'Kevin Can Wait' EP: We killed off Donna out of 'respect' for Erinn Hayes

Kevin Can Wait's controversial decision to kill off its leading lady was more than just creatively driven. It was also made out of respect for leading lady (and Donna's portrayer) Erinn Hayes, according to exec producer Rob Long.

"The goal was to give Kevin's character a real drive and a real predicament [involving] how a family comes back together [after tragedy]," Long says. "Also, out of respect for the character of Donna — and certainly the way that Erinn Hayes portrayed her — it seemed like the only right and fair way to treat her character."

Asked whether they ever considered reshaping the series in Season 2 to focus solely on Kevin's professional life (and thus letting Donna live, albeit off camera), Long says that simply was not in the cards. The "nucleus of the idea," he shares, was "Kevin being a single father... [We] were really attracted" to watching Kevin "learn how to do all of the stuff" that comes with being a single parent to three kids — four if you count Kendra's fiancé Chale.

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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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TVLine broke the news of Hayes' departure back in June. The announcement of her exit came just one day after the network revealed that James' former King of Queens co-star, Leah Remini, would rejoin the show as a series regular.

Confirmation of Donna's death, meanwhile, came earlier this month at CBS' portion of the Television Critics Association's summer press tour, when Thom Sherman, Senior Exec VP of Programming, revealed that the character "will have passed away" when the series returns. CBS' entertainment president Kelly Kahl later added that the character's demise "will be addressed tastefully" and "with dignity and respect."

See photos of Leah Remini and Kevin James together:
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Leah Remini & Kevin James (Photo by Terry McGinnis/WireImage)
Kevin James, Leah Remini and Jerry Stiller present at the 53rd Annual Prime-Time Emmy Awards held at the Shubert Theatre, Los Angeles, CA., Nov. 4, 2001. (photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Leah Remini and Kevin James during 19th Annual The William S. Paley Television Festival Presents 'The King of Queens' at Directors Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Maury Phillips/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 24: Leah Remini, Kevin James and Jerry Stiller star in The King of Queens. (Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 24: Leah Remini and Kevin James star as Carrie and Doug Heffernan on The King of Queens. (Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 13: 'S'poor House' - Arthur (Jerry Stiller, left) gets insulted when the Heffernan home is invaded by mold and Doug (Kevin James) and Carrie (Leah Remini) call upon Doug's father for financial help rather than ask him, on The King of Queens, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Robert Voets/ CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - MARCH 14: 'Bed Spread' -- When Doug (Kevin James) and Carrie's (Leah Remini) bed breaks, they are forced to borrow Deacon's kids' twin beds and quickly discover that sleeping in their own bed is pretty nice. However this new found independence is short lived, when both start missing each other's company on The King of Queens, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - AUGUST 8: 'King Pong' - Doug 's (pictured, Kevin James) manhood is put to the test when he keeps losing in ping-pong to both Carrie (pictured, Leah Remini) and Arthur, on The King of Queens, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by RON P. JAFFE/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 8: 'Hi, School' -- When Doug (Kevin James, right) starts hanging around his old high school, he runs into his former coach who treats him like a hero, but he takes it a little too far when he shows up to a pep rally in his old jersey which forces Carrie (Leah Remini, left) to confront him about his behavior in 'Hi, School' on The King of Queens, Wednesdays on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images)
American comedian and actor Kevin James and actress Leah Remini, as Doug and Carrie Heffernan, sit side by side on a sofa in a scene from the television comedy 'The King of Queens' entitled 'Vocal Discord,' Los Angeles, California, September 26, 2005. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 23: 'Inn Escapable' -- Doug (Kevin James, right) and Carrie (Leah Remini, left) stars on The King of Queens scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - MAY 23: 'Acting Out'-- Danny (Gary Valentine), Spence (Oswalt Patton) Carrie (Leah Remini) and Doug (Kevin James) star in The King of Queens, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images)
CULVER CITY, CA - JANUARY 25: (L-R) Actress Leah Remini and actors Kevin James and Jerry Stiller attend the 'King of Queens' party celebrating the show's 200th episode at Sony Studios on January 25, 2007 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD- MARCH 17: (L-R) Actors Jerry Stiller and Kevin James and actress Leah Remini attend 'The King of Queens' final season wrap party at Boulevard 3 on March 17, 2007 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD- MARCH 17: (L-R) Actor Kevin James and actress Leah Remini attend 'The King of Queens' final season wrap party at Boulevard 3 on March 17, 2007 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
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