Hits & Misses: Actor Recastings On Popular TV SeriesPublished on August 16, 2019. Updated May 21, 2020
When it comes to creating a successful television series, there are a lot of moving parts that need to come together, but one of the biggest is chemistry in the cast. It is quite common for actors and actresses to be recast after pilot episodes and several series have done last minute actor replacements for specific characters, but others have been bold enough to replace actors or actresses mid-series. An actor/actress switch in an established show is always a shock to fans, and sometimes it ends up working out well, while sometimes there is major backlash from audiences. Check out some of the most memorable recastings:
14. Hit: Friends – Carol
In the first season of Friends, Ross and Carol’s failed relationship was one of the main storylines, and in that time audience saw two Carol Willicks. In the pilot episode “The One With The Sonogram At The End,” Anita Barone starred as Carol who tells Ross she is pregnant after ending the relationship because she is a lesbian. Inexplicably, a whole new Carol appeared in the episodes following, and Jane Sibbett took over the role for the remainder of the series. It was later explained that Barone asked to leave the series after one episode because she didn’t feel like the part was big enough. Odds are Barone regretted the decision and Sibbett made an excellent Carol for the rest of the series.
13. Miss: Laurie – That ’70s Show
That ’70s Show had a few character shakeups in the last two seasons that didn’t land well with fans. In season six, after five seasons with Lisa Robin Kelly in the role of Eric’s older sister Laurie Forman, the actress was replaced by Christina Moore because of Kelly’s increasing battle with alcohol. After five seasons, no one could pull off the jokes and relationship that Laurie had with the other characters quite like Lisa Robin Kelly and her replacement just wasn’t the same. Many fans felt like Christina Moore’s Laurie felt like a whole new character rather than the same Laurie she was supposed to be.
12. Hit: The Honeymooners – Alice
The Honeymooners is one of the most iconic television series despite only lasting one season, and quite a few actresses have taken on the role of Alice Kramden. When The Honeymooners first premiered actress Pert Kelton took on the role of Alice opposite Jackie Gleason’s Ralph Kramden, but after seven episodes she was replaced by Audrey Meadows who made everyone absolutely forget about the original Alice. Although The Honeymooners technically only lasted for one season, Gleason continued the skits and the characters on The Jackie Gleason Show where both Sheila MacRae and Sue Ane Langdon had turns playing Alice. Despite four women in the role, Meadows was by the far the best and most memorable.
11. Hit/Miss: Daario Nahris – Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones has replaced a couple of characters throughout its eight seasons, but the most significant was the recast of Daario Naharis. Ed Skrein portrayed the important role in the show’s third season but when season four began Daario looked like a whole new man, and that is because he was! After Skrein landed the lead role in The Transporter: Refueled, he left the series and actor Michiel Huisman became Daario. While fans didn’t particularly hate the recasting, it was certainly a little confusing because the two Daario’s looked completely different! Skrein’s had a very Norwegian face structure with long light hair while Huisman’s Daario has short dark hair and a beard. When a recast has to be done, usually producers try to find very similar looking stars so as not to make the recast so obvious, but that certainly wasn’t the case on Game of Thrones.
10. Hit: James – True Blood
True Blood made a very big move in its seventh and final season when it recast one of its most important characters, James. When the character was introduced in season six, the role was played by actor Luke Grimes and became a pivotal part of storylines. Fans were then taken aback when the series returned for season seven and James was being played by a new actor, Nathan Parsons. Although the replacement was startling, it was more than necessary and actually worked out for the best. As it turns out, Grimes left the role after he learned that his character was headed for a bisexual storyline with Nelsan Ellis’ Lafayette character and Grimes was upset because he didn’t want to “play gay.” Although Grimes tried to say his exit had nothing to do with storylines the cast and crew told a different story and for the sake of the character and integrity to the show and commitment to the storyline, recasting with Nathan Parsons was the best move they could have made after a difficult situation.
9. Hit: Cagney – Cagney & Lacey
Recasting a main character is always a risky move, but it is more so when that character is in the show’s title! When Cagney & Lacey first came to the small screen in the form of a TV movie, Loretta Swit held the role of Christine Cagney, but had to decline the role in the series when she could not break her MASH contract. The show went to series with actress Meg Foster in the role but after six episodes when it was deemed the show was going to continue, CBS felt that Foster was too “aggressive” and she was let go. Sharon Gless was soon cast in the role and audiences appreciated the change. Gless did such a good job that many fans don’t even remember that the series started out with a completely different Christine Cagney.
8. Hit: Claire – My Wife and Kids
My Wife and Kids ran for five seasons from 2001 to 2005 and after the first season there was a small cast shakeup. In season one, actress Jazz Raycole played the middle Kyle child Claire Kyle who was a sweet preteen. Heading into season two however Raycole’s mother had an issue with an upcoming storyline where Claire’s friend gets pregnant and pulled her daughter from the role. As a result, Jennifer Freeman was brought in for season two until the end of the series and all of a sudden Claire Kyle was a 14-year-old with an attitude and very vain, but hilarious. The aging up and change in Claire due to the recast ended up being for the better and fans were happy to embrace the “new” Claire. My Wife and Kids didn’t shy away from the recast and addressed it in the season two premiere when Claire’s father, Michael, played by Damon Wayans sees her coming down the stairs and says, “I don’t know what it is, but you look like a whole new person!”
7. Hit: Becky – Roseanne
The replacement of Becky Conner on Roseanne is one of the most memorable actor recasts in TV history. After five seasons as Becky, actress Lecy Goranson opted to leave the role in order to focus on school, and she was promptly replaced by Sarah Chalke for seasons six and seven. By season eight, Goranson wanted the role back but her school schedule made filming difficult so she and Chalke even shared the role for a season which was the butt of some jokes because Becky looked completely different in episodes depending on if Goranson or Chalke filmed it. In the final season, Chalke became the final Becky until the series’ revival nearly 20 years later where Roseanne continued to add confusion by bringing Goranson back as Becky but casting Chalke as a whole new character! Despite the flipping between the two actresses, Roseanne is one of the few series to actually pull off a recasting without completely angering fans who were actually very supportive of the two Beckys.
6. Miss: Darren – Bewitched
From the pilot episode of Bewitched until season five in 1969, actor Dick York took on the role of Darrin Stephens until a back injury he incurred while filming forced him to quit. In response, the role was recast instead of eliminated and Dick Sargent became the new Darrin. Despite a valiant attempt, Sargent just couldn’t recreate the chemistry that York and Elizabeth Montgomery had created after five seasons of playing a married couple. Although the show continued on for three more seasons with Sargent in the role, ratings continually declined after the recasting and the cancellation was inevitable.
5. Hit: Aunt Viv – Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
After three great seasons as Aunt Vivian on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, actress Janet Hubert was removed from the popular series due to alleged issues with NBC and with the show’s star Will Smith. In the season four premiere, Daphne Maxwell Reid was the new Aunt Viv and the show continued on flawlessly. Although some fans were upset about the change, specifically what they saw as a change in the character with Hubert’s Aunt Viv being stern and Reid’s Aunt Viv was more soft and amicable, the change was soon overlooked. Reid had a successful three seasons as Aunt Viv and man fans forgot that the replacement even happened!
4. Hit/Miss: Several – Last Man Standing
Not many shows have gone through as many recastings as Last Man Standing has. In the early seasons Kristin was played by Alexandra Krosney before she was replaced by Amanda Fuller because of “creative differences” meanwhile her son Boyd was played by two young boys but was recast to Flynn Morrison when they aged-up the character to five years old. While those recastings didn’t startle audiences too much, things were different after the show returned following a brief cancellation and moved networks from NBC to Fox. In the summer of 2018, it was announced that Molly McCook had taken over the role of Mandy Baxter, previously played by Molly Ephraim, while once again Boyd Baxter was also recast. Jet Jurgensmeyer took over the role of Boyd in yet another effort to age-up the character, but it was definitely the recasting of Mandy that angered fans the most. The backlash was so severe that the old Mandy, Molly Ephraim, was forced to delete her entire Twitter account while the new actress, Molly McCook took the backlash in stride, sharing, “I’m not THAT Mandy. I’m THIS Mandy. I get it. I promise to love and respect your favorite show and YOU.”
3. Hit: Jesus Adams Foster – The Fosters
After two successful seasons as one of the most popular characters on The Fosters, Jake T. Austin revealed that his role as Jesus Adams Foster was being recast. Fans were livid with the news, especially after the actor explained that he was asked to only return for three episodes in season three but was still being restricted from working on other projects. As a result, the role was taken over by actor Noah Centineo who stayed on as Jesus for the remainder of the series. It turns out everyone including the rest of the show’s stars and producers loved working with Centineo and Jesus Adams Fosters was seen in far more than just three episodes in season three. Although avid fans were still upset about the recasting, Noah Centineo has an irresistible charm that made the replacement work and is why he is one of the biggest young stars in Hollywood right now.
2. Miss: Kaitlin Cooper – The O.C.
The O.C. admittedly ran into some issues after its amazing first two seasons, and one part of the problem was the reintroduction of Marissa’s younger sister Kaitlin Cooper. In the first season, a young Shailene Woodley portrayed the much younger sister of Marissa Cooper, but when she returned from boarding school in season three, she was a completely different person. When the character was brought back, Willa Holland was recast in the role and it seemed like a whole new character. How much Kaitlin Cooper aged in only three years didn’t make a lot of sense, but when the character became a pivotal part of the show, fans really did not like her and Willa Holland took the fall for ruining Kaitlin Cooper.
1. Hit: Reggie Mantle – Riverdale
In 2017, actor Ross Butler found himself in a situation that any actor would dream of. That year, Butler had a role in two of Netflix’s biggest new teen series, first as Reggie Mantle in Riverdale and then as Zach in 13 Reasons Why. Following the incredible success of both series, Butler made the difficult decision to leave Riverdale to focus on 13 Reasons Why and Charles Melton was hired as the new Reggie. While Butler did a great job as Reggie in season one, the character didn’t become prominent on Riverdale until season two and into season three, and Melton has since swept fans off their feet and made the character his own to the point where many don’t remember Butler ever being Reggie.