Sorry, Castle fans. Weeks ahead of the Season 8 finale ABC has confirmed that co-star Stana Katic is officially exiting the series after the conclusion of the season. Katic plays Detective Kate Beckett, the dauntless NYPD police captain who has played opposite Nathan Fillion‘s titular novelist-turned-gumshoe since the pilot (and who married Castle in the sixth season). Katic’s exit is the main element of a major series shakeup that also includes the exit of actress Tamala Jones, another original castmember who plays medical examiner Lanie Parish.
Last spring, both Katic and Fillion signed single-year contracts (which are up at the end of Season 8), and while Castle has not been confirmed for a 9th season, ABC has reportedly been in negotiations with Fillion to return for what will likely be shortened, 13-episode Season 9. Per Deadline, Katic was never approached to re-up her contract. Instead, ABC and ABC studios made the decision not to bring back Katic and Jones for budgetary reasons.
The enduring network procedural is a tricky situation for any network. As viewership numbers inevitably wane and cast salaries increase through the years, long-running series can become prohibitively costly for networks (though it’s relatively uncommon for cost-cutting measures effect the series leads).
“Kate Beckett has been a beloved character on our hit series Castle for the past 8 years. We are grateful for Stana Katic’s talent and dedication to the series and we hope to continue our relationship,” the network said in a statement. “Tamala Jones has also been an integral part of the series and we are grateful she was a part of Castle.”
For her part, Katic declined to comment on the circumstances of her exit, telling Deadline, “Rather than distract from what was an amazing experience, I would just like to say that I’m very grateful to ABC for giving me the opportunity to be a part of a much beloved show. Thank you to the fans.”
I’ve never been personally invested in Castle. For a long time, I got the series confused with Bones since they both starred my ex-Whedonverse crushes opposite beautiful, whip-smart brunettes. But even from that distant perspective, it’s easy to see that this has got to suck for fans of the series. Series creator Andrew Harlowe, who handed over the reigns to showrunners Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter after Season 7, considers the Castle/Beckett relationship the core of the series, and simply tweeted today, “Heartbroken. There are no Words.” I gotta imagine that’s how a lot of viewers feel — to lose the central relationship of a show you love over behind-the-scenes, budgetary concerns has got to sting.
Update: Here’s Fillion’s response to the news (via Twitter):
What do you say, Castle viewers? Will you return for a Beckett-less Season 9? Would you rather just see the series draw to a close? Sound off in the comments below.