Wilko Johnson, Maura Tierney, and more: When actors get cancer, what happens to their characters?

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Sad news for "Game of Thrones" fans: Actor Wilko Johnson, who plays the mute executioner Ser Ilyn Payne, has been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Johnson, who appeared in Seasons 1 and 2, is best known to fans as the man who executed Ned Stark. In addition to being an actor, Wilko is also an influential British rocker. His band Dr. Feelgood has been cited as a major influence for bands like The Clash.

Johnson has announced that he does not plan to seek treatment. Given the fact that his character appeared in the first four books of the series that the TV show is based on, it seems likely that Payne will be written out of the show.

Sadly, Wilko Johnson isn't the first TV actor to be diagnosed with cancer. These other beloved actors also got cancer in real life, and that disease influenced what happened to the characters they played on TV.

Kathryn Joosten

While she might have been better known for her role as Mrs. Landingham on "The West Wing," Kathryn Joosten was also well-known for her role as Karen McClusky on "Desperate Housewives." In the series finale of "Housewives," her character died from cancer. This was powerful stuff, as Joosten herself was a lung cancer sufferer. After smoking for 45 years, she struggled with cancer for over a decade. Sadly, just 20 days after the series finale aired, Joosten succumbed to cancer herself.

Diana Hyland

Though she isn't well-remembered today, Hyland was an actress on the classic '70s comedy "Eight is Enough." Hyland played Joan, the biological mother of the children and Tom's first wife. Hyland had filmed just four episodes of the show's first season when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Hyland was temporarily written out of the rest of the season and passed away just 12 days after the show's premiere. When the show was renewed for a second season, Joan had died, as well.

Maura Tierney

Actress Maura Tierney struggled with breast cancer, as well. In 2009, a tumor was removed from one of her breasts. Around the same time, she was cast in "Parenthood" as Sarah Tracey Braverman. However, because cancer treatment conflicted with her filming schedule, she had to bow out of the show. All scenes that had been filmed with her character were scrapped, and actress Lauren Graham was brought in to replace Tierney.
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