'Kevin Can Wait': Why CBS is killing off Erinn Hayes' Character


CBS comedy Kevin Can Wait will look considerably different when it returns in the fall for its sophomore season — namely, the female lead of the Kevin James vehicle, Erinn Hayes, has been let go and Leah Remini will reunite with her King of Queens co-star when she joins the series as a regular.

The decision to replace Haynes, who played Kevin's wife, Donna, was an organic one, CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl told reporters Tuesday at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour.

Donna, Kahl and CBS exec vp programming Thom Sherman revealed, will be killed off in the season two premiere, which will jump forward in time. Remini will reprise the role she played in the two-part season one finale — a tough, wise-cracking police officer named Vanessa Cellucci who used to work with James' character on the force. The role reunited the actress with her former TV husband, James, after the two starred on The King of Queens for nine seasons.

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'Kevin Can Wait'
NEW YORK - AUGUST 18: Kevin Can Wait -- 'Kevin and Donna's Book Club' -- After Kevin witnesses Donna and her friends' raucous laughter during their book club gathering, he tries to spice up his own social life by evaluating how each of his buddies could be more fun, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Oct. 10, (8:31-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Kevin James. (Photo by Jeffrey Neira/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 18: Kevin Can Wait -- 'Kevin and Donna's Book Club' -- After Kevin witnesses Donna and her friends' raucous laughter during their book club gathering, he tries to spice up his own social life by evaluating how each of his buddies could be more fun, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Oct. 10, (8:31-9:00 PM, ET/PT) ) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Mary-Charles Jones, Kevin James. (Photo by Jeffrey Neira/CBS via Getty Images)
TORONTO - AUGUST 25: 'Sleep Disorder' -- Kevin rearranges the house to his liking after his buddies convince him that Donna makes all their decisions and has taken over the house for her own benefit. Also, Kendra enlists her Uncle Kyle (Gary Valentine) to help toughen up Chale, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Sept. 26 (8:31-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Kevin James, Erinn Hayes (Photo by Jeffrey Neira/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 2: 'Kevin's Bringing Supper Back' -- Kevin's resolve to spend more quality time with his family is put to the ultimate test when his buddies surprise him with concert tickets to his favorite musician, fellow Long Islander Billy Joel, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Dec. 5 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Multiple Grammy Award-winning pianist, singer and songwriter Billy Joel appears as himself. Pictured: Erinn Hayes, Mary-Charles Jones, Taylor Spreitler, Ryan Cartwright, James DiGiacomo, Kevin James (Photo by Jeffrey Neira/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 2: 'Kevin's Bringing Supper Back' -- Kevin's resolve to spend more quality time with his family is put to the ultimate test when his buddies surprise him with concert tickets to his favorite musician, fellow Long Islander Billy Joel, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Dec. 5 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Multiple Grammy Award-winning pianist, singer and songwriter Billy Joel appears as himself. Pictured: Kevin James, Erinn Hayes (Photo by Jeffrey Neira/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 16: 'Chore Weasel' -- Kevin thinks he's got it made when he hires Blake (Andy Ridings) via a new online app that supplies people to do household chores while he plays football with his buddies and then takes all the credit with Donna, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Oct. 3 (8:31-9:01 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Leonard Earl Howze (Goody), Lenny Venito (Duffy), Kevin James (Kevin), Chris Roach (Mott) and Gary Valentine (Kyle). (Photo by Michael Parmelee/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 16: 'Chore Weasel' -- Kevin thinks he's got it made when he hires Blake (Andy Ridings) via a new online app that supplies people to do household chores while he plays football with his buddies and then takes all the credit with Donna, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Oct. 3 (8:31-9:01 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Gary Valentine, Leonard Earl Howze, Kevin James, Chris Roach, Lenny Venito. (Photo by Michael Parmelee/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 16: 'Chore Weasel' -- Kevin thinks he's got it made when he hires Blake (Andy Ridings) via a new online app that supplies people to do household chores while he plays football with his buddies and then takes all the credit with Donna, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Oct. 3 (8:31-9:01 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Taylor Spreitler, Erinn Hayes. (Photo by Michael Parmelee/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 22: Kevin Can Wait -- 'Kevin's Good Story' -- Kevin gets busted for using Goody's heroic cop story years earlier to cover for forgetting his wedding anniversary, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, October 17 (8:31-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Kevin James (Kevin Gable), Chris Roach (Mott), Lenny Devito (Duffy), De'Adre Aziza (Danielle). (Photo by Jeffrey Neira/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 29: 'Beat the Parents' -- Kevin and Donna are thrilled when their son, Jack, makes friends with a boy from school, Grayden (Graydon Peter Yosowitz), however, when Donna and Kevin don't hit it off with Grayden's arrogant father, Vic (Ray Romano), and his pushy wife, Brandi (Lindsay Broad), they set out to sabotage the boys' new friendship, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, when it moves to its regular time period, Monday, Oct. 24 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Matt Romano guest stars as Vic's second son, Braden. Pictured: Ray Romano, Kevin James. (Photo by Michael Parmelee/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 6: 'Who's Better Than Us' -- When Kevin's ego is bruised after learning his former partner has a young, buff rookie named Nick (Chris Weidman), to ride with, he tries to reconnect by showing him what he's missing, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Nov 7 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Pictured: Kevin James, Erinn Hayes. (Photo by Richard Boeth/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 27: 'The Power of Positive Drinking' -- When Kevin takes a job as a bartender, he goes too far when he starts dispensing unsolicited advice to his customers, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Nov. 14 (8:00-8:30, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Kevin James. Taylor Spreitler. (Photo by Jeffrey Neira/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 27: 'The Power of Positive Drinking' -- When Kevin takes a job as a bartender, he goes too far when he starts dispensing unsolicited advice to his customers, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Nov. 14 (8:00-8:30, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Kevin James. (Photo by Jeffrey Neira/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 27: 'The Power of Positive Drinking' -- When Kevin takes a job as a bartender, he goes too far when he starts dispensing unsolicited advice to his customers, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Nov. 14 (8:00-8:30, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Erinn Hayes, Kevin James. (Photo by Jeffrey Neira/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER11: 'The Fantastic Pho' -- Kevin convinces his buddies to invest in his new food truck venture, but when his chef quits, Kevin\'s worried he bit off more than he can chew, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Nov. 21 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Kevin James, Erinn Hayes (Photo By Jeff Neumann/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - OCTOBER11: 'The Fantastic Pho' -- Kevin convinces his buddies to invest in his new food truck venture, but when his chef quits, Kevin\'s worried he bit off more than he can chew, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Nov. 21 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Lenny Venito, Leonard Earl Howze, Chris Roach (Photo By Jeff Neumann/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 17: 'I'll be Home for Christmas--'Maybe' -- Kevin gets into the Christmas spirit when he volunteers to help Mott (Chris Roach) and his seven kids prepare for the holidays while his wife's away, leaving Donna (Erinn Hayes) high and dry until Kyle (Gary Valentine) swoops in to help her, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Dec. 12 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Kevin James (Photo by Michael Parmelee/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 17: 'I'll be Home for Christmas--'Maybe' -- Kevin gets into the Christmas spirit when he volunteers to help Mott (Chris Roach) and his seven kids prepare for the holidays while his wife's away, leaving Donna (Erinn Hayes) high and dry until Kyle (Gary Valentine) swoops in to help her, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Dec. 12 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Erinn Hayes. (Photo by Michael Parmelee/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 17: 'I'll be Home for Christmas--'Maybe' -- Kevin gets into the Christmas spirit when he volunteers to help Mott (Chris Roach) and his seven kids prepare for the holidays while his wife's away, leaving Donna (Erinn Hayes) high and dry until Kyle (Gary Valentine) swoops in to help her, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Dec. 12 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Kevin James, Erinn Hayes. (Photo by Michael Parmelee/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - DECEMBER 16: 'Kevin vs. the Dutch Elm' -- As Kevin tries to charm his neighbor into giving him permission to cut down one of her trees, he becomes intimidated by her imposing son, Rutger (retired MMA Fighter and UFC Heavyweight Champion Bas Rutten), and invites them over for a non-existent party, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Jan. 16 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: James DiGiacomo, Mary-Charles Jones, Kevin James. (Photo by Jeffrey Neira/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JANUARY 19: 'The Back Out' -- Kevin and Donna jeopardize their chance for a kid-free vacation care of their chiropractor, Peter (Craig Bierko), when he catches them 'cheating' on him with his colleague. Also, Kyle, still bitter that Kevin overlooked him to be best man at his wedding to Donna, tries to convince Chale to give him that responsibility, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Feb. 6 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Ilana Becker, Erinn Hayes, Kevin James, Craig Bierko. (Photo by Jeff Neumann/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JANUARY 12: 'Choke Doubt' -- Kevin brags about saving a man from choking after hearing how much attention his brother Kyle is receiving for saving a cat, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Jan. 23 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Adam Ferrara guest stars as Bill, a man Kevin saves from choking, and 'The Insider' correspondent Michael Yo guest stars as Tom, a morning show anchor who interviews Kyle. Pictured: Erinn Hayes (Photo By Jeff Neumann/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 2: 'Unholy War' -- After reluctantly settling on a date for Kendra's wedding, Kevin learns that his childhood nemesis, Terry (Kim Coates), is trying to reserve the church on the same day. As the two battle for Father Phillip's (Jim Breuer) approval by becoming more involved in the church, Kevin's drive to get the church for Kendra becomes an insatiable desire to get revenge on his old rival, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, February 13 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Kevin James, Kim Coates. (Photo by Jeffrey Neira/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 10: "Neighborhood Watch" -- When Donna's cousin, Irene (Claire Coffee), comes to visit with her chatty husband, Stuart (Alexander Chaplin), Kevin concocts an elaborate plan to avoid spending time with them by forming a neighborhood watch group with his buddies, including his neighbor, Rootger (Bas Rutten), on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Feb. 20 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Chris Weidman returns as Police Officer Nick. Pictured: Lenny Venito, Leonard Earl Howze, Bas Rutten and Kevin James. (Photo by Jeff Neumann/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 10: 'Neighborhood Watch' -- When Donna's cousin, Irene (Claire Coffee), comes to visit with her chatty husband, Stuart (Alexander Chaplin), Kevin concocts an elaborate plan to avoid spending time with them by forming a neighborhood watch group with his buddies, including his neighbor, Rootger (Bas Rutten), on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, Feb. 20 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Chris Weidman returns as Police Officer Nick. Pictured: Chris Weidman, Erinn Hayes, Kevin James and Julian Gamble. (Photo by Jeff Neumann/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 23: 'Showroom Showdown' -- When Kevin and Chale get jobs working in the warehouse at an electronics store to help pay for the wedding, Chale's quick promotion to the sales floor kick-starts Kevin's competitive side, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, March 13 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Taylor Spreitrler, Erinn Hays. (Photo By Jeff Neumann/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 23: 'Quiet Diet' -- When Donna says she\'ll send Kevin to the Mets Fantasy Camp if he lowers his cholesterol, Chale secretly coaches Kevin through a juice cleanse, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, April 17 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Kevin James (Photo By Jeff Neumann/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MARCH 1: 'Double Date' -- After Goody and Didi (Saidah Arrika Ekulona) invite the Motts on a weekend getaway, Kevin and Donna are offended by the friendship demotion and go online to search for new couples to hang out with, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, March xx (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Jackie Sandler returns as Mott's wife, Cindy. Pictured: Erinn Hayes, Kevin James. (Photo By Jeff Neumann/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MARCH 10: 'Kenny Can Wait' -- Kevin takes a job as a driver in New York City and is delighted to learn his passenger is Harry Connick Jr., but while the two strike up an unlikely friendship, Kevin continuously finds himself making misleading comments to his new pal to make himself sound more interesting, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, April 10 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Harry Connick Jr. guest stars as himself. Pictured: Kevin James, Harry Connick, Jr. , Andy Fickman. (Photo by David M. Russell/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MARCH 10: 'Kenny Can Wait' -- Kevin takes a job as a driver in New York City and is delighted to learn his passenger is Harry Connick Jr., but while the two strike up an unlikely friendship, Kevin continuously finds himself making misleading comments to his new pal to make himself sound more interesting, on KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, April 10 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Harry Connick Jr. guest stars as himself. Pictured: Erinn Hayes, Kevin James. (Photo by David M. Russell/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 30: 'Sting of Queens: Part One' and 'Sting of Queens: Part Two'-- Kevin begrudgingly agrees to come out of retirement briefly to reprise an undercover assignment where he and his old rival Vanessa Cellucci (Leah Remini), once again, pose as husband and wife. Also, Donna is up for a promotion, Kendra gets accepted to law school, and Chale gets a lucrative new job, on part one of the two-part first season finale of KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, May 1 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) and Monday, May 8 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Leah Remini, Kevin James. (Photo By Jeff Neumann/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 24: 'Sting of Queens: Part One' and 'Sting of Queens: Part Two'-- Kevin begrudgingly agrees to come out of retirement briefly to reprise an undercover assignment where he and his old rival Vanessa Cellucci (Leah Remini), once again, pose as husband and wife. Also, Donna is up for a promotion, Kendra gets accepted to law school, and Chale gets a lucrative new job, on part one of the two-part first season finale of KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, May 1 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) and Monday, May 8 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Kevin James (Photo By Jeff Neumann/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 30: 'Sting of Queens: Part One' and 'Sting of Queens: Part Two'-- Kevin begrudgingly agrees to come out of retirement briefly to reprise an undercover assignment where he and his old rival Vanessa Cellucci (Leah Remini), once again, pose as husband and wife. Also, Donna is up for a promotion, Kendra gets accepted to law school, and Chale gets a lucrative new job, on part one of the two-part first season finale of KEVIN CAN WAIT, Monday, May 1 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) and Monday, May 8 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Leah Remini, Erinn Hayes. (Photo By Jeff Neumann/CBS via Getty Images)
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Read more: Leah Remini Joins 'Kevin Can Wait' Season 2 as Series Regular

"Erinn is a terrific actress, she did a great job. When everybody collectively saw how Leah and Kevin were together in those last couple episodes, there was an undeniable spark there," Kahl told reporters. "Kevin, the studios and the network all got together and wanted to keep that magic and chemistry going forward. Leah was a stunt episode at the end of the season. I don't believe there was any thought toward [having her replace Hayes as the female lead]. It wasn't a test run; she was brought on as we often do stunt casting to pump a little something into the show and it turned out really well."

The executive, fresh on the job after having replaced Glenn Geller over the summer post-upfronts, says he has seen the first few scripts and promised that Donna's death on the series will be addressed "tastefully" and used to set up the series going forward. Asked specifically how Kevin Can Wait planned to make the death of a wife and mother funny, Kahl said he wasn't sure that was possible.

"I'm not sure we can make that hilarious," he said, noting Hayes had no say in how Donna was being written out. "It will be treated with dignity and respect and the show will move forward. It's something that will have taken place in the past. I don't want to address it until we see eventually what's on tape in the first episode."

Read more: 'Kevin Can Wait': Erinn Hayes Exits Ahead of Season Two


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