Is there anything more beloved than the humble sitcom? As cornerstones in the world of television, situation comedies are guaranteed feel-good TV. As well as making us laugh, sitcoms have the ability to make us cry, cringe, and generally feel in a way few genres can. Who hasn’t dreamed of owning a stylish NYC apartment like Monica’s from Friends? Or considered a career in local government thanks to Parks and Recreation?
If you’re having a bad day, escaping into a sitcom is the perfect remedy. Still, the actors may not love the shows as much as the fans do. Despite boasting some of the highest salaries in the business, some sitcom stars regret their time on the air. Even if a show launched an actor’s career, the negatives can outweigh the positives, whether due to typecasting, behind the scenes feuds, or that the role just didn’t live up to their expectations.
Appearing on sitcoms can also lead to long-term consequences that few actors can predict. Sitcoms have an extended shelf life, with some running in syndication for years after they’ve finished. This means some actors are only remembered for that one legendary role, not allowing them to pursue other opportunities or grow their career’s in a meaningful way. Whereas other shows run for too long, well past their sell by date, turning a once-great sitcom into a sad spectacle nobody wants to watch (The Big Bang Theory, we’re looking at you).
Here are 15 Actors Who Regret Being On Iconic Sitcoms.
15 Chevy Chase – Community
After taking a seven-year showbiz hiatus, comedy icon Chevy Chase returned to the screen in 2009 for sitcom Community. He starred as millionaire Pierce Hawthorne, who enrolls at Greendale in a lazy attempt at self-discovery. The part revived Chase's flagging career, however, in an interview with The Huffington Post in 2012, he shared his regret at taking on the role.
He cited long hours as the reason, but considering he called sitcoms “the lowest form of television,” his well-documented feud with creator Dan Harmon may also have been to blame.
According to Deadline, after Chase walked off set on the last day of shooting for season 3, their feud escalated to an ugly war of words. At the wrap party, Harmon supposedly gave a speech that included the words “F--- you, Chevy,” to which the actor later responded by leaving an expletive-filled voicemail on the showrunner’s phone.
Chevy supposedly stayed on-board for his castmates, who he described as “not great innovators” but “at the same time are my friends.” Despite all the fuss, Chase did return in a starring role when the show was renewed for a fourth season, as well as returning as a guest in season 5 - wherein his character passed away.
14 Miley Cyrus – Hannah Montana
Living the life of a pop star is the dream for most preteens, but in reality Hannah Montana was definitely not “the best of both worlds” for Miley Cyrus.
Although Miley Stewart – school girl by day, music sensation by night – was Cyrus’s break out role, her time on the show created a lot of emotional issues for the young star. The Disney Channel show resulted in a huge following for Miley, turning her into a teen icon, but did “extreme damage to her psyche.”
In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning last year, Miley compared her time on the show – for which she donned a blonde wig for her pop star persona – to child pageant show Toddlers and Tiaras, and admitted that she didn’t realize the long-term effect Hannah Montana would have on her.
She said: "I liked being in the Disney universe because I didn’t know anything else. I knew I was getting to live what I wanted to do. I think now that I’m older, I realize that’s a lot to put on a kid. I definitely look back on it as a good time. I think what was hard for me was balancing everything.”
13 Elle Macpherson – Friends
Back in 1999, Joey got a hot new roommate for a few episodes after Chandler moved across the hall to live with Monica. Dancer Janine, played by Elle Macpherson, stole the sandwich-loving actor’s heart, until it became clear she didn’t get along with his friends and was swiftly dumped.
However, few Friends fans know that Macpherson was asked to extend her time on the show beyond the original five episode arc, but turned the offer down.
Macpherson said if she’d known the show would become such a cultural fixture, she’d never would have accepted the role in the first place.
The model, who hails from Australia, told TV Week in 2016: “If I'd known how important it was in the U.S. or how long it would be on TV, I may not have chosen to do it. It was a lot of pressure if you look at it in the way that it will be around for 20 or 30 years.”
Apparently, no one remembers the star for her other roles, which include starring as Julie Madison in Batman and Robin and as Mickey Morse in The Edge. Still, her time on Friends does impress her 15-year-old son Cyrus and his pals, so the role did gain her some cool mom points.
12 Shailene Woodley - The Secret Life of the American Teenager
Before she was Jane Chapman in Big Little Lies, Shailene Woodley was Amy Juergens in The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Playing a 15-year-old who finds out she is pregnant, Amy was Woodley’s break-out role. The show ran for four years, but Woodley was not impressed with the direction the writers took in the later seasons.
She told Flaunt magazine in 2013: “I didn’t like it because if it started to change, I had no control over it. It’s like anything in life, whether you’re an actor or you work in an insurance office, if you want to be able to leave your job, it’s nice to be able to leave your job. But when you’re in a contract, unfortunately, you can’t do that.”
She also admitted that the show’s morals clashed with her own, saying: “Towards the end, morally, the things that we were preaching on that show weren’t really aligned with my own integrity. So that was a bit hard to show up to work every day knowing that we were going to project all of these themes to thousands – millions – of young adults across the country, when in fact they weren’t what I would like to be sending out.”
11 Issac Hayes – South Park
South Park is known for pulling no punches when it comes to, well, everything. That includes sensitive topics like religion.
That’s why it was so surprising that after 10 years voicing Chef on the show, Issac Hayes upped and quit after an episode insulted Scientology.
In the episode “Trapped in the Closet", Stan is portrayed as the long-awaited reincarnation of the church’s founder L. Ron Hubbard.
The actor said in a statement: "There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends, and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins. As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices."
Of course, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were quick to respond, with Stone saying: “This has nothing to do with intolerance and bigotry and everything to do with the fact that Isaac Hayes is a Scientologist and that we recently featured Scientology in an episode of South Park. In 10 years and more than 150 episodes Isaac never had a problem with the show making fun of Christians, Muslims, Mormons and Jews."
After Hayes departure, Chef was kwritten off in a brutal fashion that included being struck by lightning, stuck on a branch, shot, and attacked by both mountain lions and a grizzly bear.
10 Bella Thorne – Shake it Up
After spending the last few years building a name for herself, Bella Thorne is on track to becoming the next big Hollywood success story. However, like fellow Disney alumni Miley Cyrus, Thorne’s initial foray into child stardom wasn’t all sunshine and roses.
At age 11, Thorne accepted the role of CeCe Jones in Shake it Up! The sitcom also starred teen icon Zendaya. The show ran for three years, but once filming ended in 2013, Thorne found it difficult to get other roles. It seemed the actress had issues convincing casting directors that she wasn’t just another ready-made Disney star.
She told MTV in 2017: “It was really hard to get a job after the show. People didn't want to read me. They didn't want to see me because they were like, 'She's a Disney actress.’ So for me, it was like starting back at the bottom and working my way up all the way again."
Thorne wasn’t keen on the role from the beginning, and only auditioned as her family were having serious financial troubles.
"Do you think that I wanted to be a Disney girl? Did you think I wanted to do that? We were about to live physically on the street if I didn't have that role,” she shared.
However, Thorne has since managed to reconstruct her career and her image, and now stars in the Freeform series Famous in Love.
9 Allison Williams – Girls
It may have led to better roles, such as her critically-lauded performance in 2017 horror film Get Out, but surprisingly, Allison Williams isn’t a fan of her role on Girls.
Although celebrated for its portrayal of the issues affecting young people today, during its six-year run Girls was also severely criticized for its lack of diversity and questionable depiction of assault, making it a controversial show to love. Still, it wasn’t this aspect that Williams had a problem with, but more the choices her character Marnie Michaels made.
Williams told Buzzfeed in 2014: “Marnie would drive me crazy if we were friends in real life, but I have to put that out of my head in order to play her. Like, sleeping with Elijah (Andrew Rannells) is crazy, sleeping with Ray (Alex Karpovsky) is crazy, furiously hitting on Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) when he mentions his girlfriend in their first conversation is crazy; but I have to be on the couch with her and Elijah hoping they [get together], I have to be in that apartment with Ray kinda wanting it to happen, and I have to support her quest for Desi."
Since Marnie was the character Girls fans loved to hate on the most, we can totally understand her pain.
8 Janet Hubert Whitten – The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Ever wondered why Aunt Viv from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air went to bed as one person and woke up another? It was all down to a behind-the-scenes feud between Will Smith and Janet Hubert, the original Vivian Banks.
The actress was replaced by Daphne Reid in season 4, after Hubert and NBC couldn’t come to an agreement about her contract. However, Smith wasn’t impressed with her approach, and when the cameras were off the pair clashed regularly.
Discussing their highly-publicized feud in 1993, Smith said: “I can say straight up that Janet Hubert wanted the show to be ‘The Aunt Viv of Bel Air Show.’ She’s mad now but she’s been mad all along. She said once, I’ve been in the business for 10 years and this snotty-nosed punk comes along and gets a show.’ No matter what, to her I’m just the AntiChrist.”
Discussing her exit from the comedy in an interview with omg! Insider, in which she claimed co-star Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton Banks) also bullied her, Hubert said: “[Smith] said ‘we’re just gonna replace her and act like nothing happened.’
“Well honey, that is not what happened, is it? The world has let me know that my place on that show was very, very, very loved ... I felt demonized and beaten up and crucified for many many years, no one came forward in my defense.”
7 Charlie Sheen – Two and a Half Men
Let’s be honest, CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men was all about Charlie Sheen. The show followed playboy jingle-writer Charlie Harper (Sheen) after the bachelor agrees to take in his brother Alan during his divorce. Alan also comes with his 10-year-old son Jake, and when the pair move into his Malibu beach house they proceed to complicate Charlie’s hedonistic life.
Although there were plenty of laughs from Alan and Jake, Sheen was the star of the show. This was why it was so shocking when creator Chuck Lorre fired the actor for publicly insulting him in 2011. At the time, Sheen was the highest paid actor on television.
Sheen referred to Lorre as a “clown” and a “stupid little man,” but Warner Bros. officially declared that the actor was let go because of poor on-set behavior and “comments poisoning key working relationships.”
This wasn’t the only time Sheen publicly took on Lorre. The actor made a seemingly real threat to the producer in 2015, after his character was written off in the season 7 finale. In a video obtained by TMZ, Sheen said that Lorre must “feel really safe where he lives” to mock him and that “You picked a fight with a warlock, you little worm. You’re no match for this warlock.”
However, he has since admitted that he regrets how things went down between them, possibly because he’s struggled to land any decent work since.
6 Joe Jonas – Jonas
Teen heartthrob Joe Jonas is best known for band the Jonas Brothers, alongside his real-life siblings Kevin and Nick. However, superfans might also remember that the trio briefly had their own sitcom, Jonas, which ran from 2009 to 2010.
The show was critically panned and was unceremoniously canceled after two seasons, so it may not surprise you that Joe regrets appearing in it.
He described the writing as “terrible,” and something “only a 10-year-old would find funny." Well, it was on the Disney Channel.
He was also not fond of the “expectations” that came with working for a company like Disney, such as keeping a squeaky-clean public image, and the pressure that came with that responsibility.
He told the New York Times in 2013: “We were just kids. That’s the reality. We were frightened little kids. So you got all this responsibility that’s foisted upon you and you’re expected to be perfect. We didn’t want to disappoint anyone—our parents, our fans, our employers—so we put incredible pressure on ourselves, the kind of pressure that no teenager should be under.”
After the band broke up, Joe formed the funk-pop band DNCE, whose first single “Cake by the Ocean” made it to number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. He is also currently a mentor on the Australian version of The Voice.
5 Bea Arthur – The Golden Girls
Who can imagine The Golden Girls without Bea Arthur? However, toward the show’s end, the actress was getting sick of playing Dorothy Zbornak.
According to the book Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Behind the Lanai by Jim Colucci, Arthur wasn’t keen on the show’s later seasons, particularly the body shaming her character received, which the show’s writers dubbed “Dorothy Bashing.”
In an interview with FOX411, the author, who interviewed over 250 crew members for Golden Girls Forever, said: "Bea was offended. When the writers called Rose [Betty White] dumb or Blanche [Rue McClanahan] a [loose woman] or Sophia [Estelle Getty] old, it could roll off those women’s backs because they were not like their characters. Unfortunately, the things that were said about Dorothy were that she was big and ugly. And that wears on an actress after a while.”
Colucci claimed that Arthur considered quitting the sitcom several times over its seven-year run, with the possibility of returning to Broadway.
"By the start of the seventh season, Bea made it very clear that she was done. She thought the quality was starting to slip. She wanted to go out while it was still a good show and she felt she was done with it," he explained.
4 Billy Ray Cyrus – Hannah Montana
Like daughter Miley, Billy Ray Cyrus also regrets working on Hannah Montana. The country musician played Miley’s father Robbie Stewart in the musical comedy, a role he initially took to support his daughter’s budding career. However, after two seasons the 56-year-old said he felt "the business was driving a wedge” between them, and in the end the show “destroyed” his family.
In a candid interview with GQ in 2011, he said: “I'd take it back in a second. For my family to be here and just be everybody okay, safe and sound and happy and normal, would have been fantastic. Heck, yeah. I'd erase it all in a second if I could."
Describing the behind the scenes atmosphere of the final season of Hannah Montana, Cyrus said: "I was going to work every single day knowing that my family had fallen apart, but yet I had to sit in front of that camera. I look back and I go, how did I ever make it through that?"
However, at the time of the GQ interview, the star was going through a rough patch. He’d just split from his wife Tish, who he’d been with for almost two decades - mother to Miley and her brothers Braison and Noah. However, the couple got back together in 2013 after a stint in couple’s therapy. He was also not speaking to Miley during this period, but the pair now seem to be back on good terms.
3 Robert Reed – The Brady Bunch
He may be remembered as the ultimate TV dad, but Mike Brady was not a career highlight for actor Robert Reed. Beginning in 1968, The Brady Bunch ran for six years and was a huge success, but Reed was not proud of his work on the family sitcom.
Prior to his time on the show, Reed had spent two years studying Shakespeare, and according to The Brady Bunch’s creator Sherwood Schwartz, felt that “television, in general was beneath him. And situation comedy was beneath television, in his opinion.” The pair often clashed over the character’s gags and pratfalls, with Reed longing for a more realistic portrayal of family life.
Barry Williams, AKA Greg Brady, who considered the actor his mentor, echoed Schwartz’s words, saying: “He felt in some ways that the show was beneath his abilities.” Reed spent his final years teaching Shakespeare at UCLA, in which Williams said the star was “happier than ever.”
However, Reed stuck around on The Brady Bunch for as long as he did due to his love for his TV family.
Susan Olsen, who played youngest daughter Cindy, said of Reed: “Bob remains to this day my shining example of how an adult should be with kids. There was this unconditional, fatherly love that he had for us that we were always aware of.”
2 Angus T. Jones – Two and a Half Men
Many child stars regret their time in the spotlight, and that includes Angus T. Jones, better known as Jake Harper from Two and a Half Men.
The actor won two Young Artist Awards and a TV Land Award during his 10-year run on the sitcom, which he took on in 2003 at the age of 10. However, after converting to Christianity in 2012, the actor spoke out against the show that made him a star, even asking viewers to boycott the program altogether.
In November of that year, the then 19-year-old told said that he had been baptized, and that he no longer wanted to appear on Two and a Half Men as it clashed with his new-found belief system. He even described the show as “filth” and himself as a “paid hypocrite” for having a job that promoted adult themes. As a result, he only appeared in a few episodes of season 10 and skipped season 11 entirely, with Amber Tamblyn filling his spot. However, Jones did make a cameo in the season 12 finale in 2015.
Jones hasn’t had a starring role in film or on TV since departing the show. However, in 2016 he accepted a management role with Tonite, an entertainment company started by P. Diddy and former NFL line backer Kene Orjioke.
1 Hank Azaria – The Simpsons
Since the release of Indian comedian Hari Kondabolu’s documentary The Problem with Apu last year, there has been an ongoing debate over whether the depiction of beloved Simpsons’ character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is racist.
A particular point of contention, alongside the racial stereotyping of South Asian people associated with the character, is that Apu is voiced by white actor Hank Azaria.
Azaria has been voicing the role since 1990, and during an appearance on the The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, shared his thoughts on the controversy, indicating regret over his part in the drama.
The actor said: "I have given this a lot of thought, and as I say, my eyes have been opened. And I think the most important thing is we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people, in this country, when they talk about what they feel and how they think about this character, and what their American experience of it has been. And, as you know, in television terms, listening to voices means inclusion in the writers' room. I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the room – not in a token way – genuinely informing whatever new direction this character take, including how it is voiced or not voiced. I'm perfectly willing to step aside or help transition it into something new.”
Are there any other actors who regret being on sitcoms? Share your knowledge in the comments!