?" cliffhanger of the original series), an episode revolving around his funeral, and an episode detailing his master plan.
Richard Thorp Alan Turner Emmerdale 2013-05-22 Character killed off.
Cory Monteith Finn Hudson Glee 81 2013-07-13 Heroin and alcohol overdose 5 Production delayed; character killed off in a special tribute episode without specifying cause of death.
Lee Thompson Young Barold "Barry" Frost Rizzoli & Isles 2013-08-19 Ballistic trauma, self-inflicted 4 Production suspended; character 'on holiday' at the end of the 4th season, then killed in a car accident on the way home in the 5th season opener, character was given a funeral in the second episode with ongoing mentions.
Marcia Wallace Edna Krabappel The Simpsons 2013-10-25 Pneumonia 25 Character retired, later killed off screen. Edna's death (which includes previously recorded dialogue by Wallace) is acknowledged in the 25th season episode "The Man Who Grew Too Much."
Christopher Evan Welch Peter Gregory Silicon Valley 5 2013-12-02 Cancer 1 Character killed off.
Carol Ann Susi Debbie Wolowitz or Mrs. Wolowitz The Big Bang Theory 39 2014 Cancer 8 An episode was made in tribute for Carol, writing the death of her character in to the show.[4]
Anne Kirkbride Deirdre Barlow Coronation Street 1,439 2015-01-19 Breast cancer Character killed off.
Shirley Stelfox Edna Birch Emmerdale 2015-12-07 Cancer Character killed off.

See also


  1. Snauffer, Douglas; Thurm, Joel (2008). The Show Must Go on: How the Deaths of Lead Actors Have Affected Television Series. McFarland. p. 78. ISBN 0-7864-3295-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Steinberg, Jacques (April 10, 2006). "'West Wing' Writers' Novel Way of Picking the President". The New York Times. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links