TV shows that dealt with the heartbreaking loss of a cast member: Glee, Percy Jackson and more

Glee Series 4 - EP 16 Feud (L): Finn (Cory Monteith) in "Feud." © 2012-2013 Fox and its related entities. All rights reserved.

It is heartbreaking when over the years - particularly with long-running TV shows - much-loved cast members have passed away while their TV show is still in production, leading show bosses behind the show to make some big decisions about its future; whether to cancel it altogether, recast the role, or explain the character’s sudden absence in the script.

We look at the tragic realities of TV shows where a cast member passed away, and how they dealt with the devastating loss...

Cory Monteith - Glee

Fans of the singing comedy-drama Glee were shocked and saddened by the loss of Cory Monteith, who played one of the show’s lead roles as Finn Hudson. Cory died of an accidental drug overdose aged just 31 in 2013. Showrunner Ryan Murphy spoke about working Cory’s girlfriend and co-star about how to proceed with the show, telling TVLine: “[Executive producer] Brad Falchuk and I talked to Lea and really asked her what she wanted to do.

Cory Monteith died in 2013
Cory Monteith died in 2013 (Alberto E. Rodriguez)

“We laid out every possible option. And she was very adamant that she thought it was best for the cast and crew to get back together sooner [rather] than later so that mortgages could be paid and people could take care of their families. Cory was so beloved that she felt people really needed to be together at this time. So we sort of followed her lead.”

Season five went on to feature a special episode titled The Quarterback, in which the characters mourned the loss of Cory’s character Finn in a tribute to the late star.

Willie Garson - Sex and the City

Willie very sadly passed away in 2021 aged just 57. In Sex and the City’s spin-off show, And Just Like That, Willie played Stanford, Carrie’s good friend. The showrunner Michael Patrick King opened up about why he decided to write into the show that Stanford had moved to Japan, telling Vanity Fair: “I’m not gonna really lean into [Garson’s death]. It’s too sad. And it’s too tragic. It’s not a fictional death. It’s a real death.”

Actress Sarah Jessica Parker  and actor Willie Garson filming a scene for the movie "Sex and The City" in 2007
Actress Sarah Jessica Parker and actor Willie Garson filming a scene for the movie "Sex and The City" in 2007 (Marcel Thomas)

Bernard Cribbins - Doctor Who

Bernard returned to film Doctor Who as Wilfred in the specials at the age of 93. Although more was planned for the actor, who appeared in the episode Wild Blue Yonder in 2023, he sadly passed away before filming could be completed, and the show was rewritten so that in one particular scene, it was explained that he was spending out in the fields during a family dinner.

Actor Bernard Cribbins arrives at the press launch of 'Dr Who' series 4 at the Apollo West End April 1, 2008
Actor Bernard Cribbins arrives at the press launch of 'Dr Who' series 4 at the Apollo West End April 1, 2008 (Dave M. Benett)

Showrunner Russell T. Davis shared a lovely post about him, writing: “Farewell, old soldier. That’s goodnight and goodbye to our beloved Bernard. Wilf is mentioned in dispatches next week, all safe and sound, don’t worry, but that’s the only scene Bernard was able to film.

“It wasn’t to be; at 93 years old, the old soldier had given us his best, and stepped away. Night, Bernard, and thank you. I love you.”

Helen McCrory - Peaky Blinders

Fans were devastated when Helen passed away from cancer in 2021 aged just 51. Her absence left a huge hole in the Peaky Blinders universe, and while the show dedicated the first episode of season six to her, with her co-star Cillian Murphy calling her “one of the finest actors I’ve ever worked opposite,” the show chose to kill off her character Polly when it is revealed that she was killed by the people who destroyed Tommy’s plan to assassinate Oswald Mosley.

Actress Helen McCrory in 2017
Actress Helen McCrory in 2017 (Eamonn M. McCormack)

Brian Tarantina - The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

Brian died of an accidental overdose in 2019, and the show addressed the absence of his character, nightclub owner Jackie, beautifully.

While revealing that Jackie had a stroke, Susie tries to give a eulogy for him at his funeral, but when only four people attend, she goes into to another ceremony for a woman and gives it there, revealing a fuller backstory for him. She concluded: “I can’t talk about him to an empty room, that’s not how it should go… I’m really sorry about this lady. I’m sure she was very nice too.”

Brian Tarantina at the 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2019
Brian Tarantina at the 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2019 (Presley Ann)

Angus Cloud - Euphoria

Angus tragically died aged 25 after an accidental drug overdose. Colman Domingo, who plays Ali in the show, spoke about the planned storyline for Angus in season three, telling Vanity Fair: “I’m sure it affected the creation of season 3 because [Angus] was going to be a very strong part of it, but it’s…I don’t know. We came together as a cast many times to grieve, to mourn, to laugh, and enjoy all the things we know about Angus.

Angus Cloud attends HBO's "Euphoria" Season 2 Photo Call at Goya Studios on January 05, 2022 in Los Angeles, California
Angus Cloud passed away aged 25 (Getty)

As of March 2024, season three had been put on hold indefinitely, despite being renewed. The network released a statement that read: “HBO and Sam Levinson remain committed to making an exceptional third season. In the interim, we are allowing our in-demand cast to pursue other opportunities.”

Lance Reddick - Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Lance passed away from heart disease aged 60 in March 2023, with his role as Zeus in the Disney+ adaptation being one of the last he filmed. He had completed filming for the show, which was released posthumously. In the season finale, the The Wire actor was given a tribute, with a card reading: “In loving memory of Lance Reddick.”

Lance Reddick died aged 60
Lance Reddick died aged 60 (Rich Polk)

Speaking about the loss, Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan wrote: "At least it’s comforting to know that we’ll be able to share that performance with Lance’s millions of fans, and we will get to see his artistry in action one more time.

“As for me, I have trouble believing such a force of nature could ever really be gone. I will choose to think that maybe Mount Olympus simply had need of their king. Godspeed, Mr Reddick, and thank you.”