Given that the A&E drama “The Cleaner” only lasted for two seasons, it’s probable that there aren’t a great number of people who are clamoring for the answer to this question, but for those of you who did watch the series throughout its run, I’d like a show of hands if you wondered what happened to the character of Darnell McDowell – played by Kevin Michael Richardson – after the first season.
Not that Richardson hasn’t got more than enough work to keep himself busy: he’s one of the most prolific voice actors in the animation business. At present, you probably know him best as the voice of Cleveland, Jr. on Fox’s “The Cleveland Show,” but he’s also the voice of Maurice on “The Penguins of Madagascar,” turns up with some regularity on “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” (he voices Black Manta, B’Wana Beast, and – yes! – Detective Chimp), and, on a related note, did an admirable job of stepping into Mark Hamill’s shoes as The Joker on “The Batman.” But, still, I love the guy, I thought his character on “The Cleaner” was interesting, and when Season 2 of the series premiered and he wasn’t on it, I noticed.
I ran into Richardson briefly last year at the TCA Press Tour, and I asked him what happened. In truth, he seemed pleased that someone had even noticed his absence, but as far as the reason why he’d been written out of the show, he didn’t really have much of an answer, short of saying that he’d gotten the impression that the writers had kind of hit a brick wall as far as knowing what to do with the character of Darnell.
Okay, fair enough: I understand how the business works, and I also understand that shows evolve and characters originally intended to be series mainstays unexpectedly become superfluous. While screening “The Cleaner: The Final Season” in order to write my review of the DVD set, however, I remembered the biggest reason why I’d been so annoyed with Darnell’s departure: not only was he written out of the show, but there wasn’t even so much as a mention of Darnell, let alone any sort of clarification as to his ultimate fate. Given everything that he went through with the team during the course of Season 1, this seemed like the kind of oversight that would really irk fans of the show…like, say, me…so I did what any self-respecting journalist would do: I went on Facebook, found the page for the show’s head writer, Jonathan Prince, and asked A) why Darnell was written out of the show, and B) why there was no reference to his departure from the show.