21 Couples Who Had to Work Together After Their Real-Life Relationships Ended
If you’ve ever shipped an onscreen couple, then you probably know the feeling of satisfaction that comes with watching your favorite characters fall in love off screen. Sometimes fictional romances that turn into real-life relationships do work out (see: Zendaya and Tom Holland). Other times, though, actors playing lovers on screen don’t always stay together in real life.
There are plenty of actor couples who’ve had to work together after breaking up IRL, and we imagine the experience is pretty awkward. Even if they don’t share intimate scenes, filming a TV show or movie with an ex means lots of time spent together. Some A-list exes have been able to stay cordial – for example, Penn Badgley said he and Blake Lively “handled it” and remained professional when their “Gossip Girl” characters had to share a kiss after their real-life breakup. Others had a little bit more trouble separating art from life and dealing with seeing their exes on set every day.
From Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder on “The Vampire Diaries” to Madelyn Cline and Chase Stokes on “Outer Banks,” here are just a few celeb costars turned couples who had to keep working together after calling it quits.
Joey King and Jacob Elordi
King and Elordi met on the set of Netflix’s “The Kissing Booth” in 2017 – where they played girlfriend and boyfriend Elle and Noah – and dated for over a year before deciding to go their separate ways in 2018. Since breaking up, the exes have filmed both the second and third movies in the trilogy, which were shot in tandem.
King first addressed the awkwardness of working with her ex during an October 2019 episode of the podcast “Mood With Lauren Elizabeth,” explaining it was a “sacrifice” she was willing to make for the sake of their fans. She added, “It was a wild experience. But honestly, it was a really beautiful time. Because I learned a lot about myself and I grew as an actor. I grew as a person on this.” She expressed a similar sentiment during an August 2020 interview with Cosmopolitan, saying of the experience, “No one’s thinking to themselves, ‘That was easy,’ because it wasn’t.”
Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse
Though Reinhart and Sprouse first met in 2016 while playing occasional lovers Betty and Jughead on “Riverdale,” they didn’t go public with their own romance until 2018. The two dated on and off for two years before finally splitting for good in 2020. Not long after their second and (maybe) final breakup, the former couple began filming season five of their CW series.
Back in July 2019 during an interview with W, Reinhart spoke about the grueling hours spent filming and said she couldn’t imagine how “miserable” she’d be if she “hated” her fellow cast members. Later, after returning to Vancouver to resume “Riverdale” filming in September 2020, Reinhart told Nylon she felt “like a prisoner” being stuck in Canada, though she didn’t explicitly say that feeling had anything to do with her ex.
Not long after, Sprouse posted an Instagram announcing their breakup, saying he wished Reinhart the “utmost love and happiness moving forward.”
Charles Melton and Camila Mendes
Melton and Mendes met on the set of “Riverdale” when Melton joined the cast in season two as Mendes’s love interest, but they didn’t start dating until 2018. The two went their separate ways in 2019, and – like Reinhart and Sprouse – they are currently still starring in the series as Veronica and Reggie.
The exes have yet to publicly comment on their breakup, but back in May 2019 while the couple were still together, Mendes told Teen Vogue she didn’t think it would be a big deal if she and Charles were to split. “That’s a part of life,” she said of breakups. “I wouldn’t be embarrassed about it. It happens. I know I’m happy, and I know where I am in my life, so I’m going to let [people on Twitter] say whatever they want. Why should I care?”
Nicholas Hoult and Jennifer Lawrence
Hoult and Lawrence got together on the set of “X-Men: First Class” in 2010 and dated on and off until 2014, right around the time when “X-Men: Days of Future Past” wrapped. Since then, the two had to work together on “X-Men: Apocalypse,” which released in 2016, and “Dark Phoenix,” which came out in 2019. Luckily, their characters, Beast and Mystique, didn’t have too many intimate scenes.
During a January 2019 interview with Evening Standard, Hoult said that working with Lawrence post-breakup wasn’t at all weird. “It’s pretty similar to ‘Skins,’ he said, referring to the show he starred on at the beginning of his career. “We’re a big family. We’ve been doing those movies since we were 20 years old. As much as the ‘Skins’ crowd grew up together, the ‘X-Men’ crowd really grew up together. It’s been a good eight, nine years making those movies. We’ve all got to get along. We’ve all got to have fun.”
Dominic Monaghan and Evangeline Lilly
Monaghan and Lilly connected on the set of “Lost,” and though their characters, Charlie and Kate, never got together, the actors dated from 2004 to 2007. After deciding to call it quits, both actors remained on the series until its finale in 2010, although Monaghan didn’t appear in season five and only appeared in flashbacks in season six.
The pair didn’t address their relationship for years, though Monaghan did seem to shade Lilly at one point. In 2013, Monaghan replied to a tweet that read, “Evangeline looked unreal in The Hobbit, man oh man,” writing, “Nah. I don’t date cheaters.”
Then, in August 2022, Monaghan discussed their breakup on Anna Faris’s podcast, “Unqualified.” “I don’t really know how she would explain the narrative, but from my point of view, it was probably the first time in my life that I was just kind of all in,” he said of his relationship with Lilly.
But everything came to an end when Monaghan’s friends claimed she was cheating. “I mean, to say I was devastated is an understatement, you know,” Monaghan said. “I had to be told by a third party like, ‘You do realize that she’s with this guy,’ when we were together . . . Losing that potential was super sad. But it also got me to where I am as a person. So I’m very happy that it all happened.”
Milo Ventimiglia and Hayden Panettiere
Panettiere and Ventimiglia met on the set of “Heroes” in 2006, where they played niece and uncle – though that didn’t deter some fans from shipping the pair. The two dated from 2007 to 2009, and they remained on the show until the end of the fourth and final season in 2010.
Following the experience, Ventimiglia told Mr. Porter in September 2017 that he would “never again” date a costar. “There are things that happen to you in your life that shape who you are,” he added. “Everything I’ve been through from jobs to friendships to partnerships – everything has built me to who I am. You learn from it. You learn a better way of doing things. It wasn’t until my mid to late twenties that the job wears on you, relationships wear on you. But I wouldn’t change a thing. When you get knocked over the head in life, it builds your perspective.”
Milo Ventimiglia and Alexis Bledel
Panettiere wasn’t the only costar Ventimiglia ever dated. Before “Heroes,” Ventimiglia got together with his onscreen love interest Bledel on “Gilmore Girls.” The actors dated for over three years until – just like their characters, Jess and Rory – the couple parted ways in 2006. A decade later, they ended up reuniting for the show’s 2016 Netflix reboot, “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.”
Though Bledel didn’t explicitly comment on her experience working with Ventimiglia 10 years after their breakup, she did say during the Television Critics Association press tour in July 2016 that “it was great to work with all of them again,” referring to all of Rory’s past lovers who appeared in the revival.
It doesn’t seem Ventimiglia has any hard feelings, either. Following Bledel’s win at the 2017 Primetime Emmy Awards for outstanding guest actress in a drama series for her performance in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Ventimiglia told The Daily Dish that he was very happy for her. “She’s always been a great actor,” he added.
Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder
Dobrev and Somerhalder met on the set of “The Vampire Diaries” in 2009 – where they played on-and-off lovers Damon and Elena – and it wasn’t long before the two started dating IRL. After their breakup in 2013, both actors remained on the series until its finale in 2017 (though in 2015, Dobrev went from a main cast member to a guest on the series).
Even now, the actors remain close friends. As Nina told E! News in May 2015, “I’ve said this before, that we didn’t break up because anything bad happened or because there wasn’t love or friendship. I love him and the friendship is still strong and I think he’s great and I care about him. And that didn’t change. Yes, we’re professional and that’s fine. We were friends long before we dated and we still are now.”
The two even hilariously addressed their split onstage after winning the best chemistry award at the 2014 People’s Choice Awards. Of the moment, Dobrev told E! News, “I was trying to figure out, like what do you say in that situation? We were like, well, we’re cool, we’re friends and costars. He’s a great person, I’m a great person . . . I mean, I think I’m pretty awesome. So it doesn’t need to be awkward and I think everyone expected it to be so awkward. We made fun of ourselves and just had fun.”
Blake Lively and Penn Badgley
On “Gossip Girl,” Lively and Badgley played on-and-off couple Serena and Dan, and the actors also dated on and off IRL between 2007 and 2010. Both Lively and Badgley remained on the series until its finale in 2012, and their characters even ended up getting married.
During a May 2013 interview with Elle, Badgley was asked whether it was difficult to work with Lively after their breakup, and he said they were “ultimately professional” together, adding, “We were very much caught up in the show, which itself was a six-year endurance test. Our relationship was a part of that and helped us through it. I mean, like anything valuable, it was good and it was bad and it was a learning experience.”
Later, when Badgley appeared on “Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen” in March 2015, a caller asked the actor which “Gossip Girl” cast member he enjoyed kissing the most on screen and who he enjoyed kissing the least. His answer for both: Lively. “I’d say best . . . I’ll say it was Blake, because we actually had a relationship at the time,” Badgley said. He then jokingly adding that the worst kiss was “maybe Blake after we broke up,” though he noted that they both handled the situation well. “We should both pat ourselves on the back because anything is complicated in that way . . . and we handled it,” he added.
In February 2023, Blake reflected on how Lively helped him out while they were dating during the show, saying she’d been a good influence on him. “To be honest, I never struggled with substance,” he said in an interview with Variety. “Blake didn’t drink, and I think our relationship in some ways saved me from forcing myself to go down that road.”
Jessica Szohr and Ed Westwick
Lively and Badgley weren’t the only “Gossip Girl” alums who dated. Szohr and Westwick – who played occasional lovers Vanessa and Chuck – also developed a casual relationship off screen. The two dated on and off between 2009 and 2012, though Szohr left the show as a series regular in 2011, after its fourth season.
The two remained good friends even after their split. Five years after “Gossip Girl” ended, Westwick was accused of sexual assault by several women. During a November 2017 interview with Cosmopolitan, Szohr said she found the accusations “shocking,” especially since she and Westwick still had a close relationship. ” . . . I have known Ed for years and know how lovely he is, and don’t think he would ever put someone in a position like that,” she said, later adding, “From the Ed I know and working with him for five years and having a friendship through all of that and after, it was shocking.”
Michael Vartan and Jennifer Garner
Vartan and Garner first met on the set of “Alias” in 2001, though they didn’t start dating until two years later. Their relationship only lasted until 2004, and the two both remained on the show – playing lovers Sydney and Michael – until its finale in 2006.
In 2005, Vartan told USA Today that their breakup was “benign” and that he and Garner decided they were “better off as friends.” They were so close that Garner even told Vartan about her engagement to now ex-husband Ben Affleck before the rest of the world found out. “On the surface, it could have been a recipe for disaster,” Vartan said of their on-set relationship following their breakup. “But Jennifer and I were best friends first, during, and after.”
Katie Holmes and Joshua Jackson
After meeting on the set of “Dawson’s Creek” in 1997, Holmes and Jackson had a brief romance between 1998 and 1999. They remained on the show playing love interests Joey and Pacey until the series concluded in 2003, and their characters even ended up together.
During a September 1998 interview with Rolling Stone, Holmes alluded to her relationship with Jackson, and she had nothing but good things to say about her ex. “I’m just going to say that I met somebody last year,” she said. “I fell in love, I had my first love, and it was something so incredible and indescribable that I will treasure it always . . . and that I feel so fortunate because he’s now one of my best friends. It’s weird, it’s almost like a Dawson-and-Joey type thing now.” Holmes later told Us Weekly in September 2012 that Jackson was her “first love” and that she even reached out to him after her divorce from Tom Cruise.
Chad Michael Murray and Sophia Bush
After meeting on the set of “One Tree Hill” in 2003, Murray and Bush quickly fell in love and even tied the knot in 2005. Unfortunately, the couple filed for divorce only five months later, though they continued to star on the show as tumultuous couple Lucas and Brooke until Murray’s departure in 2009.
The former couple attempted to keep the peace on set following their divorce, but Bush told Cosmopolitan in January 2017 that the experience was pretty difficult, and “the trauma of [the breakup] was amplified by how public it became.” Later, during a June 2018 appearance on “Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen,” Bush said the relationship was a mistake. “We were two stupid kids who had no business being in a relationship in the first place,” she added.
Jennifer Carpenter and Michael C. Hall
Though Carpenter and Hall played adoptive siblings Dexter and Debra on “Dexter,” that didn’t stop the two from falling for each other. After meeting in 2006, the actors started dating during the show’s second season and later tied the knot in 2008. The couple were married for two years before they decided to divorce in 2011, though they continued to star on the show (and even became onscreen lovers) until “Dexter” ended in 2013.
In September 2013, per Us Weekly, Carpenter got emotional while discussing their divorce at the PaleyFest “Dexter” Fall Farewell event. “Our marriage didn’t look like anyone else’s, and our divorce didn’t either,” she said, later adding, “I said it before – just because the marriage ended doesn’t mean the love did.”
Dave Annable and Emily VanCamp
Carpenter and Hall aren’t the only onscreen siblings who fell in love in real life. Annable and VanCamp started dating after meeting on the set of “Brothers & Sisters” in 2006, where they played half-siblings Justin and Rebecca. Their chemistry was so palpable that a plot twist was added into the storyline, in which the two found out they weren’t actually related and could date. Though the actors remained on the series until 2011, their real-life romance only lasted until 2008.
Neither actor has publicly spoken about their experience working together post-split, though in May 2012, VanCamp alluded to a past relationship that didn’t end well during an interview with “Lucky,” per Us Weekly, saying “every young woman needs to have one boyfriend who disappoints her, who really breaks her heart” in order to know what true love is.
Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco
On “The Big Bang Theory,” Galecki and Cuoco played neighbors turned lovers from 2007 to 2017, but you may not realize the actors also dated in secret for two years. They got together soon after meeting on the show but decided to end their romance in 2009.
Cuoco first opened up about their relationship during a September 2010 interview with “CBS Watch!” and had nothing but good things to say about it. “It was such a huge part of my life and no one knew about it,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve ever talked about it, ever. It was a wonderful relationship, but we never spoke a word about it and never went anywhere together.” Later, she added, “We knew we weren’t destined to be together. We accepted it and said, ‘Look, if we ever break up, we will be professional.’ I’m so lucky it was a mutual ending and that we don’t hate each other.”
Galecki expressed a similar sentiment during his own interview with “CBS Watch!” in December 2013, saying he and Cuoco remained close, per Us Weekly. “We’re dear friends, still. Kaley’s not just an ex – she’s a part of my life,” he said. “I just don’t like to speak about it. And not because I’m trying to be enigmatic; I just worry that it will conflict with people’s acceptance of Leonard and Penny. I get the curiosity, but I don’t want to distract from the story.”
In 2022, Cuoco revealed she’d developed a crush on Galecki immediately. “I was so not even hiding it,” she told Vanity Fair. “He has such swagger.”
Sara Gilbert and Johnny Galecki
Cuoco wasn’t the first onscreen love interest Galecki ever romanced. Though it’s unclear how long they dated, Galecki and his “Roseanne” costar Gilbert dated while playing David and Darlene between 1988 and 1997, and they even reunited for the series reboot over 20 years later in 2018.
During a September 2013 episode of “The Talk,” Gilbert revealed that she realized she was gay while dating Galecki. “I thought he was super cute and had a crush on him,” she recounted. “We started dating, and he would come over and we would, like, make out, and then I would start to get depressed . . . I eventually told him I thought it was about my sexuality, and he was super sweet about it.” Galecki supported her and the two were able to maintain a close friendship.
Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper
Seyfried and Cooper started up their romance while filming “Mamma Mia” in 2008 and went on to date until 2011. Six years later, the exes reprised their roles as husband and wife Sky and Sophie for “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again.”
During a July 2019 interview with Attitude, Cooper said that he and Seyfried had no issues filming the sequel. “She’s a friend,” he said. “It was always going to be okay. You just have to be delicate with those situations. She’s married now and has a beautiful child. We knew we were going to be working together [again] on a set, going back to a part which was certainly going to remind us of 10 years earlier, but I know her family. I know her mum, who was there a lot. It was a pleasant atmosphere. It was really interesting to see how different our lives are after 10 years. It is a long time and it was nice to spend time [with her].”
Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson
While filming “The O.C.,” Brody and Bilson’s onscreen romance led to an IRL relationship, though the actors decided to split after three years of dating. However, they continued to play Seth and Summer until the show ended in 2007, and their characters even got married.
The former couple have kept quiet about their on-set relationship post-breakup, but a run-in at an airport proved that there’s no bad blood between the two. In August 2019, Bilson posted an Instagram from JFK, where she coincidentally ran into her ex. “Ran into my ol buddy from jfk to lax #californiaherewecome,” she captioned the selfie.
Jennifer Morrison and Jesse Spencer
Morrison and Spencer met on the set of “House” in 2004, and it wasn’t long before they struck up a romance. They went on to date for three years – and even got engaged – before deciding to split, and their onscreen characters, Allison and Robert, ended up divorcing before Morrison left the series in 2010. Following their split, the exes released a statement to People just months before they were due to get married. “After much consideration, we have decided not to get married,” they wrote. “We are still very close, and we look forward to continuing to work together on ‘House.'”
Since then, the two haven’t explicitly discussed the end of their relationship, but Spencer told Time Out in October 2012 that he probably wouldn’t date another actor. “All of my girlfriends have been actors, and I’ve realized that maybe it’s not for me – and find something else outside of the industry,” he said.
Madelyn Cline and Chase Stokes
Cline and Stokes play lovers on “Outer Banks,” and they also began dating in real life the year the show’s first season came out. Sources confirmed their relationship to People in June 2019, and the pair went on to share some romantic moments in the public eye before eventually splitting up in November 2021. As of 2023, Stokes has since embarked on a new relationship with country musician Kelsea Ballerini. Cline also shared that she’s living with a new boyfriend in a December 2022 interview with The Cut, though she hasn’t revealed his identity.
Ultimately, Stokes and Cline seem determined to keep things professional while working on their show. “Mads and I have been working together now for 30 episodes, and we made a promise to each other before we even started dating that the work was always going to come first,” Stokes told Entertainment Weekly in February 2023 shortly before the premiere of season three. “And that no matter what happens in our personal lives, and the ways that life sometimes takes you in different directions, that we’re always going to honor the work. That stayed 100 percent truthful this season.” Cline echoed his sentiments in the interview. “We had a working relationship before we had a personal relationship, and our job from day one has always been to leave the show better than we found it,” she said.