On Tuesday at the Television Critics Association press tour, CBS executives revealed that Hayes’ character will be killed off, in order to handle the casting shakeup.
“The character will have passed away and we will be moving forward in time catching up at a later date,” CBS programming boss Thom Sherman explained of the storyline, speaking at TCA, held in Beverly Hills, Calif.
When asked by a reporter if “Kevin Can Wait” is “morphing” into ‘King of Queens’ by reuniting James and Remini — who guest starred on the Season 1 finale of “Kevin Can Wait” — Sherman answered, “No, don’t think so. I think the show speaks for itself and stands for itself. Obviously the chemistry between Kevin and Leah was amazing in the stunt episode we did at the end of last season, and we decided we want to continue that.”
When Remini appeared in the Season 1 finale, she played Vanessa Cellucci, an undercover cop and the former partner of James’ retired cop character. She will reprise that same role as a series regular in Season 2. Remini and James co-starred on “King of Queens” for nine seasons from 1998-2006 on CBS.
In June when news broke that Hayes would not be returning for Season 2 of “Kevin Can Wait,” Hayes said she was “very sad” and confirmed that the departure was not her call, tweeting, “True, I’ve been let go from the show. Very sad, I had a great experience season 1. Thank you for all the support from our wonderful fans.”
At the time, sources told Variety the decision was based on a different creative direction, and was not a reflection of Hayes’ performance.
At TCA today, when Variety asked CBS president Kelly Kahl if Hayes had any say in the way her character would be written off the show, he replied, “No, I don’t think so.”
Speaking with a small group of reporters immediately after his panel with Kahl, Sherman also addressed the decision to kill of the Donna character, rather than write her off in a different way, such as divorce or a move in location. “The discussions went on,” Sherman explained. “We talked about other things. Ultimately this what was decided with the producers that this was the best way to move forward.”
Kahl explained that “Kevin Can Wait” will have a nine or ten month time-jump when the show returns so that the TV family can have some time to cope with the death of their mother and wife. Kahl also confirmed that all of the kids will be back for Season 2.