When the Charmed reboot’s Madeleine Mantock recently announced that she would be leaving the show after its third season, it was impossible not to notice the parallels between the ongoing CW series and its WB predecessor from the mid-‘90s starring Shannen Doherty, Holly Marie Combs, and Alyssa Milano. Coincidentally enough, the latter is in the news once more to talk about old drama.
Though Prue (Doherty), the eldest of the Halliwell sisters, had become the most powerful of the “Charmed Ones” as she fought the forces of evil with her fellow witches, the season three finale saw her meet an untimely and convoluted end. After Prue’s powers are exposed to the world, her youngest sister Phoebe (Milano) crafted a plan to travel into the past in order to change history and keep magic a secret, and while Phoebe’s plan works, it inadvertently led to Prue’s death. As much time as Charmed spent harping on the importance of the Power of Three — the unique familial magic the Halliwell sisters shared as a trio — it was genuinely surprising how little energy the series spent unpacking Prue’s death, and how quickly she was ultimately replaced by her secret half-sister Paige (Rose McGowan.)
Prue’s exit is something Charmed’s only ever bothered to explore in a handful of plots from the Charmed comics that came after the original TV show’s cancellation. For years, though, there’s been a sizable amount of speculation about off-camera friction between Doherty and Milano being the real reason, and according to Milano, there’s some truth to that. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly about her upcoming book, Sorry Not Sorry, Milano said that while she and Doherty are on “cordial” terms, she owns up to letting her own competitiveness impact her relationship with her co-star. “I can take responsibility for a lot of our tension that we had, feeling that I was in competition rather than it being that sisterhood that the show was so much about,” Milano said. “I have some guilt about my part in that.”
Following Prue’s death, Charmed changed significantly as the Halliwells adjusted to the revelation of their long-lost sibling’s existence, and figured out what Paige meant for the three Charmed Ones. Though the series never quite had a “leader,” with Prue out of the picture, both Phoebe and Piper took on expanded responsibilities (and plot lines) as the family’s most experienced witches. Though Charmed was able to find a new footing eventually, the way Prue never popped up again — in stark contrast to multiple other characters on the show — always stood out as a sort of mark on the series and a reminder that things could have played out much different.
Milano said that hearing word of Doherty’s diagnosis with breast cancer in 2015 was what pushed her to finally reach out to her fellow actress in an attempt to make amends, and how, if she could have handled things on the Charmed set differently, she would have. “I have respect for her,” Milano said of Doherty. “[She’s a] great actress, loves her family so much, and I just wish I could’ve felt strong enough in who I was to recognise that [back] then.”