Cast departures are a major part of the television business: Actors come and go sometimes because of the show’s creative direction (AMC’s The Walking Dead has killed off plenty) and other times because talent is unhappy and wants out (Fox’s Sleepy Hollow). But for ABC’s Castle, the loss of leading lady Stana Katic and fellow original star Tamala Jones was a financial decision.
Sources tell THR that ABC considered writing out Katic’s Kate Beckett at the end of season seven but balked when the network faced backlash after Patrick Dempsey’s Derek Shepherd was shockingly killed off and written out of Grey’s Anatomy with a year remaining on his contract.
Now, as ABC — under new entertainment president Channing Dungey — looks toward its 2016-17 lineup, the network and producers ABC Studios are looking to cut costs on the veteran procedural. That includes parting ways with Katic — whose one-year deal expired this season — and Jones. Cutting the show’s licensing fee would help make Castle more attractive for a short-order 13-episdoe season nine, as the network and studio are currently negotiating a new one-year deal with Nathan Fillion (who stars as the titular Richard Castle).
In the larger scheme of things, renewing Castle has taken on higher importance as ABC Television Group president Ben Sherwood looks for more procedural fare as opposed to the soapy dramas that were a priority under Paul Lee, such as Scandal and Nashville. Of the network’s pilot offerings — all picked up by Lee but developed by Dungey — most are in ABC’s soapy wheelhouse, with only a smattering of the procedural nature. It would also behoove ABC to renew Castle, a show with a loyal audience that it owns, versus taking on the costs associated with launching a new drama.
Renewing Castle for season nine without Katic could open up the series to focus more on a case-of-the-week format rather than the serialized romance between Castle and Beckett. That would mark a change from what was envisioned for the series at the start of season eight, when new showrunners Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter eyed a greater character-driven show rather than a straight-up procedural.
Sources tell THR that Hawley and Winter tested the waters in season eight to see how fans would respond to onscreen couple Castle and Beckett breaking up. The two-part season eight premiere featured the couple separating a season after their wedding in what Hawley called a “bold choice.” At the time, he stressed that “nobody’s getting divorced” and that the split would not last forever.
The breakup also arrived after sources told THR that Katic had been unhappy for some time and after repeated clashes between the actress and Fillion.
As for the remainder of the cast, sources say Fillion would not return to Castle without co-stars Jon Huertas (Esposito) and Seamus Dever (Ryan). Huertas noted on Twitter that neither has been asked to return yet. (Sources say most of the cast and crew found out about Katic’s departure via the press Monday morning as many insiders signed nondisclosure agreements to keep the news under wraps.)
Should the series opt to kill off Beckett, Castle would join a rapidly growing list of dramas to have offed female leads this season that includes Sleepy Hollow, Arrow, The Americans, Vikings, The 100 and Hap and Leonard.
The season-eight finale (or series finale) airs Monday, May 16. ABC, under previous topper Lee, typically makes renewal decisions on bubble shows like Castle on the Friday before upfronts (which, in this case, is May 13), with a decision expected to come before then as the network presents its new schedule to Madison Avenue ad buyers on May 17.
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