11 actors who have criticised their own TV shows, from Millie Bobby Brown to Johnny Depp
Millie Bobby Brown made headlines this week when she called out the creators of Stranger Things for not killing off enough main characters.
She is not the first actor who has criticised their own TV show. In fact, many performers have dissed their own series, but only a brave few have done so while they’re still starring in them.
From Penn Badgley saying Gossip Girl “doesn’t make sense” to Katherine Heigl calling the Grey’s Anatomy filming schedule “cruel and mean”, here’s a list of actors who have spoken out against their own shows, either during their run or years later…
*Spoilers follow – you have been warned*
Penn Badgley – Gossip Girl
Badgley has frequently criticised Gossip Girl, the drama that followed ultra-rich Manhattan teenagers, for its ridiculousness. In 2015, he reflected on the finale, in which it was revealed that his character Dan was actually the anonymous blogger of the show’s title, telling People: “It doesn’t make sense at all. It wouldn’t have made sense for anybody. Gossip Girl doesn’t make sense!”
That same year, he criticised the Gossip Girl DVD cover – which shows the cast splayed out on top of New York skyscrapers – writing on Twitter: “Lol s*** we are *reclining* on New York City. I’m posted up like it’s a futon. Talk about an image of white privilege.” One commenter wrote: “Surely that was the point.”
Mandy Patinkin – Criminal Minds
The actor’s experience on the police procedural Criminal Minds was so awful it left him doubting whether he would ever work in TV again. In 2012, he told New York magazine: “The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to do Criminal Minds in the first place.”
Explaining that the grim storylines prompted him to suddenly quit the series before its third season began, blindsiding creator Jeff Davis, Patinkin said: “I thought it was something very different. I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year.”
He added: “It was very destructive to my soul and my personality. After that, I didn’t think I would get to work in television again.”
Millie Bobby Brown – Stranger Things
Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Eleven in Stranger Things, candidly called out its creators, the Duffer brothers, for failing to kill off many original characters.
Speaking about the size of the current cast, she told TheWrap: “It’s way too big. Last night, we couldn’t even take one group picture because there was like 50 of us. I was like, ‘You need to start killing people off.’
“The Duffer brothers are two sensitive Sallies that don’t want to kill anyone off. We need to be Game of Thrones. We need to have the mindset of Game of Thrones.”
The actor then demanded that the creators “kill me off,” adding: “They tried killing David [Harbour, Hopper] off and they brought him back. It’s ridiculous.”
The Duffer brothers later called her comments “hilarious”.
Katherine Heigl – Grey’s Anatomy
Heigl infamously pulled out of the Emmys race in 2008 because she felt Grey’s Anatomy didn’t give her strong enough material. At the time, she told The Los Angeles Times’s Gold Derby blog: “I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organisation, I withdrew my name from contention. In addition, I did not want to potentially take away an opportunity from an actress who was given such materials.”
The star, who played Izzie Stevens on the hit ABC series, also called out the drama’s alleged working conditions during a 2009 appearance on David Letterman’s late-night show, saying: “Our first day back was Wednesday. It was – I’m going to keep saying this because I hope it embarrasses them – a 17-hour day, which I think is cruel and mean.”
Johnny Depp – 21 Jump Street
While the Eighties crime series 21 Jump Street was what put Johnny Depp on the map, he started to resent the show a few seasons in. In 1989, Depp told The Insider that “towards the third season it started to get a little show-boaty, it started to become false, it started to become action-packed, it’s like a can of soup, you just market it and send it out there… after a while it becomes not what it started out to be – now it’s a product”.
He later told The Telegraph in 2006 that he trashed his trailer and caused trouble on the set in an effort to get himself fired from the series. “It was out of control,” he said. “They created this image, this monster, and they were selling it to the world.”
Shannen Doherty – Charmed
Shannen Doherty’s character Prue Haliwell was written out of Charmed by season three. Not only had she not got on well with her co-star Alyssa Milano, the actor later told Movieline magazine that the “couple of moments” on the show where she “gave the most brutally honest performance I ever could have given as an actor” weren’t given “their proper due, because they were on Charmed. It’s a show for 12 year olds!”
Constance Wu – Fresh Off the Boat
In May 2019, on the day her comedy Fresh Off the Boat was renewed for a sixth season, Constance Wu wrote on Twitter: “So upset right now that I’m literally crying. Ugh. F***.” A follow-up tweet simply said: “F***ing hell.” She then clarified that it was indeed the show’s renewal she was upset about, replying to a fan who had said it was “great news” with the message: “No it’s not.” If that wasn’t enough, she then commented on a post celebrating the renewal on the show’s official Instagram page, writing: “Dislike.”
The following day, Wu apologised for her outburst and explained that she was disappointed that Fresh Off the Boat was coming back because it meant she would have to turn down a new role that “would have challenged me as an artist”.
Billy Ray Cyrus – Hannah Montana
Hannah Montana made a star out of his daughter, Miley Cyrus, but in 2011 Billy Ray Cyrus told GQ: “I’d erase it all in a second if I could.” Explaining he was worried that the show had sent his daughter off the rails and ruined his relationship with his former wife Tish Cyrus, he added: “I’ll tell you right now – the damn show destroyed my family. And I sit there and go, ‘Yeah, you know what? Some gave all.’ It is my motto, and guess what? I have to eat that one. I some-gave-all’d it all right. I some-gave-all’d it while everybody else was going to the bank. It’s all sad.”
Shailene Woodley – The Secret Life of the American Teenager
When The Secret Life of the America Teenager ended after five seasons, Woodley was relieved. In 2013 she told Flaunt magazine that, while she was grateful for her years on the family drama, “towards the end, morally, the things that we were preaching on that show weren’t really aligned with my own integrity”.
The show had adopted an increasingly pro-abstinence message over the course of its five seasons. She added: “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.”
Sarah Paulson – American Horror Story: Roanoke
Sarah Paulson was not a fan of the 201 season of AHS. “I just don’t care about this season at all,” she admitted during a 2021 conversation on The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast. “I know people will get mad at me for saying it, but for me, this was post having played Marcia [on The People v OJ Simpson] and it was what I went to do right after finishing Marcia.
“I was so underwhelmed by the whole experience, because I felt like I had entered into a new place inside of myself in terms of what I thought possible, in terms of what I might be willing to see if I can do. I felt really kind of trapped by my responsibility and my contractual obligation to do American Horror Story.
“As much as it’s my home, and I’ve loved it always, it was the first time I felt like I wish I could have gone to Ryan [Murphy] and said, ‘Please let me sit this one out.’”
Simu Liu – Kim’s Convenience
In 2021, Simu Liu – who played Jung Kim in Canadian sitcom Kim’s Convenience – called out the show for failing to offer enough “East Asian and female representation” within the creative team. After the show aired its fifth and final season, Liu pointed out that, aside from Kim’s Convenience co-creator Ins Choi, there were “no other Korean voices in the room”. In a Facebook post that went viral, the actor also condemned a stifling creative environment, and what he described as “horsepoop” pay.
He later said his comments were not supposed to be “a massive bombshell exposé”, adding that he remains “incredibly appreciative of the work that the team put out for the past five seasons”.