Friday, June 3, 2011

Why did Terry Ferrell leave BECKER?

Hi from Seattle where I'm broadcasting for the Mariners on 710 ESPN radio, MLB.COM, and Sirius/XM. I have a guest answerer for Friday Question Day. Dave Hackel, the creator and showrunner of BECKER graciously agreed to answer the following question and clear up any rumors. Thanks, Dave. What's your question?

Johnny Walker asks:

What happened with Terry Farrell on Becker?

One story I've heard is that the powers that be reneged on their contract with the supporting cast, refusing to give them a pay raise at the end of Season 3, like they had originally agreed. Farrell rallied the other cast (not including Ted Danson) to fight for their agreed pay rise by not showing up for work.

The powers that be agreed to honour their contract with the cast, but were so turned off by the way she handled things that they decided not to renew her contract after Season 4.

If this is true, then it makes you wonder where the truth lies: Was she completely unreasonable, to the point where her behaviour essentially ended up black-balling herself? Or is Hollywood a greedy place that expects people to not complain when they're screwed over?

Every so often speculation about Terry Farrell’s departure from “Becker” comes up and I’m very happy that Ken gave me the opportunity to address it here on his blog. For the record -- the decision to replace Terry had absolutely nothing to do with contract negotiations. That situation had long been resolved by that time. Terry was, and is, a lovely person and a talented actress and having her leave the show was a creative decision, not a punitive one. Here’s how it came about.

At the end of the fourth season we’d done a cliffhanger episode where Terry’s character, Reggie, was at a crossroads in her life. She’d left the diner and nobody knew where she’d gone. The normal way to handle that would have been to have her come back at the beginning of the next season, solve her problem and move forward as before. However, we were under pressure from the network to find ways to inject new life into the series — not an unusual request for a series going into it’s fifth season. So when trying to figure out exactly how to resolve Reggie’s dilemma, it occurred to me that handling it the “normal” way was certainly one option, but having her do the unexpected — certainly in series television — was another choice. What if she didn’t come back at all? What if we could surprise our audience, as well as the other characters on the show? We’d already introduced Nancy Travis’ character, Chris, and it seemed like following that relationship might be just the thing to shake things up a bit.

So I ran that option by both Paramount and CBS and everyone thought it would provide the shot in the arm that we all felt the series could use. An easy decision? Not on any level. In fact, it was one of the toughest decisions of my career. And while the wisdom of that choice is occasionally a topic of debate, giving Dr. Becker a new relationship did give the writers and actors a new dynamic to explore.

Thanks for your interest.

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