*Spoilers for How to Get Away with Murder*
Nina Dobrev from The Vampire Diaries, Sandra Oh and Patrick Dempsey from Grey’s Anatomy, Alfred Enoch from How to Get Away With Murder, Connie Britton from Nashville…. Those are just a few examples I managed to list when first thinking about the question of lead characters leaving their hit tv shows. It is not uncommon by any means. However, with the recent announcement Bridgerton’s Rege-Jean Page will not be returning for another season, fans have threatened to boycott the show. There is an expectation that once a lead actor moves onto other projects, the former show is no longer worth watching. What does this tell us about our viewing habits? And, most importantly, is it right?
Becoming attached to a character is an unavoidable aspect of viewership as we become emotionally invested in the lives of fictional worlds. In a lot of ways, this highlights the superb quality of the shows we are watching because they draw us in and make us commit. Whether that be because a character has a heart-breaking backstory, a good development arc, or just a great six-pack, everyone has a preferred character and if a casting choice has been well made, we cannot help but become devoted to character and actor alike. However, this can often lead to disappointment when a character departs from the show, often with no hope of return. Yet to give up on a show for this reason can often mean you’re missing out on the best bits still to come.
When one character leaves a show, the door opens for focus to be moved to other characters. This was the case when (spoiler!) Wes Gibbons was killed in How to Get Away With Murder, allowing more time in the 15-episode season arcs to be devoted to other characters. Sometimes a character arc is simply complete and there is no more story to be told, as is the case for the Duke in Bridgerton. Arguably, these tv shows can maintain their entertainment quality by moving onto new material instead of forcing a story out of a character whose journey is over. I thought this was particularly the case for Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton, who left the show One Tree Hill after the sixth season. With six years of storylines under their belt, it felt like the right time for their characters to move on. I may be slightly biased as I was undoubtedly #TeamNathan, but regardless this led to the introduction of new characters for the show’s seventh season which continued successfully.
Leaving the show also gives the opportunity for the actor to move onto bigger and better things – surely something we, as viewers, would highly anticipate. Our dedication to the character should transfer to the actor and, therefore, show support for their new endeavours. We wouldn’t have Killing Eve if Sandra Oh decided to remain as Christina in Grey’s Anatomy. We wouldn’t have Beauty and Beast with Dan Stevens if he had not decided to depart from Downton Abbey. An actor moving on can be viewed in a more positive light, and if the rumours surrounding Rege-Jean Page as the next James Bond prove true – I’m sure he will not disappoint.
Our viewing habits are not going to change overnight. Television networks exploit our tendency to obsess and adore by casting heartthrobs in major roles and creating characters we cannot help but fall in love with. It is, admittedly, a sign of a good tv show. Watching a show for one character is perfectly normal and, in some ways, encouraged by show creators. However, don’t let that be the end. Tune in again and you just might be surprised.
Featured Image Source: UnSplash