The feud between 'Charmed' costars Alyssa Milano and Shannen Doherty just got even messier

Alyssa Milano, Holly Marie Combs, and Shannen Doherty of "Charmed."
Alyssa Milano, Holly Marie Combs, and Shannen Doherty of "Charmed" in 1999.Getty Images
  • A long-running feud between two stars of the 1990s show "Charmed" is back in the spotlight.

  • In December, Shannen Doherty accused Alyssa Milano of getting her fired from the show.

  • Now Milano has responded, denying she had any hand in the producer's decision to write Doherty out.

For fans of "Charmed" and its long-running behind-the-scenes drama, the show's legacy has always been tough to parse.

The hit TV show, which is about three sisters who happened to be witches, premiered in 1998, building on the success of other supernatural "girl power" stories of the era like "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "The Craft."

For eight years, The Charmed Ones fought literal demons while hitting viewers over the head with the script's unsubtle emphasis on morality, sisterhood, and female empowerment. But off-screen, stories of bitter feuds between costars, reported attempts at sexualizing the female actors, and the abrupt replacement of its star Shannen Doherty with Rose McGowan in its fourth season told a different story.

Doherty's departure was initially framed as her decision, but in December 2023, more than 20 years later, she claimed that was far from the truth, an allegation costar Holly Marie Combs has cosigned.

However, Milano, who recently broke her silence on the claims, has painted a different story of how everything went down.

Milano said she didn't have a hand in the decision to let Doherty go

Alyssa Milano speaks at MegaCon Orlando 2024 at Orange County Convention Center on February 02, 2024 in Orlando, Florida.
Alyssa Milano speaks at MegaCon Orlando 2024 at Orange County Convention Center on February 2, 2024.Gerardo Mora/Getty Images

Appearing on a panel at MegaCon in Orlando on February 2, Milano responded to claims that she was responsible for the "Beverly Hills, 90210" alum's abrupt departure from "Charmed" following its third season in 2001.

On the show, Milano played Phoebe Halliwell, alongside Combs, who played her on-screen sister, Piper Halliwell, and Doherty, who was initially cast as their third sister, Prue Halliwell.

"I knew this was going to come up in one way or another, and I want to be very thoughtful in how I respond to any of this, and I will just say that I'm sad," Milano said when asked about the situation, Deadline reported.

"I'm the most sad for the fans," she continued. "I am the most sad that a show that has meant so much to so many people has been tarnished by a toxicity that is still to this day almost a quarter of a century later still happening."

Milano followed up her comments at the event with a post shared to Instagram, in which she said she "did not have the power to get anyone fired."

"I don't know one other show that has had the success that 'Charmed' had where the cast still speaks ill of the experience a quarter of a century later," Milano wrote in the caption on the post, which featured a screenshot of transcripts of her comments from the MegaCon panel.

Writing about her time working on "Charmed," Milano added that she had "absolute certainty" that "everything was documented."

"There was a professional mediator (I was told Holly and Shannen would not participate in any mediation) and an on-set producer/babysitter who were both brought in to investigate all claims," she wrote.

"The studio, Aaron Spelling, and network made the decision to protect the international hit that was Charmed," Milano added. "I did not have the power to get anyone fired. Once Shannen left we had 5 more successful seasons and I am forever grateful."

Combs reportedly said Milano threatened to sue producers if they didn't fire Doherty

Holly Marie Combs (L) and Shannen Doherty attend the premiere of the film "Ocean's Eleven" December 5, 2001 in Los Angeles, CA.
Holly Marie Combs and Shannen Doherty together in 2001.Vince Bucci/Getty Images

On her podcast "Let's Be Clear," which launched in late 2023, Doherty discussed her short-lived experience on the show with her longtime friend and former costar Combs.

Combs claimed that one of the show's producers, Jonathan Levin, told her Doherty was fired after Milano threatened to sue producers, People reported.

"We didn't mean to, but we've been backed into this corner — we're basically in this position where it's one or the other. We were told [by Alyssa] it's her or [Shannen] and Alyssa has threatened to sue us for a hostile workplace environment," Levin reportedly said.

Doherty added: "The narrative that I quit was assigned to me by other people. I didn't assign it to myself. And I think I'm just at that point in my life where I don't want to keep lying about something," she said.

"I don't think that there's anybody in their right mind that would quit a hit show that's paying them a good amount of money that they actually really enjoy working on," she continued.

Representatives for Milano, Doherty, Combs, and CBS Studios, which now owns "Charmed" production company Spelling Television, did not respond to requests for comment from Business Insider.

Doherty suggested at least part of the rivalry had to do with her and Milano fighting for Combs' friendship. She accused Milano of blocking Doherty from visiting Combs in the hospital while filming season two of the show and said she cried every night during that period.

Doherty's "bad girl" reputation was, at the time, believed to be to blame for her departure from "Charmed." Rumors resurfaced that she'd been previously fired from a starring role on "Beverly Hills 90210" after a series of on-set issues, per People.

Following her statements, many fans took to social media to side with Doherty, suggesting she was unfairly vilified by the "Charmed" fandom.

But it's not the only off-air relationship they're discussing.

The resurfaced drama has reignited speculation about feuds between other 'Charmed' stars

On Reddit, where "Charmed" fans still passionately debate every aspect of the show, an animated thread about Doherty's claims about Milano has been bubbling away. One of the key questions surrounds Combs' relationship history with the two women.

Just a year ago, Milano posted on Instagram in celebration of Combs' birthday, writing, "Love you so much," suggesting the pair were friends at the time.

Combs and Doherty have had ups and downs. Combs said in a 2020 interview that despite years of friendship, she and Doherty were no longer in touch after becoming "too close."

But Combs' participation in Doherty's podcast — in particular, her supporting Doherty's allegations and saying she wanted to quit in solidarity but was threatened with a lawsuit — has caused speculation among fans.

Milano also has a fraught relationship with costar Rose McGowan, who joined the show following Doherty's exit. This dates back at least to their separate involvement with the #MeToo movement.

In early October 2017, The New York Times and The New Yorker published exposés about the sexual assault and harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein. A week after the story broke, McGowan tweeted that she had been raped by "HW," later clarifying she was referring to Weinstein, BI previously reported.

Three days later, Milano tweeted asking women to reply "Me Too" if they had been sexually harassed or assaulted. It went mega-viral and has been credited with popularizing the #MeToo hashtag.

In 2020, multiple outlets reported that during a Twitter spat over politics, McGowan accused Milano of stealing the MeToo movement from activist Tarana Burke, who founded it in 2006 to support survivors of sexual violence, in particular women of color. (Burke and Milano have made many public appearances together and Burke was a guest on the inaugural episode of Milano's podcast "Sorry Not Sorry" in 2019, along with Joe Biden.)

McGowan's tweets are no longer available to view, but she also reportedly said Milano made the set of "Charmed" toxic and called her a fraud. At the time, a representative for Milano told People: "Hurt people hurt people. Commenting any further doesn't align with my wellness plan."

McGowan did not respond to a request for comment from BI.

Generations of fans are left reckoning with the show's messy legacy

Across social media, many fans are saying they're seeing the show through a different lens since the recent developments. Some are re-evaluating the acting for being so believable despite the behind-the-scenes tension and saying Combs' portrayal of grief after Doherty's character was killed off takes on new depth with the added context.

Add to years of feuds a 2018 reboot that was vocally slammed by some of the original show's cast and writers, and it seems the "Charmed" reckoning may never end. Ironically, for a show where most characters fit neatly into a "good" or "evil" box, much of the real-life drama seems to live in a gray area.

Since the show ended 17 years ago, Milano and McGowan have thrown themselves into politics and activism, while Combs hosts a "Charmed" rewatch podcast with costars Brian Krause, who played her husband on the show, and Drew Fuller, who played their adult, time-traveling son. Doherty, meanwhile, has been outspoken in her experience living with cancer, which she was first diagnosed with in 2015 and announced had returned and was terminal in 2020.

Despite everything, Combs and Doherty said they're open to reprising their roles, echoing McGowan's statement at a panel in 2023 that she'd "love" to do the same.

"I just think there's three generations now that have watched the show," Combs said. "Some things are bigger than you, and some things are more important than personal feelings."

As for how the actors might make it work given the cast dynamics, she said: "There's also split screen and green screen, and people don't have to work with each other if they don't want to."

"We can just make it look like you do."

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