Fired for Refusing Intimate Scenes: Neal McDonough Recalls His Career Journey in the Entertainment Industry

By Paula Liu

It seems that just about anything goes in the entertainment industry, and that includes both film and televised entertainment. There are shows and roles that may push the boundaries of what is generally accepted, and those who stay within the yellow safety line.

For Neal McDonough, a well-known actor, there are just lines that he doesn’t cross—because for him, he’s got things in mind when it comes to boundaries. For one, engaging in an intimate scene with someone is a big no-no.

He recalled being fired from the show “Scoundrels” on ABC back in 2010, after refusing to perform an intimate scene with his co-star, Virginia Madsen, due to sticking to his principles. The broadcasting company attributed the role change to be a mere cast change when it was announced.

According to, McDonough was replaced on the Scoundrels set three days into the shooting of the series, and lost as much as $1 million dollars from the role.

It came as a surprise for him—recently in an interview with Closer Weekly, the actor said that the situation had been a “shot on the chin.”

“It was a horrible situation for me,” McDonough said.

It was hard for him for a while because of all the roles he wouldn’t be able to play—not to mention the way people viewed him as after the whole ordeal.

“After that, I couldn’t get a job because everybody thought I was this religious zealot.”

In addition to his no-intimacy policy with co-stars, he’s fiercely dedicated to his wife, Ruve Robertson, whom he married back in 2003.

As such, he refuses to engage in any love scenes with any of the co-stars. He said that he won’t because he reserves that for his wife only.

Even in the show “Desperate Housewives,” when he signed on, he was adamant when he told the series creator, Marc Cherry, that he wouldn’t partake in any love scenes with his on-screen wife and co-star, Nicollette Sheridan.

It took a little bit of persuading and time (all of five seconds, according to McDonough), but Cherry eventually agreed with the actor’s requests. He said, recalled McDonough in the interview with Closer Weekly, “all right, I’m just going to have to write better.”

It seems that despite the initial roadblock, the two managed to have a good time, McDonough said.

However, in a turn of events, Graham Yost, the producer of Band of Brothers, called McDonough and asked the actor if he wanted to play a role—an antagonist role in the show “Justified.”

And then, one thing sparked another, and before you know it, the actor had found himself back in the spotlight, once more—doing things he loves in respect to his principles.

Being able to get back into acting and doing all these roles made him even more appreciative of what he has—he’s grateful for everything and everyone he has been blessed with. Despite the fall he had taken earlier on in his career in regards to his leaving the show Scoundrels and the aftermath, he got right back up again, and refused to give up.

“I think my acting got so much better because I really appreciated it. I took a shot on the chin, but I was not going to lose the fight,” he said in the interview with Closer Weekly.

He had no regrets about following his principles, even if it meant losing a lot of roles. It was that mentality and determination to stay loyal to the values he had kept since the beginning that had allowed his acting to grow substantially and improve.

His refusal to give up and his determination paid off.

“And it worked,” he said, “my career has been phenomenal ever since.”

Despite all the hurdles in his career path, he did his best and never gave up. He credits his determination to his father, who was an Irish immigrant, as well as the blessings he was given—he worked hard because he had to. Or rather, it’s what he was supposed to do.

“God gave me this talent of being an actor, and I’m not going to waste it. That’s just who I am. I love working, and with five kids and a fantastic wife, I want to make sure I’m taking care of everyone. That’s what my dad did, and that’s what I’m going to do,” McDonough said.

It was his father who showed him that if he worked hard, great things would happen—an honest work ethic.

Despite all that had transpired since the beginning, he still maintains his gratefulness and appreciation for all the things that he is surrounded by, his wife, his five kids, and all the blessings he had been given.

“I’m just the most blessed guy I know.”