There are certain characters we can’t imagine TV shows and movies without. Eleven in Stranger Things is one of them. Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad is another. But what if we told you that these characters—along with several other fan-favorite characters from various TV shows and movies over the years—were supposed to die, with some as early as episode one?
It’s hard to imagine Stranger Things without Eleven or Breaking Bad without Jesse, but at one point in the story-writing process, these characters were supposed to make it past the first few episodes. The same goes for movie franchises like Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy, which include characters were supposed to be killed off before they made it to the second or even third movie.
But who are these characters who managed to live past their shelf life? Well, we looked into it and collected 10 fan-favorite characters from TV and movies who were supposed to be killed off early, but weren’t. And thank God, because we can’t imagine some of these TV shows and movies without them. From the vampires in every millennial’s favorite teen dramas to the mom who continues to survive the zombie apocalypse, here are 10 characters who were supposed to die.
Eleven in Stranger Things
Millie Bobby Brown’s Eleven has become fan favorite in Stranger Things, but the character wasn’t supposed to live past season one. In their book, Stranger Things: World Turned Upside Down, the show’s creators, Matt and Ross Duffer, revealed that Eleven was supposed to sacrifice herself to save the rest of the cast. In the end, the Duffer brothers left the ending vague, giving them the option to bring back the character if they wanted. When Brown became a standout, earning Emmy and SAG nominations, it was no question that Eleven had to come back for season two.
“Eleven was going to sacrifice herself to save the day. That was always the end game,” Ross wrote. “But once we realized that the show was potentially going to go on longer than one season, we needed to leave it more up in the air, because deep down we knew the show just wouldn’t really work without Eleven. And at that point, we knew how special Millie was. If there was going to be more Stranger Things, Eleven had to come back.”
Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman earned actor Aaron Paul three Emmys, among several other awards, but the character, like Eleven, was also not supposed to live past season one. In an interview with The Paley Center for Media, the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, revealed that Jesse was supposed to die in a botched drug deal, which would fuel Walter White to seek revenge against the drug dealer who killed him. The death was supposed to happen on episode nine of season one, but because of the 2008 writers strike, season one never made it that far, sparing Jessie for at least another season. After Gilligan realized how important the character was, he scrapped his death and Jesse went on to live until the show’s series finale. “Thank you, writers!” Paul said in the interview.
Carol Hathaway in ER
Fans of ER will remember Carol Hathaway’s, played by Julianna Margulies, suicide via overdose in the show’s pilot. Though it didn’t look good for Carol by the end of the episode, she survived and came back alive in the next episode. Turns out, Carol was supposed to die in the series premiere, but after the character tested well with audiences before the show’s premiere, ER‘s creators decided to keep the character and write an entire storyline for her. She stayed on for six more seasons. “I had no idea I was coming back,” Marguiles told The Los Angeles Times. “I was hired as a guest star, just for the pilot.
Jack Shephard in Lost
Michael Keaton was supposed to play Jack Shephard, the leader of a bunch of plane crash victims, in Lost. When Keaton signed on for the role, the character was supposed to die halfway through the pilot, but Lost’s creator, J.J. Abrams, had a change in plans. When Abrams told Keaton that the character would become a series regular and live past the pilot, Keaton backed out of the role, which gave actor Matthew Fox a chance to become Lost‘s leading man.
“[Abrams] said, ‘Here’s what happens: the guy that you think is the lead dies in the last ten minutes,’ and I immediately—when I hear things like that – like Soderbergh calling and going, ‘Hey, I want Ray Nicolette to pop up in this movie,’ ….those type of things intrigue me,” Keaton told The Hollywood Reporter. And I thought, ‘Yeah!’ The idea of doing an hour television show … I’m just too lazy. So I thought, ‘Wow, this is pretty good! Then I don’t have to be in the series!’”
Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
It was Spike’s sacrifice that saved the world in the series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but according to the actor who played him, James Marsters, the character wasn’t supposed to live past the second season. Shortly after Spike was introduced in season two of Buffy, the character was supposed to be killed by Angel to spark an emotional arc for Buffy after his death. “I know that the original plan was to break Buffy’s heart, which is always the plan. Angel and Buffy sleep together, Angel turns evil and he was gonna kill me off and take up with Drusilla so Buffy could get shattered,” Marsters told TooFab.
Carol Peletier in The Walking Dead
Carol has become a fan favorite in The Walking Dead, surviving thousands of zombies and killers. But the character wasn’t supposed to live past season three. In The Walking Dead comics, Carol was supposed to die when zombies raided the prison. The producers of the show decided to kill supporting character T-Dog instead, allowing Carol to live until this day.
Klaus Mikaelson in The Vampire Diaries
Klaus was such a fan favorite in The Vampire Diaries that he received his own spinoff show, The Originals, a couple seasons after he was introduced. According to TV Guide, the character was supposed to die at the end of season three, the same season he was introduced. Somewhere along the way, the character became a favorite of fans and went on to live. Protagonist Elena Gilbert’s aunt Jenna Somers died instead.
Alison DiLaurentis in Pretty Little Liars
Pretty Little Liars focuses on the mystery around the death of Alison. As fans know, the character was alive the entire time. What fans don’t know is that the show’s creator, I. Marlene King, toyed with the idea of actually killing off Alison later in the show. In season six, when Alison’s sister, Charlotte is found dead in a casket, King revealed that she considered the idea of Alison being in the casket instead. “We talked about Ali being that person in the casket the final time and going back to the flashbacks. I was like, “Oh my God, no. That can’t be the person in the casket!” There’s no way it could be Alison. Fans would hate us and I would hate us, too,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.
Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1
The original script of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 saw Nebula, played by Karen Gillan, dying at the end of the movie. As fans know, the character plays an important part in the film’s sequel, as well as Avengers: Infinity War, so it’s hard to imagine her dead. The character was supposed to die at the end of the movie, when Nebula and her adopted sister, Gamora, fight on a space ship.
“I definitely had a feeling that there was room for the character to expand in the future, but she was originally supposed to die in the first movie, I think I remember in the script,” Gillan told Digital Spy. “She obviously did not die, then I found out that she was coming back in the second movie and then I found out we got to explore all these amazing things about her past and her relationship with Gamora, her sister, so I was really happy.”
Poe Dameron in The Force Awakens
Oscar Isaac’s Poe was supposed to die a hero in The Force Awakens when his ship crashes in a desert. However, upon learning this, Isaac lobbied for his character to live. Eventually, he convinced director J.J. Abrams to allow the character to live for a second film. “I’d done that before,” Isaac told GQ. “Set up the plot for the main guy and then die spectacularly.”