Soap Opera’s Memorable Character Exits

©ABC / courtesy Everett Collection

When a soap opera actor or actress leaves a show, it can be devastating for fans who adore them. What happens to the characters they leave behind? Sometimes, soaps opt to recast right away, which can take time, and then there are instances where shows decide to have the character pass on in a cryptic fashion (allowing for an easy return from the dead). Regardless, character exits are always a big question leading up to the announcement of an actor/actress leaving a soap opera. They can be huge deal! While some lack luster, there are others that are epic fails. As such, below is a list of some of the best soap opera character exits.

7. Y&R’s Dylan McAvoy

Young and the Restless (Y&R) fans were devastated when they learned the news that Steve Burton (a.k.a. Dylan McAvoy) would be leaving Genoa City. Often times this would or could result in a character death, but the Y&R did something a little more interesting. McAvoy would be launched into a storyline where his cop career had him on a dangerous case. After diving in a little too deep in the case, McAvoy was sent into the witness protection program without the love of his life, Sharon. It was an interesting way to have a character exit and an easy storyline to bring the actor and Dylan back to the Y&R someday.


6. GH’s Morgan Corinthos

Bryan Craig’s departure from General Hospital (GH) meant something needed to be done with his Morgan Corinthos character. Would he be recast? Would his mental health issues have him sent away and brought back in another form? All those questions would be answered in an explosive fashion on October 2016, literally, when Morgan would fly off the handle after Ava switched the medication he was taking for his bipolar condition. After a car chase that found Jason trying to get the youngster to pull out to the side of the road to calm down, Morgan’s car exploded right before anyone could get to him. This would launch a tremendous GH storyline that not only involved parents Sonny and Carly trying to figure out who killed their son, but it also brought back infamous female mobster Olivia Jerome into the Port Charles scene. It was something that GH and soap fans were talking about for months.

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5. Y&R’s Adam Newman #3

There have been many Adam Newmans over the years and this dynamic character is one that fans love to watch on screen, regardless of which actor is playing him. Michael Muhney, better known to Y&R fans as Adam Newman #2, left the show in early 2014 after he drove off a cliff, only to come later that year in the form of Justin Hartley. While Y&R audiences loved Muhney, Hartley certainly won them over and fast. Primetime came calling shortly after and Hartley jumped the Genoa City ship, heading to the greener pastures of This is Us. What was Y&R to do? Well, Hartley ended up leaving with a bang, having the Adam Newman character unconscious in a cabin that exploded. Fans bid adieu to Adam, but we all know that when a body isn’t found in the land of soap operas, a window is opened for a potential return!

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4. GH’s Tracy Quartermaine

GH had a huge send off for Jane Elliott, the actress who played Tracy Quartermaine for almost four decades. The show decided to launch a final storyline that had Tracy on a manhunt around a special painting that was tied to her deceased father, Edward. The final storyline offered the character a beautiful closing where she learned that her father truly did love and admire her. Tracy would sell the painting, leave Port Charles, and embark on an adventure to travel the world. She nicely bid adieu to the Quartermaine family, including her sons, Ned and Dillion. It was a wonderful goodbye to one of GH’s most iconic characters.


3. Y&R’s Sage Newman

In this day and age, it is hard to keep under wraps that any soap opera actor or actress leaving a show, thanks to the Internet. The death of Sage Newman rocked the Y&R and its audiences. In October 2016, Sage finally learned that Baby Sully was in fact her thought-to-be-dead son, Christian. As she raced to tell everyone the odd news, with Sharon and Sully/Christian in another car behind her, Sage would fall victim of a car crash. As quickly as the car crashed, Sage would die on the roadside with a shocked Sharon and baby Christian in her arms to say goodbye to. Sharon wasn’t the only one surprised, as Y&R fans had their eyes glued to the screen, unable to shake the idea that Sage Newman had passed on.

“The Young and the Restless” Set
CBS television City
Los Angeles
© Howard Wise/

2. GH’s Jason Morgan

Steve Burton really knows how to exit a show. The legendary soap opera actor has already hit this list with his Y&R Dylan McAvoy character. He grabs the number two spot as well for when GH’s Jason Morgan left Port Charles in 2012. The actor had been playing the character for about thirty years and was a fan favorite. After JaSam finally reunited that day, capping it all off with a cute family photo with them and their son Danny, Jason would go off to run a quick mob errand. What happened next would forever be ingrained in the minds of all GH’s fans forever. Helping out one of Sonny’s mob employees Bernie, Jason would get shot by Cesar Faison (parading around as Duke Lavery) and then fall into the water on the docks. Nobody was ever found and this left a door open for the Jason character to return. He would eventually be recast by Billy Miller, but with Steve Burton returning to GH soon…does this mean the land of Port Charles will have two Jasons now?

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1. Days’ Stefano DiMera

Sadly, Joseph Mascolo retired from his Days of Our Lives (DOOL) duties in early 2016 due to health issues. The iconic character was shot and (presumably) killed by Hope Brady in January of that year and many fans thought that this was the final hoorah for the legendary villain, Stefano DiMera. Still, with the passing of Mascolo later in 2016, Days decided to give the actor a proper send off. In early 2017 a storyline would be launched where DiMera was not killed by Hope after all. The best part of the send off? While the crew in Salem was able to capture Stefano just long enough to prove that Hope was not a killer (thus releasing her from prison), DiMera escaped their captivity and the character took off somewhere mysteriously … in true Stefano fashion. A wonderful way to say goodbye to daytime drama’s most-loved villain.

Howard Wise/JPI

Dorathy Gass

Dorathy Gass

Dorathy Gass is an avid fan of daytime drama and has been watching Days of Our Lives, General Hospital, and Young and the Restless for over two decades now. As a full-time freelance writer, she gets to combine her love of soap operas and writing through her Fame 10 articles. Also a mother of two busy girls and a mommy blogger, she's been published multiple times over in Huffington Post Parents and Scary Mommy.