These stars jumped ship at maybe not the best time.
Downton Abbey, a British soap about aristocrats and their servants at a great house in Yorkshire, was a surprise hit when it aired on PBS. In fact, it was the most watched drama in network history. The central relationship was the will they/won’t they between Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Matthew Crawley (Stevens), a lawyer and distant cousin set to inherit the titular estate. In season 3, they finally married and had a child. That’s when Stevens opted not to renew his contract, wanting instead to play other roles. Matthew’s character was, well, unceremoniously done away with, and Stevens went on to star in flops like Vamps, The Cobbler, and The Fifth Estate.
When Rogers was cast on the TV adaptation of M*A*S*H in 1972 (taking on the role of Trapper John, played in the film by Elliott Gould), he was told he’d be the co-lead, along with Alan Alda, who portrayed Hawkeye Pierce. But Alda quickly became the breakout star, and Rogers’ lines and stories gradually decreased. Rogers finally walked away from M*A*S*H in 1975 and went…right back into TV. He starred in a string of made-for-TV movies, and then the 1979-82 sitcom House Calls. M*A*S*H lasted until 1983—even longer than House Calls. After that Rogers acted sporadically and became a successful financial adviser. (And he kept appearing on TV—on cable news shows as a money expert.)
After a stint as a child actress in movies like Notting Hill and The Sixth Sense, 17-year-old Mischa Barton was cast on Fox’s teen soap The O.C. in 2003. The show was a huge hit, and Barton became the show’s most recognizable cast member—Glamour and Entertainment Weekly both named her the biggest new star of the year. But in 2006, Barton asked to leave the show, partially because she felt she had done everything she could with her character, a spoiled rich girl, and partially to pursue a movie career. That career consisted of B-movies like Assassination of a High School President. In 2009, Mischa Barton returned to TV soaps with The Beautiful Life, which was cancelled after two episodes.