Kevin Can Wait killed off Erinn Hayes' character, Donna Gable, out of "respect" for the actress, according to executive producer Rob Long.
"The goal was to give Kevin [James'] character a real drive and a real predicament [involving] how a family comes back together [after tragedy]," Long told TV Line in an interview published on Tuesday, August 22. "Also, out of respect for the character of Donna — and certainly the way that Erinn Hayes portrayed her — it seemed like the only right and fair way to treat her character."
Hayes' exit from the CBS sitcom was announced in June, the same day that the network revealed that season 1 guest star Leah Remini would return as a series regular. James, 52, and Remini, 47, previously costarred on The King of Queens from 1998 to 2007.
Hayes, 41, confirmed the news on Twitter at the time, writing, "True, I've been let go from the show. Very sad, I had a great experience season 1. Thank you for all the support from our wonderful fans."
CBS programming boss Thom Sherman later revealed that Hayes' character would be killed off. "The character will have passed away. We will be moving forward in time catching up at a later date," he said at the Television Critics Association press tour earlier this month, adding that producers agreed the decision "was the best way to move forward."
Long told TV Line on Tuesday that the upcoming second season will focus on "Kevin being a single father" and learning "how to do all of the stuff" that comes with it.
Kevin Can Wait returns to CBS on Monday, September 25, at 9 p.m. ET.
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