The Real Reason Hunter King Left The Young And The Restless

When Michael Mealor returns to "The Young and the Restless" in the spring of 2022 as Kyle Abbott, the character will be without his new wife, the ambitious Summer Newman Abbott, last played by actress Hunter King. Instead, he will be flying solo to confront his presumed-dead mother, Diane Jenkins (Susan Walters), now that he knows she is alive, according to Soap Opera Digest

Viewers will soon learn why he didn't bring Summer home with him. Perhaps she will just stay in Italy due to her fancy fashion job, or perhaps there is trouble in paradise for this set of newlyweds.

That doesn't mean that Summer won't return one day. She just won't be played by King. As Soap Hub reported in February, "The Young and the Restless" put out a casting call for a new Summer, but, as of this writing, no actress has won the role. 

But why isn't King returning, and why did she leave the CBS soap anyway?

Hunter King has left The Young and the Restless before

When Summer and Kyle flew off to Italy in 2021, it wasn't the first time that Hunter King departed "The Young and the Restless." King began playing a teenage Summer in 2012 but left the soap in 2016 to focus on her primetime role as Clementine Hughes in the series "Life In Pieces" (via IMDb).

When King returned to "The Young and the Restless" in 2018, Summer had become a bit manipulative and tried to seduce her mother's boyfriend, Billy Abbott (Jason Thompson), something Phyllis Summers (then played by Gina Tognoni) didn't appreciate. 

She then set her sights on her ex-fiance, Kyle Abbott, and didn't care that he was dating Lola Rosales (Sasha Calle). She wanted Kyle for herself and was determined to get him. Although Kyle married Summer, he quickly dumped her for Lola; he then dumped Lola when he realized he always wanted Summer. After a series of mishaps, Kyle and Summer took off to Italy for a new life in 2021 and married off-screen (via Soaps In Depth).

The actress was ready to move on

Although both Michael Mealor and Hunter King made one brief guest appearance in the fall of 2021 when Kyle and Summer attended Victoria Newman and Ashland Locke's wedding (via Soap Opera Digest), it's King who has decided not to return for now. However, that doesn't mean she regrets her time with "The Young and the Restless" and will always cherish playing Summer.

"I love playing Summer, she's a big part of me for the last ... almost a decade," King said on Soap Opera Digest's podcast, Dishing With Digest. "When these things happen, there's a variety of reasons why they happen, but I do hope to always have Summer in my life in some capacity. ... I know that I hold her very near and dear to my heart." 

Still, King knew she had to move on from "The Young and the Restless" despite the joy she found working there for nearly 10 years. "I just feel like I'm in a stage of growth in my life in many ways and, at this point in time, I feel I have done a lot of growing on the show, and now I feel it's time for me to grow in other ways and put myself in uncomfortable situations."

King went on to explain that she doesn't rule out a "The Young and the Restless" return one day, but, for now, she wants to try new things. Will the show's casting call result in King deciding to return to the soap? Perhaps, but that remains to be seen.