Big Bang Theory: What happened to Dr Stephanie Barnett? Why did she leave?

In the first few seasons of The Big Bang Theory, it was clear to see the Leonard Hofstadter (played by Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) romance would dominate the CBS series. However, it was also evident it wouldn’t be straight forward for the pair with other relationships proving to be obstacles in their way. One such obstacle was between Leonard and Dr Stephanie Barnett (Sara Rue), although it wasn’t to last as the actor left after just three episodes.

What happened to Dr Stephanie Barnett on Big Bang Theory?

Stephanie was first introduced to Big Bang viewers in season two episode The Lizard-Spock Expansion.

Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) managed to woo her while in a bar by promising her she could “drive a car on Mars”.

However, it didn’t go to plan and Howard needed Leonard to take Stephanie home while he, Raj (Kunal Nayyar) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) tried to prevent the Mars Rover from crashing.

It soon became clear Stephanie had no interest in dating Howard and soon she and Leonard were kissing in his car.

Leonard and Stephanie began dating afterwards, much to the anger of Howard but they soon won him around by setting him up with one of her friends.


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After a conversation with Penny, Leonard decided to try and take things slower, which was met by a furious reaction by Stephanie.

However, when he tried to do so in season two, episode 10, Leonard and Stephanie ended up sleeping together.

He ultimately decided to break things off over text although he did end up sleeping with her one more time.

 After this, viewers never saw Stephanie again and Leonard’s attention soon turned back to Penny.

So why did Sara Rue leave the role of Stephanie after just three episodes?


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It turns out Rue left because Stephanie was only ever signed up for a “multi-episode run”, not in a recurring or main cast capacity.

The series creator Bill Prady broke the news to TVGuide back in 2008 when she was first cast in the role.

Therefore, the reason for Rue’s exit from Big Bang was solely down to the character’s time coming to an end.

Her exit paved way for the Penny/Leonard romance to blossom.

Since playing Stephanie, Rue has gone on to star in ABC cop drama The Rookie, Netflix Original series A Series of Unfortunate Events and CBS sitcom Rules of Engagement.

The Big Bang Theory is available to stream on Netflix now.