The power of three will set us free … from everything but drama.
Charmed, which premiered on The WB in 1998, made headlines from the start as Aaron Spelling hired to play one of the three Halliwell sisters, four years after she was infamously Shannen Doherty let go from Spelling Television’s Beverly Hills, 90210.
“[Aaron] was extremely supportive of the idea of casting Shannen Doherty as Prue,” creator
Constance M. Burge recalled to in 2018, noting that the actress’ chemistry with InTouch was one of the reasons the producers wanted her for the role. “Holly at the time had been on Holly Marie Combs Picket Fences, and she was also dear friends with Shannen, so they had terrific chemistry with each other.”
With Doherty and Combs taking on the roles of Prue and Piper, respectively,
Lori Rom was set to complete the trio as youngest sister Phoebe. After they shot the pilot, Rom was recast with Alyssa Milano.
“My understanding is that [Lori’s] desire to leave was for personal reasons. She was accommodated and after that we just got so fortunate with Alyssa,” Burge explained. “It was horrid and sad for her to go, but we were fortunate that it all worked out with Alyssa. I think that Alyssa definitely brought … a sexiness to the part. They both did good job, and thank God Alyssa decided to stay. It would have been horrible to have lost her, too. At that point the show would have been about two sisters.”
While the chemistry between the Halliwell sisters worked onscreen, behind-the-scenes tensions were high and history repeated itself when Doherty exited after three seasons.
“We have had a long and prosperous relationship with Shannen and we didn’t want to hold her back from what she wanted to do,” Spelling Television said in a statement in 2001. “We wish her all the best and much-continued success.”
Heathers star later spoke out amid reports that she and Milano didn’t get along.
“There was too much drama on the set and not enough passion for the work,” Doherty told
Entertainment Tonight at the time. “You know, I’m 30 years old and I don’t have time for drama in my life anymore. To me it’s sort of whatever. I’ll miss Holly a lot and that’s really the only thing I want to clear up.”
She continued: “She is one of my best friends and I love her dearly. And there were never ever ever any problems between the two of us, and we will always be pals.”
While Doherty claimed at the time that Combs wasn’t sure if she wanted to stay on the series without her then-bestie,
Charmed went on for five more seasons with Combs, Milano and who played their long-lost sister Paige. Rose McGowan,
The fantasy drama
subsequently made history as the longest running hour-long series with all female leads before the 2006 finale. (Desperate Housewives took over the honor in 2012). For some fans, however, the legacy has been overshadowed by claims from McGowan that backup Doherty’s past accusations about the on-set drama. Scroll through for a complete timeline:
Three seasons in, however, it was clear the party was over when Doherty’s Prue was killed off. Milano and Combs addressed the situation for the first time during an interview with
Entertainment Weekly ahead of the season 4 premiere.
“I’m very laid-back and passive. I have my Buddha,” Milano said. ”I come in here and meditate. [Shannen’s] got a lot of energy, she’s very headstrong, she wants to get the job done … I think it’s unfortunate that she left, and that she needed to bad-mouth everyone involved and the audience. She sounds really angry. I just hope I didn’t contribute to that anger.”
Combs noted that she believed Doherty’s exit was handled “very poorly,” explaining, ”We should have had an opportunity to have her character, Prue, make a graceful exit and have our story writers properly plan for that.”
Doherty threw shade at Milano during her candid chat with
ET: ”I want to work with actors who really, really care and that want to be there every single day. I don’t want to work with people who bitch about their job and complain about it and say that they hate it or anything else.”
Tim Anderson/Shutterstock; Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock
McGowan replaced Doherty to complete the trio for seasons 4-8.
“I wasn’t going to be playing Shannen’s role, but it was still someone new for the fans to bond with. … I knew that I had a slim chance at success here. People had to fall in love with my character as quickly as possible or
Charmed would die,” she wrote in her 2018 memoir, Brave. “I thought about how big the crew was and how they would all be out of a job if I failed. So I made myself look super nonthreatening. I gained weight, about ten pounds, for the role.”
McGowan also claimed the stress of the set made her sick. “I found the repetitive days so opposite my natural rhythms that I became sick over and over. And it was at times a very stressful environment. I started to have panic attacks because of everything I was pushing down,” she wrote in the book.
Charmed ended its run in 2006.
The behind-the-scenes drama was back in the headlines when Milano spoke about Doherty on
Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen.
“I don’t know if she got fired, we never really found out what happened. I can tell you that we were on the air with her for three years and there were definitely some rough days,” the
Who’s the Boss alum recalled, “Holly and Shannen were best friends for like 10 years before the show started so it was very much sort of like high school. I would hope that in our thirties it wouldn’t feel like that anymore.”
Combs and Doherty took to Twitter to respond.
Charmed was nothing like high school. I went to high school. It was a very important job to me and always will be,” the Pretty Little Liars star wrote.
Doherty added. “Yeah, agreed, considering it helped me support my family and pay for my dad’s medical issues, but everyone has their opinion and views.”
Combs and Doherty proved to be as closer as ever when they teamed up for a travel show,
Off the Map With Shannen & Holly, in 2015. The two women spoke about Milano’s “high school” dig during a joint radio interview.
“She didn’t go to high school! What are we talking about here? Her mother was at my wedding? Like, why? We were all friends and at times we weren’t,” Combs said.
Doherty noted that “when you work that closely together there’s always going to be times that are rough.”
Two years after Doherty was first diagnosed with cancer, Milano told E! News that they made amends.
“I think we’re just at ages now that what happens 15 years ago, or however long ago that was, it’s irrelevant,” Milano said. “I think that what she has gone through, [and] motherhood in my life, I think it just changes people. I’m so happy that she’s feeling well. I prayed for her every day that she would feel well and I can’t wait to see her.”
Mediapunch/Shutterstock; Milla Cochran/startraksphoto.com
While Milano may have been on good terms with Doherty for the first time in 15 years, McGowan came for her former costar when the
Mistresses star supported “You make me want to vomit. You actually gave me a body flashback. Well done, fake one,” McGowan, who publicly accused Weinstein of sexual assault, tweeted. Harvey Weinstein’s ex-wife Georgia Chapman.
McGowan later told
Nightline: “I don’t like her. ‘Cause I think she’s a lie.”
Jonathan Hordle/Shutterstock; Georgwenzel/Face To Face/Shutterstock; Kristina Bumphrey/StarPix/Shutterstock
When The CW decided to reboot Combs and Milano made it clear that they felt disrespected. “ Charmed in 2018, Charmed belongs to the 4 of us, our vast amount of writers, crews and predominantly the fans,” Combs tweeted in January 2018. “FYI you will not fool them by owning a title/stamp. So bye.”
She added: “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. I hope the new show is far better than the marketing so the true legacy does remain.”
Jordon Nuttall/The CW
While Combs and Milano proved to be on good terms when they teamed up for a guest stint on
Grey’s Anatomy in 2019, fans noticed that Combs and Doherty didn’t seem as close and no longer kept up with each other on social media. And when the Beverly Hills, 90210 alum announced in February 2020 that her cancer had returned, the Picket Fences actress addressed the feud rumors.
“Let’s get one thing straight. I don’t use social media to send messages to people I’ve known for 30 years. You can. But I don’t,” Combs tweeted in February 2020.
Not long after Combs and McGowan reunited via Instagram Live, McGowan and Milano came for each other again. The latest drama began when Milano fired back at McGowan for slamming the Democratic party. As a result, McGown accused Milano of
making the Charmed set “toxic AF.”
“1) You stole #metoo (a brilliant communication tool, not a movement) from Tarana [Burke]. You co-opted my movement, the Cultural Reset, for fame, jealous of me for outing my rapist. You made 250k per week on
Charmed,” McGowan tweeted. :You threw a fit in front of the crew, yelling, ‘They don’t pay me enough to do this s–t!’ Appalling behavior on the daily. I cried every time we got renewed because you made that set toxic AF. Now, get off my coattails you f–king fraud.”
In response, Milano told
Us, “Hurt people hurt people. Commenting any further doesn’t align with my wellness plan.”
Combs, for her part, spoke to
Us days before Milano and McGowan’s feud re-erupted on Twitter.
“What I used to say is ‘We definitely don’t always go home and have a slumber party,’” she told
Us. “But the fact of the matter is the show and our dedication to the fans is bigger.”
As the drama played out, Combs didn’t take sides on social media either, tweeting, “I mean was there ever an episode where we all got along? No. No one would’ve watched that show. It’s ok. Call your siblings, parents and grandparents. Breathe deep thankfully. Life is short and just got shorter for many. That’s what Piper would’ve said. As she blew something up.”
Doherty, meanwhile, also took the high road, writing, “I just want to say … thank you
Charmed fans. No matter what’s happening just know you are appreciated and loved.”
Duncan McGlynn/Shutterstock; Matt Baron/Shutterstock (2)
While Combs and McGowan proved to be on good terms in October 2020 as they teamed up for an Instagram Live, they started drama on their stream
with Sarah Jeffery, who stars on the CW reboot of Charmed.
“When you search for [
Charmed on Netflix] they want you to find the new Charmed and not the old people,” Combs said, referring to the original series leaving Netflix.
McGowan added, “But it sucks. I haven’t seen it, I can’t say that. I’ve never seen it … But I’m happy that people have jobs. But it can still suck.”
Jeffery subsequently took to Twitter and called the actresses “sad” and “pathetic” for slamming the new series, which premiered in 2018. “I truly hope they find happiness elsewhere, and not in the form of putting down other [Women of Color],” she wrote. “I would be embarrassed to behave this way. Peace and love to y’all.”
It didn’t take long for Combs to fire back. “That’s some bulls—t. And a lot of it. Clearly,” she wrote. “People speaking, excuse me, typing, derogatory accusations of a person’s character despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary because of a difference in opinions about a tv show is just plain wrong. And also personal gain honey.”
While Jeffery didn’t reply to Combs, she shared a photo of her father with Doherty and praised the
“In other news, my dad met the lovely @DohertyShannen on set once whilst standing in,” the
Descendants star wrote. “He approached her saying his daughter was a new Charmed one (pre-covid!). He told me she was so kind, thrilled for us, and excited to take a picture. She sent her love.”
Shutterstock; Colin Bentley/The CW