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Character Outlives Actor is where a character on a TV series is still alive off-screen (referred to by on-screen characters, writes letters, etc.) but his/her actor has died since their character was Put on a Bus.

Contrast Bus Crash, where the character who was Put on a Bus dies, and Back for the Dead, where the bus and actor come back, only for the character to die right away. The Other Darrin is a possible solution to this, but sometimes is avoided out of respect for the actor.

Not to be confused with Released to Elsewhere, where a character dies, and his killer tells us they were put on a Long Bus Trip.

The inversion is The Character Died with Him (when the character is removed from the show, and often Killed Off for Real, because the actor died).

Examples of Character Outlives Actor include:


Film

  • A variant occurs with The Three Stooges after Shemp died. Moe and Larry still did four shorts, referring to Shemp - and occasionally "meeting up" with him via archive footage filmed when he was still alive.
    • They also did some new scenes where a stand-in was used for Shemp, making sure (not always succesfully) to keep his back to the camera.
      • They had to do it for contract reasons, which had to be heartbreaking for Shemp's younger brother, Moe.
  • In the James Bond movie The World Is Not Enough, Desmond Llewelyn bids a fond farewell to James Bond and his role as Q, presumably into some wondrous retirement. He died in a car crash not to long thereafter, giving the scene a very premonition like feel.
  • The film Trail of the Pink Panther was made after the death of Peter Sellers. Rather than having the character of Inspector Clouseau die in the film, he is instead shown to be alive and well on a deserted island after surviving a plane crash; the subsequent film Curse of... reveals that he got Magic Plastic Surgery to look like Roger Moore, and did a Face Heel Turn to settle down with a jewel thief countess.
  • Red the fire truck in Cars 2: Because of the death of Joe Ranft, Red actually lost his voice permanently, because the writers of the film realized that with his voice actor dead, Red actually cannot talk anymore. And plus, it would actually cause him to to feel out of character, judging by his personality.
  • After Richard Harris' death in 2002, Micheal Gambon took over the role of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films.

Live Action Television

  • After Nicholas Colasanto died during the middle of production of the third season of Cheers, Coach was said to be off visiting family or taking a driver's test. The last episode Colasanto appeared in was pushed back to later in the season, and a Deleted Scene featuring Coach was used as The Teaser to open the third season finale. The audience was not told that The Character Died with Him until the Season 4 premiere and the arrival of Woody Boyd.
  • Sandy Harper in Holby City is still alive off-screen in Australia, despite the 2003 death of actress Laura Sadler.
  • Coronation Street has had several characters live on off-screen following their actors' deaths.
  • Ditto with the late Darlene Conley's Sally Spectra on The Bold and the Beautiful.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Thanks to the magic of regeneration, any Time Lord is liable to be have outlived at least one of their actors.
      • Roger Delgado, the original incarnation of the Master on Doctor Who, was killed in a car crash while filming a movie in Turkey in 1973. The Master appeared a few years later in a different regeneration (of sorts) intentionally created as a "transitional form" in order to bring him back as (again) a new actor.
        • Ironically, this may have ensured that the Master would return. Delgado reportedly wanted to make one more story with the character, at the end of which he would have been Killed Off for Real in the Season Finale.
      • The First Doctor is another notable one, having been portrayed on television by two other actors (Richard Hurndall and David Bradley) after William Hartnell's death.
      • Romana also outlived her original actress, Mary Tamm.
    • "The Death of the Doctor" in The Sarah Jane Adventures revealed that companions Barbara Wright-Chesterton and Ben Jackson were both still alive, despite the actors who played them having died in the 1990s.
      • Sarah Jane Smith herself outlived Elisabeth Sladen. The last episode of the series ends with the words "And the story goes on...forever." On the ninth anniversary of Sladen's passing however, Sarah Jane was finally laid to rest. Though if Rani is to be believed, Sarah might still be out there.
  • Seventh Heaven infamously used this trope when Graham Jarvis, who played a main character's father, died. The character was not only kept alive for ten months following Jarvis's death, but when the actress that played his on-screen daughter had a contract dispute, she was said to be visiting him in several episodes.
  • Nick Yemana from Barney Miller did not exactly Die On a Bus, even though the actor Jack Soo, who played him, died in real life. Nick disappeared from the series and was definitely gone for good; there was an episode where a lot of drama was attached to the removal of his desk from the office, and characters would sometimes mention "back when Nick was here". However, it was never made clear whether he died or just went away somewhere.
    • The final episode seems to clear this up. Looking around the squadroom one last time, Barney remembers (via flashback clips) the cops who'd left the squad in years past. When he remembers Chano, Wentworth and Fish, Barney is smiling in fond remembrance. When he remembers Nick, though, his expression is very sad. Clearly, Nick had passed on.
  • Marty, Abby's fourth season boyfriend in NCIS, broke up with her via instant message because the actor who played him committed suicide.
  • In a not-so-Funny Aneurysm Moment, an episode of Monk was dedicated to Monk's psychiatrist threatening to retire. At the end, he decided not to do it. Shortly after the episode aired, the actor died of a heart attack. It was handled very well, and very close to the truth in the next episode, which featured Monk looking for a new psychiatrist.
  • Thuy Trang, the actress who played Trini, the first Yellow Ranger in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers left the cast and died in a car accident several years later. The character is not officially dead in the show, though Fanon may state otherwise.
  • A weird example mixed with Harsher in Hindsight: Passions had the character of Timmy dying after a Heroic Sacrifice (to save Charity from her evil Zombie self). However, the supernatural nature of the storylines on the show often made it easy for characters to return to life, and Timmy was set to return as an angel. The plans were scuppered when Josh Ryan Evans died from complications resulting from open heart surgery a scant few weeks after taping the scene. Eerily, the date of his death was the same day Timmy died on the show.
  • Only Fools and Horses has two examples - Denzil's long suffering wife Corrine and Mike, manager of the Nag's Head. The former was written as having divorced Denzil following the actress's death (she'd been intended to be a recurring character) and the latter was considered jailed for embezzlement. This was at the request of the actor in his will, who did not want Mike to be killed off.
  • Last of the Summer Wine generally isn't shy about having characters die at the same time that their actors do. However, incidental character Eli will probably be left in limbo forever, even though he appeared in most episodes. Actor Danny O'Dea died several years ago, but since Eli was rarely crucial to the plot, and wasn't closely related to any other characters, his ultimate fate will most likely remain unmentioned.
  • Dads Army gave Walker a Written in Absence when actor James Beck was suddenly taken into hospital; Walker leaves a note to explain that he is going up to London to conduct a "business" deal. Beck then died and so Walker never returned, but he was not mentioned again and presumably was still alive off-screen; by the time of later radio sequel It Sticks Out Half a Mile he had returned to Walmington-on-Sea.
  • Neither Dr Stephen Franklin nor G'Kar were ever Put on a Bus before their actors Richard Biggs and Andreas Katsulas passed away, but in Babylon 5: The Lost Tales, the late actors' characters are stated to have gone exploring "beyond the rim," the in-universe euphemism for ascending to a higher plane of existence.
    • In the case of G'Kar, the character's death was actually seen on-screen before the actor died. Londo shakes off his Drakh controller long enough to ask G'Kar to kill him to save him and the Centauri from having a mind-controlled Emperor any longer, but as G'Kar tries to oblige the symbiont wakes up and fights back, resulting in G'Kar and Londo killing each other. This was set years after the five-year plot, though, which ended with G'Kar and Lyta going adventuring in unknown parts, so he really could have been "beyond the rim."
  • When Raymond Burr died in 1993, the writers of the Perry Mason TV movies offered a character played by Paul Sorvino as his replacement, claiming that Perry Mason had "gone on vacation." One snarky television critic offered this as a response: "Yeah, it must have been a permanent one."
  • Baku Hatakeyama, who played Ki Ranger I in Himitsu Sentai Goranger, committed suicide in 1986; but Ki Ranger returns in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger and its crossover movie with Tensou Sentai Goseiger, and it is implied that Hatakeyama's character, Oiwa, is still in the suit.
  • Sesame Street: Initially, with Mr. Hooper (in episodes that aired in the spring of 1983); this included episodes that did not feature the character while shows that Will Lee completed before his final illness were still in the queue. Hooper's death was finally addressed in the groundbreaking episode that aired Thanksgiving Day, 1983 ... almost a year after Lee passed away.
  • Dallas had Jock Ewing go on a trip to an oil reserve in South America, in order to keep him alive as long as possible after his actor, Jim Davis (not that one), died. As with Mr. Hooper, his death (which occurred on the return trip) wasn't addressed until some time later.

Radio

  • Radio Example: When Hal Smith, the voice actor for the star of Focus on the Family's Adventures in Odyssey, John Avery "Whit" Whittaker, suddenly died, Whit was sent on an emergency archaeological expedition to the Middle East until a new voice actor (Paul Herlinger) was found. Interestingly, the radio producers made an episode specifically for the occasion, but they wound up broadcasting it before Smith passed away.

Video Games

  • Koji Totani, the Japanese voice actor of Metal Gear villain Revolver Ocelot, died during the production of Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots. As a result, the role was recast to Banjo Ginga (Liquid Snake's Japanese voice), with Liquid Snake's persona having apparently taken complete control of Ocelot's mind as a convenient excuse for the recast. This wasn't much of an issue in the English version, since Ocelot's English voice actor Pat Zimmerman was still alive and reprised the role anyway.
  • The death of Kaneto Shiozawa, the voice actor that played Zato-1 in Guilty Gear, inspired the plot point of having the symbiote that gave him powers completely take over, replete with a new voice actor. Subverted in the Xrd games, when Zato (still voiced by his second VA) is Back From the Dead.

Western Animation

  • After Harry Goz, the voice of Sealab 2021's Captain Murphy, died in 2003, the character left the station to fight in "the Spice Wars".
  • Transformers:
    • After Scatman Crothers' death shortly after the Movie, Jazz stopped speaking and eventually left the show completely.
    • Roger C. Carmel, the original voice for Cyclonus, died at the tail-end of the third season with Jack Angel (Ultra Magnus) picking up the role.
  • Happens to Dr McCoy, after a fashion, on Futurama. In "Where No Fan Has Gone Before", the main cast of Star Trek: The Original Series voice themselves, except for James Doohan and DeForest Kelley. While Doohan had simply said he wasn't interested, Kelley had died. As such, Kelley's likeness appears but has no speaking lines.
    • Another example: Coleene, Fry's polygamous love interest from the second movie, "Beast With A Billion Backs", who was voice by the sadly departed Brittany Murphy. In the story, Coleene was last seen fully engaged in a relationship with Yivo, the planet-sized tentacly creature from Another Dimension, which gateway was closed off by the end, sealing her status as "presumably still living there with shklee and not going to make any new appearances".
  • The Simpsons: After Phil Hartman was murdered in 1998, Matt Groening had Hartman's characters, Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure, retired out of respect. The last episode to feature Hartman, "Bart the Mother", which had Troy McClure, aired the following season.
    • Martin, Sherri, and Terri outlasted Russi Taylor, who died in 2019, with her voices being handled by Grey DeLisle.
  • Anton Yelchin died after recording most of his dialogue for Trollhunters, with his close friend Emile Hirsch taking over the role of Jim Lake.
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