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Why Did Most of the Original Sliders Cast Leave the Series?

It's almost as complicated as a multiverse portal.

By Cassidy Ward
(L-R) Kari Wuhrer, Jerry O'Connell, Melinda Clarke, Cleavant Derricks, Sabrina Lloyd in SLIDERS

The multiverse is all the rage these days, thanks in large part to Marvel. But if you were a kid growing up in the late ‘90s, your first introduction to the many-worlds hypothesis was probably Sliders (streaming now on Peacock). With a premise lovingly lifted from Quantum Leap, Sliders took us to a new reality every week alongside Quinn Mallory (Jerry O’Connell) and his universe-hopping friends Wade (Sabrina Lloyd), Professor Arturo (John Rhys-Davies), and Rembrandt Brown (Cleavant Derricks).

The show ran for three seasons on Fox and two seasons on SYFY (then the Sci-Fi Channel) between 1995 and 2000, but most of the cast left before the show wrapped up. Of the central cast, only Cleavant Derricks (Rembrandt “Crying Man” Brown) remained through the show’s conclusion. Considering how popular Sliders was during its run, why did so many of the original cast jump ship?

John Rhys-Davies Leaves Sliders Over Creative Frustration

John Rhys-Davies is the kind of name that grabs fans of science fiction and fantasy and doesn’t let go. By the time Sliders hit the airwaves, Rhys-Davies was already a household name thanks to a longstanding film and television career including a beloved role in the Indiana Jones franchise.

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He portrayed Professor Maximillian Arturo, a friend, companion, and occasional father figure to Quinn. He was the first of the main cast to leave the series, prompting an untimely death for Professor Arturo. Years after leaving the series, Rhys-Davies came clean about his reasons for leaving sliders in the middle of Season 3. The schism was driven by frustration with the writers and a sense they were squandering a rich premise by recycling well-trod sci-fi tropes.

"You have to have writers who can write –– and who understand that if you're writing science fiction, you should have read some science fiction and you should actually understand some science!” Rhys-Davies said, via Digital Spy.

The timing worked out for him. Rhys-Davies left the series just in time to star in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, which began production shortly thereafter.

Sabrina Lloyd’s Departure from Sliders

(l-r) Cleavant Derricks as Rembrandt 'Crying Man' Brown, Kari Wuhrer as Capt. Maggie Beckett, Jerry O'Connell as Quinn Mallory crouch with weapons in Sliders.

Lloyd played wormhole jumping Wade Welles, a hometown friend and love interest for the show’s lead. Throughout the show, viewers wondered whether Wade and Quinn would get together almost as much as they wondered if they would ever get home.

Fox cancelled the series after the third season wrapped up, prompting a pickup by the Sci-Fi Channel, now SYFY. Officially, the reason Lloyd didn’t return was simply because her contract wasn’t renewed when the show transferred networks. More reason why has never been made clear, but there are whispers of behind the scenes drama, all of which remains unverified speculation.

Suffice it to say, Lloyd allegedly didn’t get along with a recurring star Kari Wuher and wanted a higher salary. Someone allegedly made the decision that the show only needed one regular female character and decided on Captain Maggie Beckett, played by Wuhrer.

Lloyd returned for a voice only role in a single episode to wrap up her character’s story, but didn’t return in person. Wade’s physical presence was portrayed onscreen by a double.

Sliders Star Jerry O’Connell Leaves the Show

Pictured: (l-r) Cleavant Derricks as Rembrandt 'Crying Man' Brown and Kari Wuhrer as Capt. Maggie Beckett holds guns while Jerry O'Connell as Quinn Mallory and Charlie O'Connell as Colin Mallory stand next to them in Sliders 412.

Jerry O’Connell appeared in 70 of the series’ 87 episodes but left the show after Season 4. Robert Floyd played the character of Quinn Mallory for the fifth and final season. By the end of Season 4, O’Connell reportedly felt that too much of the show’s core had been lost.

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By that point, co-stars Rhys-Davies and Lloyd had left the show, along with co-creators Robert K. Weiss and Tracy Tormé. Showrunners tried to inject some life into the show with the introduction of Mallory’s brother, played by his real life brother Charlie O’Connell, but it wasn’t quite enough to keep either O’Connell around.

At about the same time, O’Connell was getting movie roles, including Joe’s Apartment (a bizarre movie about a man and the sentient cockroaches who live in his apartment), Jerry Maguire, Scream 2, and Can’t Hardly Wait. Ultimately, O’Connell left the show to pursue film.

The story behind the scenes is almost as twisty and unpredictable as the show itself, and both leave some lingering questions we may never know the truth of. But stories live on.

Catch all five seasons of Sliders, streaming now on Peacock!