Moments In Hit TV Shows That Actors Refused To Film
Have you ever refused something you just didn’t want to do? Maybe it was a trivial task, or perhaps, it was an important life moment, but something about the situation didn’t sit right with you. It compromised your values. It didn’t make sense to you. Or you just didn’t want to do it, plain and simple, no reasoning required.
The same is true for actors. I know this comes as a shock. They’re just like you and me! Gasp! When a television series runs long enough, the actors know their characters well. They have a strong understanding of what their characters would (and wouldn’t) do and sometimes have to call the writers out on dialogue or contradictory story points. At other times, an actor morally disagrees with what’s on the page to the point of refusing to participate. Even if the writers think the character would do or say a certain thing, the actor respectfully wants no part in it.
Writers of your favorite TV shows penned scenes or stories that never aired because actors refused to film them. Here are a handful of those moments, ranging from the groovy ’70s of "The Brady Bunch" to Wednesday Addams herself.
John Krasinski didn’t let Jim cheat on Pam in The Office
What’s the most cringe-worthy moment from "The Office"? Every fan has their pick of which episode makes them squirm the most, from "Dinner Party" to "Scott’s Tots." For me, it’s Season 8’s "After Hours," in which a woman comes on to Jim during a business trip to Florida. Jim declines the woman’s advances and nothing explicitly scandalous happens — but only because actor John Krasinki shut down a more aggressive early pitch.
In the first draft of the episode, Jim cheats on Pam with the woman in Florida. The circumstances around the specific storyline may or may not have been the same scenario at the hotel from the finished episode. However, the result would have been way out of line for our good friend Jim Halpert.
Krasinski elaborates in "Welcome to Dunder-Mifflin: The Ultimate Oral History of The Office" (via New York Post). "That’s the only time I remember putting my foot down," Krasinski tells authors Brian Baumgartner and Ben Silverman. "My feeling is there is a threshold with which you can push our audience. They are so dedicated. We have shown such great respect to them. But there’s a moment where if you push them too far, they’ll never come back. And I think that if you show Jim cheating, they’ll never come back." When Krasinski read the storyline, he voiced his concerns to Greg Daniels, who developed the series and produced Season 8. Daniels obliged, and Jim remains loyal to Pam. Can you imagine?
Grace and Franke’s Jane Fonda asked to not use Jesus’ name as an expletive
Sometimes an actor’s conflict with script material is less a narrative issue and more of a virtuous one. Such was the case when actor Jane Fonda asked that her "Grace and Frankie" character, Grace Henson, not utter the phrase "Jesus Christ" as an exclamation. Writers respected Fonda’s request and removed the line from the script.
Marta Kauffman, co-creator of "Grace and Frankie," discussed the moment during a 2018 panel in New York. Kauffman called her cast "the most professional, glorious people I’ve ever worked with," adding, "I love them. So when they have an issue, it’s not that they’re being divas. It’s not that they’re being self-important. They have a real issue." She cited Fonda’s request as an example of "little things" that occasionally come up that the actors are uncomfortable with and emphasized her openness to talking through changes in such cases and her approval of revisions.
Too cold for Cole Sprouse on the set of Riverdale
The Season 3 finale of "Riverdale" ends on a cryptic note. Somewhat ambiguously, Archie, Veronica, and Betty gather around a fire in the woods and throw some of their belongings — and Jughead’s signature beanie — into the fire. (It’s hardly the weirdest thing that’s happened on the show.) The episode confused some fans who wondered if the moment implied Jughead’s death. The reality was much less dramatic: Cole Sprouse, who portrays Jughead, was cold.
The cast spoke to TVLine (via BuzzFeed) about filming that scene during Comic-Con 2019. The interviewer asked about Jughead’s ominous absence, to which AJ Kappa, who plays Archie, bluntly replied, "The only reason why that happened is because Cole was cold that night." Camila Mendes, who plays Veronica, concurred, "He almost shot that scene." Lili Reinhart, who portrays Betty, elaborated, "No, but it literally is. It was scripted all four of us, and he was like, ‘I don’t wanna do it,’ so he didn’t. We’re not kidding, though." The cast laughed through these statements but also seemed to hold back some angst on the subject. No matter if their feelings are difficult to read, Cole Sprouse, sitting right there with them during the interview, merely added nonchalantly, "I’m cold."
Famous Love’s Bella Thorne thought Paige took it too far
On the Freeform series "Famous In Love," Bella Thorne plays movie star Paige Townsen. In an early draft of one episode, Paige is judgmental toward Cassie (Georgie Flores) upon discovering Cassie is a topless maid. Thorne asked if she could scale back the dialogue.
Thorne spoke to Complex about her pushback in 2017, saying Paige "was just really judgmental … Originally I felt so bad for the Cassie character, because I was like, my character is being such a c*** right now. That’s literally what I said. I was like, ‘I don’t want to do the scene, I don’t want to say these lines. This doesn’t sound feminist at all." In this case, Thorne’s refusal to perform the original version of the script and her request for a revision was both a question of narrative integrity and moral responsibility. The final version is less intense.
Ian Wright’s Ted Lasso commentary hit too close to home
Real-life sports commentator Ian Wright will appear in the upcoming third season of "Ted Lasso." The flagship Apple TV+ series focuses on the fictional Richmond football team but often includes or references real teams. While filming, Wright refused to say a line that complimented the Tottenham team.
Phil Dunster, who plays Jamie Tartt, chatted about the scene on the podcast "Dish" (via Metro). Tartt recalled, "It was in the script that [Ian Wright] says, ‘You know, it’s gonna be a tough game for Richmond because Tottenham are a great side’ and he was like, ‘I can’t say it. I’m just not going to say it. I’m sorry.’"
In the real world, Tottenham holds a bitter rivalry with Arsenal, Wright’s former team. Wright knew what his character would and wouldn’t say because the character was himself! Even when pretending to commentate on a semi-fictional version of the league, he had to remain loyal to his team.
That’s So Raven’s Raven-Symoné declined to change Raven Baxter’s sexuality
Throughout the Disney Channel sitcom, Raven-Symoné’s character, Raven Baxter, is heterosexual. In the years since the series wrapped, its star came out as gay. When Disney developed the sequel series "Raven’s Home" nearly a decade later, Raven-Symoné felt the network wanted her character to share the actor’s sexual orientation, she told Them on YouTube in 2022.
"I think Disney wanted her to be queer in the beginning [of "Raven’s Home"], and I just didn’t feel comfortable doing that," she said. "They were like, ‘Do you want Raven to be gay?’ I said, ‘Why?’ ‘Because you are.’ I said, ‘Bad reason. That’s a bad reason. No.’ Raven Baxter never exhibited any type of sexual identity situation in the priors. I’m not being myself on this show. I’m being a character." Laughing, Raven-Symoné acknowledges that even though some viewers may want to read between the lines at how the sequel series shows Raven Baxter and best friend Chelsea (Anneliese van der Pol) raising their kids under the same roof, Raven Baxter is not gay.
Kathy Bates drew the line at praying to Satan on American Horror Story
Kathy Bates has starred in five of the 11 seasons thus far of "American Horror Story," Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s horror anthology series. During Season 8, titled "Apocalypse," Bates was surprised to find herself cast as a Satanist. She still played the role but drew the line at reciting any dialogue in which her character explicitly prays to Satan.
Bates told Entertainment Weekly in 2018, "I was quite serious about it because I’m a two-time cancer survivor and I’m not gonna screw around with that!" Laughing, she continued, "It’s bad enough I have to say ‘hail Satan’ a couple of times. I know it’s entertainment, but I just didn’t want to do it." She explained that in most seasons, the creatives provide the actors with "a rough idea" of where the story will go and where their characters fit into things, but it’s not until the actors receive the scripts that they have a full view of what their performance requires. Even in a show known for its affinity for the occult, praying to the devil was more than Bates signed up for.
Matthew Perry didn’t think Chandler should go to a strip club on Friends
The characters in "Friends" get into some zany situations that stretch the limits of believability from time to time. Scriptwriters pushed their boundaries in one script that actor Matthew Perry refused to film. Perry rejected a pitch in which his character, Chandler Bing, frequently visits a male strip club because he likes their sandwiches.
The actor recalled the moment during his appearance on "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen" in 2017 (via Brit + Co). Perry said with a smile, "I called up, and I said, ‘Let’s not do this one.’" Perry stopped short of explaining his thought process and whether he approached the decision as a stretch of believability or his discomfort with the subject matter — or perhaps both. In any case, believing that Chandler would be unfazed by going to a strip club solely because of the food may have been a lot to ask of the audience — and may have been a lot to ask of Perry as an actor.
Mr. Brady (incorrectly) fact-checked a Brady Bunch script
Robert Reed played patriarch Mike Brady on "The Brady Bunch" and its various spin-offs. Reed was reportedly not as friendly as his sitcom counterpart, often bringing an attitude with him to set. He insisted the writers change one line in a 1972 episode because he believed it was factually incorrect. Author Kimberly Potts chronicles the incident as a typical example of Reed’s toxic behavior in "The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch" (via the New York Post).
During the episode in question, Mike arrives home as Alice (Ann B. Davis) makes strawberry preserves. The writers initially planned on Mike saying the kitchen smelled "like strawberry heaven." Reed was quick to note that according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, strawberries have no smell when being cooked. Reed refused to say the line, despite series creator Sherwood Schwartz showing Reed the strawberries being prepared for the scene, which he could smell. Reed wouldn’t budge, and in the finished episode, Mike instead says the kitchen "looks like strawberry heaven." Sure, Jan.
Tony Sirico stood up for Paulie on The Sopranos
Tony Sirico portrayed Paul Gualtieri, aka Paulie Walnuts, across 74 episodes of "The Sopranos." Following Sirico’s death in 2022, David Chase, who created "The Sopranos," shared some memories of the actor with Vulture. Paulie can be intimidating, but Sirico didn’t want viewers to mistake the character for something he wasn’t. Chase recalled one time when Sirico stepped in to correct some language around how someone described Paulie.
"Tony was part of one of the greatest casts of all time … but he was the only one who ever asked me to have a line changed," Chase said. "Another character was talking about Paulie, and they said he was a bully. Tony didn’t like that. He asked me to take the word ‘bully’ out of there. And I did." Though Chase didn’t remember exactly how he revised the dialogue, he seemed to think Sirico’s request perhaps had less to do with a disagreement about Paulie’s characterization and more to do with Sirico’s personal history with the word. Chase continued, "The important thing is, he didn’t like that word. He didn’t like it at all."
Patrick Warburton called out Family Guy
Patrick Warburton voices Joe Swanson on "Family Guy," a gig he’s had since 1999, spanning over 20 seasons and nearly 300 episodes. While "Family Guy" certainly isn’t family-friendly (that’s kind of its whole deal), one time, Warburton felt the material went too far.
Warburton told Digital Spy in 2019 that a proposed joke about Jesus on the cross was "so, so horribly offensive" that it would offend "any Christian." Despite the specific line not being spoken by his character, Warburton didn’t want to be part of the episode if it remained in the script. "I know what I signed up for," Warburton said. "I signed up for a really offensive show and it is satire and there are different rules that govern satire — there are, because of what they’ve gotten away with." The crew didn’t expect standards and practices to approve the line, so they removed it.
While Warburton didn’t elaborate on the specific line, he stressed it was the only time in two decades that he flat-out refused a "Family Guy" script. As the voice actor pointed out, considering some of the other material in the show — which he must have been ok with, to a degree, even if he was potentially uncomfortable — the line had to have been pretty bad.
Without Patricia Richardson, Tim Allen called it quits on Home Improvement
After eight seasons and over 200 episodes, Patricia Richardson was ready to depart "Home Improvement." She played Jill Taylor opposite Tim Allen on the hit ’90s sitcom. Eight years is an impressive run, but ABC wanted more. The network considered keeping the series going without Richardson, as she told Entertainment Weekly in 2020.
Once Richardson informed ABC that she didn’t plan to renew her contract for a ninth season, "They went to Tim, and they said let’s do it with dead Jill," Richardson explained. "Then Tim was like, ‘I don’t think we can do that.’" There was a precedent for continuing "Home Improvement" without a main character but under different circumstances. When Jonathan Taylor Thomas left the series after Season 7, the show’s writers invented the in-universe excuse that Thomas’ character left the United States to study in Costa Rica. A character leaving to travel is one thing. A character dying is something else, especially for a show with a lighthearted tone. Not to mention Richardson was still very much alive. Jill’s death might have felt off-putting and in poor taste, and Allen made the right call in not choosing to go forward with the series.
Jenna Ortega knew what Wednesday would — and wouldn’t — say
In adapting any well-known character for a new story or interpretation, creatives walk a delicate line. Which traits should they keep the same to retain the essence of why the character is beloved in the first place? Should they change any qualities of the character with a modern audience in mind? In these questions, another chorus of opinions enters the dialogue. Because of the established relationship that the audience has with the character, sometimes lasting generations, viewers know what the character would and wouldn’t say as well as the writers and actors. This makes it all the more important to treat adaptation with care.
Such was the case when Netflix created "Wednesday," bringing Wednesday Addams from "The Addams Family" center stage in a series all her own. In stewarding the character’s legacy, writers didn’t always get things right on the first try. Jenna Ortega, who plays Wednesday, felt that Wednesday’s self-conscious dialogue about her appearance in one scene was out of character. "I remember there’s a line where I’m talking about a dress, and she was supposed to say, ‘Oh, my God, I’m freaking out over a dress. I literally hate myself,’" Ortega shared in a Q&A (via dannyraeee on TikTok). "I was blown away because that sounded like I — it was just a bunch of little things like that."