Mary McDonnell speaks out on Major Crimes death and backlash
Actress 'shocked' her name was removed from the credits
Sharon Raydor’s sudden and tragic death on Major Crimes sparked intense debate among ardent fans — and it hasn’t waned since the show concluded earlier this month. Now, Raydor’s portrayer, Mary McDonnell, has spoken out on the matter.
In an essay for Variety, McDonnell acknowledged the backlash against the show as well as the widespread support she received from fans, calling viewers’ reactions to Raydor’s death “sharply illuminating.” Some Major Crimes viewers disliked the way the show’s protagonist was killed off several episodes before ending, not allowing her the chance to be a part of the final story line.
“I have been watching, reading, and listening to the fans’ reactions to Sharon’s death, and it’s taken me a while to find the essence of my experience,” McDonnell wrote. “I have been approached by several journalists, but in truth, I was not ready to speak until now.” (EW had previously reached out to McDonnell’s team for an interview, but did not receive a firm response.)
McDonnell said she had hoped “we would be able to both announce the end of the series and give a gentle warning as to the death that was coming.” Instead, the character’s death was an utter shock to viewers — and one that took on a deeper meaning in the current political context, McDonnell wrote. “Many fans were truly saddened, angry, and overwhelmingly frustrated,” she wrote. “I knew how much Sharon was loved. I knew she was a role model. What I hadn’t totally comprehended was how much importance she held as a symbol. And how her importance had grown since the election last year.”
In his interview with EW, creator James Duff said that he expected controversy when he made the creative decision, which was born largely out of his desire to not trap McDonnell in a dying show. (The show was canceled by TNT before its final season began airing.) “I fully expected a great deal of controversy, and I also fully expected that controversy to lift our ratings, and that’s exactly what happened,” he said. “Even if it weren’t going to lift our ratings, I had an obligation to my friend that transcended ratings, and that transcended how any group of audience is going to feel right now.”
Notably, McDonnell endorsed the social media campaign in which fans replaced their online profile pictures with a shot of the actress’ name as it appeared in the series’ credits, calling it “amazing.” In a move that outraged many viewers, McDonnell’s name was removed from the credits sequence in the episodes after Raydor was killed off. The actress explained in her essay that she was “shocked” to see her name cut from the final episodes, adding, “Neither I nor my representatives knew this was going to happen.”
“I joined [fans] and changed my picture online for a few days, frankly because I was as shocked that my name was removed as they were,” she said. “I honestly felt the fans’ response to be galvanizing. My Twitter feed turned almost completely black with my name in the starring position. It was actually energizing. A lively protest. Genius!”
It’s unusual to see a lead actor’s name removed from the credits for episodes in which they do not appear, especially in the case of a series’ final stretch of episodes. In her column criticizing the way Raydor’s death was handled, Variety‘s Maureen Ryan said that a spokesperson for Warner Bros. TV told her that “the removal of an actor’s name from episodes in which that performer did not appear was common practice at both The Closer and Major Crimes over the last 13 years, and conforms to contractual and guild requirements.” (A TNT representative did not immediately respond to EW’s request for comment on McDonnell’s claims or on the general decision to remove her name from the credits.)
Nonetheless, McDonnell said in the essay that she’s “grateful” to Duff for giving her the chance to play the character, and that ongoing discussions around the controversy continue to teach her new things. “I’ve never experienced anything quite like this in my career,” she said. “I will be studying it for a long time to come.”
Read McDonnell’s full essay here.