Ever since Season 2 of Kevin Can Wait premiered in late September, fans have wondered one thing: How did the wife die? Turns out, we don’t really know. And after many more episodes of the CBS series, we still have no clue. We’re just hoping we get more insight on Donna Gable’s untimely death at some point this season.
In the season’s second episode, we saw Kevin Gable (played by Kevin James) trying to be a super dad by packing his kids’ lunches and making sure he had them prepared for all their after-school activities. After Jack and Sara told their older sister, Kendra, that Kevin was acting a little over-the-top, she had a talk with him where she mentioned her mom’s passing but didn’t give any information as to how she died. Vanessa (portrayed by Leah Remini) also mentioned to Kevin that he lost his wife, Donna (played by Erinn Hayes), while they were trying to solve a case at an amusement park, but again, no further details were given.
Kevin and Donna on Kevin Can Wait.
Similarly, in the show’s Season 2 premiere, Donna’s death was swept completely under the rug. In the first scene, Kevin opened an email from his wife’s gym that said they miss her since she hadn’t been there in a while. Once he showed it to his older daughter, Kendra, she said that her mom had been dead for more than a year but didn’t share how she passed away. At the end of the episode before Kendra’s wedding, she and Kevin also mentioned that they wished Donna was there to celebrate the nuptials. Basically, the sitcom keeps reminding us that Donna has died, but won’t tell us how.
It was revealed that Donna’s character would be killed off the show following news that actress Erinn was fired from the hit sitcom. At the time, CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl said that her death “will be addressed tastefully” and “with dignity and respect.” Executive Producer Rob Long added, “The goal was to give Kevin’s character a real drive and a real predicament [involving] how a family comes back together [after tragedy]. 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.”
However, in mid-October, Kevin candidly revealed that he and the Kevin Can Wait showrunners decided to kill off Erinn’s character because they were “literally running out of ideas.” He continued, “I get that people are like ‘Whoa, why would you do this?’ But it really felt like a thing like this was needed for this show to drive forward… The plot of the show didn’t have enough drive. If we got through [to] a second season, I wouldn’t see us getting through a third one. We were literally just running out of ideas.”
Chris Roach — who plays Mott on the sitcom — seconded that in an October interview with Chanel Omari on StarShop. “It was never personal to kill off Erinn Hayes’ character,” he said. “The whole point of the show was that they needed more of a storyline to continue the series. Erinn’s character was never meant to last. She was amazing while it lasted. The truth is her getting killed off the show suddenly was the point Kevin was trying to make: in real life, these things can happen and sometimes are not explainable, because that’s life. He wanted to portray that authentic message throughout the series.”
Erinn previously announced her departure from the series one day after Leah was cast as a Season 2 regular (who else is loving this King of Queens reunion?!). “True, I’ve been let go from the show. Very sad, I had a great experience [on] Season 1. Thank you for all the support from our wonderful fans,” Erinn wrote on Twitter. In a previous interview, Leah gushed about joining the show. “I got a call: ‘Do you want to do some more episodes?’ I said, ‘Yeah, of course, anything.’ They said, ‘Okay, so you’re going to be doing all the episodes.’ I was like, ‘What?! For Kevin, anything,” she said.
Kevin and Donna on Kevin Can Wait. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
And even though he liked Erinn, Chris couldn’t deny the on-screen chemistry between Kevin and Leah. “I thought Erinn and Kevin had great chemistry on Season 1, and I would hear people go around and say, ‘but you have to see the chemistry between Leah and Kevin?’ It’s undeniable and magnetic,” the actor said. “I didn’t really understand until I saw it for myself. When you see it, you’re like, ‘Ok now I get it.’ The two of them together are just magnetic. She makes him more funny.”
It has been said that Kevin and Leah’s character, Vanessa, won’t be romantically involved (although we’ve really loved their dynamic so far), we’re curious what Donna’s untimely (and barely-acknowledged) death means for the Gable family. We guess we’ll have to wait and see if they address it further later in the season…