It’s been more than 20 years since Charmed first hit TV screens. The show aired between 1998 and 2006 and told the story of a group of sisters with mystical powers who used their gifts for good. It was a big hit, but there was plenty of drama going on behind the scenes as well. And while a reboot of Charmed began airing in October 2018, but you won’t see the original actresses in it. They’ve all moved on to other things.
In the beginning, the show starred Shannen Doherty, Holly Marie Combs and Alyssa Milano as the Halliwell sisters, also known as the three Charmed Ones. Milano nearly wasn’t cast at all, however. Initially a different actress, Lori Rom, was chosen to play Phoebe. But she left for what showrunner Connie Burge would later call “personal reasons” in a February 2018 In Touch Weekly piece.
The article in question centered on what In Touch Weekly described as a “decades-old interview” with Burge. And in it, she spoke about the Rom-Milano issue. “It was horrid and sad for [Rom] to go, but we were fortunate that it all worked out with Alyssa,” Burge explained. “I think that Alyssa definitely brought a, excuse me, sexiness to the part.”
At the time, Milano was a former child actress who’d successfully transitioned into adult roles. She’d spent the latter half of the 1980s doing Who’s the Boss? with Tony Danza, which made her a teen idol. So before Charmed even started she was a big star, producing workout videos and pop albums as well as winning acclaim for her acting.
As for Milano’s on-screen sisters, Shannen Doherty of Beverly Hills, 90210 fame played the oldest Halliwell sister Prue, and Picket Fences star Holly Marie Combs was cast as Piper. Doherty and Combs already knew each other and were friends, in fact. But, famously, a feud would develop between Doherty and Milano on the Charmed set.
Nonetheless, everything went okay with Charmed at first. Burge told In Touch Weekly that “throughout the course of the first year, the show really changed so much,” and it was mostly because of the talent of the actresses involved. “They were so grounded as the characters and found a good path for them,” she said. “So it’s not just the show itself, but the women.”
And the show was also lauded for its feminist sensibilities. “Charmed is a perfect postfeminist girl-power show,” Milano told Entertainment Weekly in 1998. “Even independent of their special powers, these women are strong, but they’re still feminine and accessible.”
The actresses involved were achieving a high level of success with Charmed, then. But Milano and Doherty’s on-screen sisterhood certainly wasn’t mirrored in the real world. Indeed, rumor had it that the older actress was jealous of Milano’s success. And Milano herself confessed to TV Guide in 2001 that she and Doherty “definitely didn’t get along.”
In the same TV Guide interview, Combs revealed that Paramount had even taken the step of bringing a meditator to the Charmed set in an effort to fix the problem. “First of all, it was none of his business,” she said. “And we certainly didn’t want him reporting our girlie problems back to Paramount.”
However, it seems that those “girlie problems” just got bigger and bigger. And as a result, Doherty apparently asked to be released from her contract. What precisely happened next appears to be a matter of contention, but suddenly Doherty was gone. “It eventually became clear that [either Doherty or Milano] had to go,” an anonymous insider told TV Guide.
Combs wasn’t pleased about the way Doherty was written off the show, however. “It was done very poorly, in my opinion,” she told Entertainment Weekly in 2001. “We should have had an opportunity to have her character, Prue, make a graceful exit and have our story writers properly plan for that.”
And Connie Burge wouldn’t stay on the show until its end, either, despite having created the series in the first place. She left before season three, in fact, allegedly because she felt the show had deviated from its theme of sisterhood and instead started focusing too much on the three lead characters’ relationships with men, such as Brian Krause’s Leo Wyatt.
Krause’s Leo was a “Whitelighter” to the Halliwell sisters, serving as their guardian throughout the show. He appeared in more episodes than any other male character on Charmed, and in the end he married and had children with Piper. Prior to the series, Krause had perhaps been best known for the horror movie Sleepwalkers.
Krause stayed put even as the cast changed around him. After Doherty left the show, for example, the producers had to quickly draft in a new third sister. This transpired to be Paige, played by Rose McGowan. Executive producer Brad Kern told zap2it.com in 2001 that, “our personal hope was to find somebody that would be of Shannen’s caliber, [who] would have the sexiness, the edge and the range.”
Kern also told the website that when it came to the character of Paige, “we don’t want just another pretty face that smiles and has great teeth. We want somebody who has an attitude.” McGowan, according to him, “definitely has an attitude, and that’s an energy that we can take advantage of for the betterment of the show.”
And for the rest of Charmed it was Piper, Milano and Combs as the three main characters. Combs would arguably become the face of the show, however. She ended up being the only cast member who appeared in every single episode of the series, for instance, and from season five she was also a producer.
What’s more, Combs also ended up finding a husband on the set of Charmed. In 2004, two years before the show ended, she married crew member David Donoho. They ended up having three children together, all boys. However, the relationship didn’t last, unfortunately, and the pair divorced in 2011.
By season eight the show had introduced a new main character, after producers demanded that some fresh faces were brought into the show. This was Billie Jenkins, played by Kaley Cuoco. Regrettably, though, she wasn’t very popular and as a result a spin-off series that had been planned for her character never made it into production.
In fact, season eight would be the last one for Charmed – and it didn’t exactly go out with a bang. In addition to Billie being poorly received, the show had to drastically reduce its budget. This meant that Charmed could no longer film on location. And since the show couldn’t afford Krause for the whole season, his storyline had to be cut down as well.
Once filming of the show was over and done with, however, the cast began to air their grievances publicly. In 2006 Combs told Entertainment Weekly that “the WB never treated us well, so we didn’t expect a lot of farewell wishes and flowers or cards.” And McGowan added, “My general hunch is that shows that are female-driven get axed probably quicker.”
It’s been a long time since all of that happened, of course. Indeed, since the series finale of Charmed the members of its cast have moved on both with their professional lives and their private ones. And as for Milano and Doherty’s long-lasting feud, that’s taken a few twists and turns as well.
In 2013, for example, Milano made a comment about Doherty that apparently irritated Combs. “I can tell you that we were on the air with [Doherty] for three years and there were definitely some rough days,” the actress said on Watch What Happens Live! “Holly and Shannen were best friends for like 10 years before the show started, so it was very much sort of like high school.”
Combs didn’t appreciate that take, however. “Working on Charmed was nothing like high school,” she wrote on Twitter in response. “I went to high school. It was a very important job to me and always will be.” And during an appearance on the Sway’s Universe radio show two years later, Combs said of Milano, “She didn’t go to high school! What are we talking about here?”
Nonetheless, Doherty and Milano now seem to have buried the hatchet. “I think we’re just at ages now that what happens 15 years ago, or however long ago that was, it’s irrelevant,” Milano told E! in June 2017. It appeared that Doherty having a public battle with breast cancer had turned their relationship around, and Milano wished her former co-star the best.
Doherty has continued to do plenty of TV work since she left Charmed. In fact, she teamed up with her old friend Combs in 2014 for a reality show called Off the Map with Shannen & Holly. And in 2016 she signed up for a television reboot of Heathers, the movie she’d once starred in, although the series didn’t air until 2018.
Combs’ career has had a similar trajectory. From 2010 to 2017 she was in Pretty Little Liars, appearing as part of the main cast in the first three seasons and then a guest star afterwards. She hasn’t been in much since that show aired, however. Her personal life is going well, though – she got engaged in 2017.
Alyssa Milano is also still an actress. In recent years she’s been in two Netflix shows: Insatiable and Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later. And she’s also noted for her political activism, having been among the people who helped popularize the #MeToo movement in 2017.
Her one-time onscreen sister Rose McGowan is very much involved with that same movement as well, of course. McGowan alleges that disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein raped her and has been very outspoken about the treatment of women in Hollywood. But this has led to a rift between her and Milano.
In January 2018 McGowan accused Milano of being disingenuous when it came to preventing sexual assault in Hollywood. “I don’t like her, ’cos I think she’s a lie,” McGowan said of her former co-star during an appearance on Nightline. And Milano quickly responded to McGowan’s comment.
Milano released a statement the very next day, in fact. But it didn’t slam McGowan. Instead, it read, “I am and always have been completely supportive of Rose and admire her bravery in speaking about her experiences. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and perspectives, and I cannot speak to anyone else’s motivations.”
The statement may not have swung McGowan, however, as come October 2018 she blocked Milano on Twitter. And chances are the two won’t work together again, especially since McGowan now seems to be focusing her attention on art films and on directing. Indeed, she released a documentary about her life in January of that year, named Citizen Rose.
In fact, McGowan talks about her Charmed experiences in Citizen Rose. “I was on a show called Charmed, and I was so lost, I was so invisible. Nobody could see who I was. I couldn’t see who I was,” she says, before pointing to an artwork in her home. “That girl, she’s a bound and gagged ballerina in a cage, and that’s exactly what my life felt like.”
Brian Krause, on the other hand, did enjoy his time on Charmed and sings its praises to this day. “Who knew back in ’98 when we made the show originally that it would catch on like this, and the fans would identify with it so much?” he asked during an interview with Review St. Louis in 2019. “For me, it was just ‘get a job, act regularly, make a paycheck, and try to get the next job.’ And it’s really turned into something that I don’t think any of us expected.”
In the same interview, Krause also praised all the actresses he worked with on Charmed. “Shannen Doherty was kind of the boss at the beginning, and Alyssa has always been a powerhouse,” he said. “And Holly as well. When we made the transition with Rose, it just continued… The fans just loved it.”
And as for Kaley Cuoco, although her character might have been hated, she nonetheless moved on to spectacular success after Charmed. From September 2007 onwards she starred in The Big Bang Theory, which of course became massively popular. And by the end of the show, she was reportedly being paid $1 million for every episode.
The Big Bang Theory eventually came to an end in 2019, and it was subsequently announced that Cuoco would star in a HBO series called The Flight Attendant. Her personal life is going very well, too. She became engaged to equestrian Karl Cook, who’s the son of a billionaire, in 2017 and married him a year later.
And in January 2017 it was announced that Charmed was going to be rebooted. The show could possibly be a prequel, initial reports indicated, and it would focus on three different witches. These were apparently to be named “Tina,” “Paige” – like the original’s Paige – and “Annie.”
However, the show ended up being quite different to the one outlined in those early reports. It was similar to the original but with a few tweaks here and there. The location was altered, for example, the ethnicity of the three central characters was changed from white to Latina and African-American, and the names of the sisters were now Macy, Mel and Maggie.
The original actresses have mixed feelings about the reboot. Combs has been openly against it on Twitter. In May 2018 she wrote, “Let me say first that I appreciate the jobs and opportunities the Charmed reboot has created. But I will never understand what is fierce, funny, or feminist in creating a show that basically says the original actresses are too old to do a job they did 12 years ago.”
Milano spoke to Entertainment Tonight about the reboot that same year, saying, “I wish that they would have come to us and we would have been involved since the beginning. But having said that, I do hope that it reaches the newer generation and impacts that generation the way ours was able to do for its generation.” But she also confirmed she would probably never return to the role of Phoebe, admitting, “I think that ship has sailed for me.”