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It’s been over 15 years since H2O: Just Add Water first premiered, but the show continues to find new audiences thanks to streaming platforms. An Australian series, the show also developed a North American fan base when it began airing on Nickelodeon. Because of the show’s success, many fans were shocked when Claire Holt (who portrayed Emma Gilbert) didn’t return for the third and final season. But why did the actor leave the show?

H2O: Just Add Water cast members: Cariba Heine, Phoebe Tonkin, and Claire Holt
‘H2O: Just Add Water’ cast members: Cariba Heine, Phoebe Tonkin, and Claire Holt | Kristian Dowling/Getty Image

What is ‘H2O: Just Add Water’ about?

H2O: Just Add Water followed three girls, Emma Gilbert, Cleo Sertori (Phoebe Tonkin), and Rikki Chadwick (Cariba Heine) who were doing their best to navigate life as teenagers. Of course, their adolescence was made more difficult because they were also mermaids. Anytime a droplet of water interacted with their skin, they would transform into mermaids if they didn’t dry off immediately. In addition to avoiding detection, the trio also had to be wary of the full moon and its variety of strange effects on them

Of course, being mermaids wasn’t all that bad. The girls enjoyed many underwater adventures on Mako Island. Furthermore, they also boasted magical powers. Cleo could manipulate water into any shape she wanted. Emma, on the other hand, could freeze water. And Rikki’s power was right in line with her personality and she could boil water.

Bella Hartley replaced Emma Gilbert in season 3

There was also another mermaid who joined the cast of H2O: Just Add Water. In season 3, Holt exited the show and Indiana Evans joined the cast as Bella Hartley in order to complete the trio of mermaids. Emma’s sudden absence is explained in the first episode of season 3. Rikki and Cleo share that Emma was spending the year traveling the world with her parents.

Why did Claire Holt really leave the ‘H2O: Just Add Water’ cast?

But why did Holt really leave the cast of H2O: Just Add Water? In the end, the actor left the show not for any dramatic reason but simply because of scheduling conflicts. While the show was renewed for a third season, Holt had already committed to shooting a film. The actor spent a huge chunk of 2008 shooting Messengers 2: The Scarecrow in Bulgaria. Unfortunately, for fans of H2O: Just Add Water, it meant that she couldn’t reprise her role of Emma.


‘H2O: Just Add Water’ Cast Reflect on Their Auditions

Holt may not have returned for H2O: Just Add Water Season 3, but she still has fond memories of the show. Playing Emma was the actor’s first big break in the film and TV world and she looks back at her time on the show with appreciation. Furthermore, she is still close with one of her fellow castmates. She and Tonkin both starred in the The Originals together and remain very good friends today. And though fans were sad to see Emma go, clearly Holt did what she thought was best for herself and her career.