I believe it was Mark Twain who once said: "Cast shake-ups are like Transformers - there is usually more to them than meets the eye."
And I was reminded of how true those words were this week following my back-to-back exclusives that CSI and Law & Order: SVU would be losing Gary Dourdan and Diane Neal, respectively.
Initially, I reported that the actors were leaving for the most mundane of reasons: Both of their contracts were up, and they had decided to move on. But in the hours that followed the posting of those stories, new information came to light that now calls into question
my original sources the exact circumstances surrounding the exits - specifically, whether the stars were leaving of their own accord or if they had been shown the door.
In the case of Dourdan, an insider at the show insists that he and CSI execs "mutually agreed" to part ways for "creative reasons." However, a CBS mole claims the 41-year-old actor was essentially fired, adding that producers are trying to be "as supportive and protective" of him as possible by portraying the departure as mutual. That same mole wasn't willing to share the specific reason for Dourdan's ouster, except to say that it involves an "ongoing problem personal to Dourdan."
That doesn't exactly narrow it down. In 2005, Dourdan pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery and was ordered to stay away from then-girlfriend Anne Greene and attend domestic-violence counseling. And last July, a video of him allegedly attacking a TMZ photographer made the rounds on the Web.
Meanwhile, CBS still won't officially "confirm or deny" that Dourdan is on his way out, even as a search for his replacement is underway. Repeated calls to the goodbye guy's camp went unreturned.
Over at SVU, the situation surrounding Neal has become equally suspicious. On Tuesday, a show spokesperson confirmed to me exclusively that the actress would be vacating her role as ADA Casey Novak in what appeared to be a mutual decision. However, shortly after I posted that story, a show insider says an emotional Neal gathered the crew together on the set and informed them that she had just been fired.
While Neal confirms that she "did talk to the crew" about her departure, she declined to say whether she used the F-word. "Rumors are rumors," she shrugs. "I love the crew. The crew loves me. We've really gotten along and bonded over these past five years. And they're always looking out for me and watching my back."
Asked if she was blindsided by the news, Neal, choosing her words carefully, responds, "I don't know if blindsided is the right word.... I've lasted longer by several years than almost any other ADA [in the Law & Order universe]. So every year I've been like, 'Is this going to be the one when I leave?' Dick Wolf is known for replacing his cast regularly. And the truth is, I'm really looking forward to the future."
There's the evidence. Who/what to believe? Let the deliberations begin in the comments section below.