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 happen 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 co-signed by Holly Marie Combs.
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
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 five more successful seasons, and I am forever grateful.”
Combs reportedly said Milano threatened to sue producers if they didn’t fire Doherty
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 co-host, 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 she 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.” Rumours resurfaced that she’d been previously fired from a starring role on “Beverly Hills 90210” after a series of on-set issues, per People.
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, “Charmed” fans continue to debate every aspect of the show, and an animated thread about Doherty’s claims about Milano has been bubbling away. One of the key questions concerns Combs’ relationship history with the two women.
A year ago, Milano wrote on Instagram, “I love you so much,” implying they were friends.
Combs and Doherty have experienced ups and downs. In a 2020 interview, Combs revealed that despite their friendship, she and Doherty had lost touch due to becoming “too close.”
However, Combs’ participation in Doherty’s podcast, particularly her support for Doherty’s allegations and her statement that she wanted to quit in solidarity but was threatened with a lawsuit, has sparked speculation among fans.
Milano also has a strained relationship with co-star Rose McGowan, who joined the show after Doherty’s departure. This dates back at least to their individual involvement in the #MeToo movement.
In early October 2017, The New York Times and The New Yorker published exposés on Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault and harassment allegations. McGowan tweeted that “HW” had raped her a week after the news broke, later clarifying that she was referring to Weinstein, as BI had previously reported.
Three days later, Milano asked women to tweet “Me Too” if they had experienced sexual harassment or assault. It went extremely viral and is credited with popularising the #MeToo hashtag.
In 2020, McGowan accused Milano of stealing the MeToo movement from activist Tarana Burke. Burke founded the movement in 2006 to support survivors of sexual violence, particularly women of colour. Burke and Milano have made numerous public appearances together, including a guest appearance on Milano’s podcast “Sorry Not Sorry” with Joe Biden in 2019.
McGowan’s tweets are no longer available, but she reportedly claimed Milano made the set of “Charmed” toxic and called her a fraud. A Milano representative told People at the time: “Hurting people hurts people. Commenting any further does not fit into my wellness plan.”
McGowan did not respond to BI’s request for comment.
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 grey area.
S4 is special to me cuz that emotion was real! Mourning and all. I wonder if these 2 BONDED or just existed at this point because I know Alyssa knew Holly knew lol… The change helped on screen and stretched Holly in real life as well cuz she stepped the hell up. #charmed pic.twitter.com/FWtV88mHpE— RoJay (@itsRoJay) December 19, 2023
Since the show ended 17 years ago, Milano and McGowan have gotten involved in politics and activism, while Combs hosts a “Charmed” rewatch podcast with co-stars Brian Krause, who played her husband on the show, and Drew Fuller, who played their adult, time-traveling son. Meanwhile, Doherty has been open about her cancer journey, which she was first diagnosed with in 2015 and announced would return and be terminal in 2020.
Combs and Doherty expressed interest in reprising their roles, similar to McGowan’s statement at a 2023 panel that she would “love” to do so.
“I just think there’s three generations now that have watched the show,” he said. “Some things are bigger than you, and some things are more important than personal feelings.”
When asked how the actors could 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.”