You can’t go home again – unless you’re a television star.
ABC announced a big shocker Thursday: Isaiah Washington, who played heart surgeon Dr. Preston Burke on three seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, will soon reprise the role he left in 2007. Washington exited the show after his contract was not renewed, following accusations that he had used a homophobic slur in reference to his then co-star T.R. Knight. He is set to return in a May episode, which will coincide with Sandra Oh’s departure from the medical drama. (Washington played Oh’s love interest on the show; their story ended with Burke leaving Oh’s Cristina Yang on their wedding day.)
Washington is just one of several actors who have reprised a well-known role. Here’s a roundup of some of TV’s most notable returns:
Who: Lecy Goranson – Becky Conner, Roseanne
Reason for leaving: After five seasons, Goranson left the comedy in 1992 to pursue a college degree at Vassar. Sarah Chalke (Scrubs) replaced her.
Return: She reprised her role in season 8, with Chalke stepping in for a few episodes, until exiting ahead of the ninth and final season.
Who: Patrick Duffy – Bobby Ewing, Dallas
Reason for leaving: Duffy left the classic primetime soap in 1985 after his character was killed off.
Return: He returned in 1986 in the famous “shower scene,” which revealed that he hadn’t died in the previous season after all. (Yep, it was all “just a bad dream” – Dallas went there.) He remained on the show until its end in 1991.
Who: Lisa Bonet – Denise Huxtable, The Cosby Show
Reason for leaving: Bonet left in 1987 for spin-off series A Different World, which centered around her college years.
Return: In 1988, she reprised her role as Denise on Cosby, but was reportedly fired for creative differences in 1991.
Who: Luke Perry – Dylan McKay, Beverly Hills, 90210
Reason for leaving: He left in 1995, reportedly to pursue film and more mature roles. (After all, Perry was in his twenties while portraying a high-schooler.)
Return: Perry couldn’t resist one more visit to the famous zip code, returning in 1998 – this time being billed as a Special Guest Star. He stayed on the series until its conclusion in 2000.
Who: Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Dancing With the Stars
Reason for leaving: He left the show after its 15th season, saying he wanted to pursue other opportunities, despite speculation his departure was on less-than amicable terms.
Return: ABC announced last week, Chmerkovskiy will be returning for the upcoming 18th season, paired with Olympic ice dancer Meryl Davis.
Who: Steve Carell – Michael Scott, The Office
Reason for leaving: Carell left after season 7 when his contract expired in 2011, citing a desire to focus on films.
Return: Although he strongly denied ever returning to the show, he ultimately made one final appearance in the May 2013 series finale.
Who: Shelley Long – Diane Chambers, Cheers
Reason for leaving: Long, who earned an Emmy and two Golden Globes for her portrayal of Diane Chambers, left Cheers at its height in 1987, after five seasons, to pursue film endeavors and spend more time with her newborn baby. Rumors of tensions between her and the cast swirled.
Return: In 1993, she made one last call and returned to Cheers for its series finale. She banked a few guest appearances on the Cheers spinoff Frasier as well.
Who: George Clooney – Dr. Doug Ross, ER
Reason for leaving: He left NBC’s hit medical drama ER during season 5 in 1999 to pursue a movie career, which turned out to be a smart move.
Return: Clooney did a surprise cameo on the series the following season, in order to help wrap up departing cast member Juliana Margulies’s storyline. And in April 2009, Clooney donned his medical scrubs once again for a spot in the one of the show’s very last episodes.