Sometimes a TV or movie character doesn’t look the same in a later reincarnation, and it’s not because of a new hairstyle — it’s because it’s an entirely new actor!
In some cases, the actor who was originally cast for the role gets replaced before the project even makes it to the can. Here are some of the notable roles that were recast at some point in the process.
Who do you think portrayed the character best?
Jennifer Parker (‘Back to the Future’)
Elisabeth Shue replaced Claudia Wells as Marty’s girlfriend, Jennifer Parker, in “Back to the Future II” because Wells was caring for her gravely ill mother. Shue also played Jennifer in the third movie.
Becky Conner (‘Roseanne’)
The role of Becky Conner on ABC’s hit sitcom “Roseanne” was recast when the original actress playing her, Lecy Goranson, went off to college. Sarah Chalke stepped into the role, though Goranson also returned later. In the “Roseanne” revival, Goranson played Becky and Chalke played another character.
Danny Tanner (‘Full House’)
Although he’s well known for the role today, Bob Saget didn’t always play Danny Tanner on “Full House.” The pilot was originally filmed with actor John Posey in the role. He was recast with Saget in 1987 after the studio decided Saget was a better fit. Posey, meanwhile, has gone on to have a solid acting career, with recurring parts in popular shows like “ER” and “How to Get Away with Murder.”
Sookie St. James (‘Gilmore Girls’)
Alex Borstein played the original Sookie St. James on the unaired pilot of “Gilmore Girls.” But she was replaced by Melissa McCarthy in the picked-up series because Borstein had a conflict with her “MADtv” schedule. Borstein did go on to have cameos on the beloved show, though.
Aunt Viv on (‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’)
Janet Hubert did not leave the role of Aunt Vivian “Viv” Banks on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” without a fuss. She allegedly did not get along with her fellow cast members, particularly Will Smith. Daphne Reid replaced her in the fourth season of the show.
Chris Farley had almost completed recording the title voice for the movie “Shrek” when he died in 1997. Mike Myers, a friend of the late actor from their “Saturday Night Live” days, ended up replacing Farley as the iconic character before the film was released in 2001.
The Doctor (‘Dr. Who’)
The classic British TV show has had no fewer than 13 actors playing the Doctor since the show started in 1963. William Hartnell was the first Doctor Who. Jodie Whittaker is the current doctor, and the first woman to play the role. The recasting of the main role is built into “Dr. Who” with the Time Lord able to transform physical form.
Similar to “Dr. Who,” the James Bond movies has a long tradition of recasting its main character. Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and, most recently, Daniel Craig have all played Bond. With Craig about to embark on his final adventure as Agent 007 in 2020, it remains to be seen how they’ll handle casting for the next set of movies.
Queen Elizabeth II (‘The Crown’)
Claire Foy did an admirable and award-winning job as Queen Elizabeth II in the first two seasons of Netflix’s “The Crown.” But as the character ages into middle age in season three, Oscar winner Olivia Colman will step into the role for a couple seasons before she’s replaced by an older actor for the monarch’s later years.
J. Paul Getty (‘All the Money in the World’)
After the sexual assault allegations about Kevin Spacey came out in 2017, “All the Money in the World” director Ridley Scott quickly recast Spacey’s already-filmed role as J. Paul Getty. Christopher Plummer stepped into the part shortly before the movie hit theaters and ended up earning an Oscar nomination for his work in the role.
Alec Baldwin played author Tom Clancy’s famous character Jack Ryan in 1990’s “The Hunt for Red October,” but was replaced by Harrison Ford in 1992’s “Patriot Games” and its sequel, “Clear and Present Danger,” after negotiations broke down between Baldwin and studio executives. The role has also been played by Ben Affleck, Chris Pine and John Krasinski in other projects.
Darrin Stephens (‘Bewitched’)
Perhaps the best known television recasting from the early days was on “Bewitched,” where Dick Sargent replaced Dick York as the character Darrin Stephens, the husband of Samantha, in season six. York had back problems that led to his departure.
Samantha Morton recorded all of the dialogue for the operating system, also named Samantha, in “Her,” before director Spike Jonze decided to go in a different direction. He redid the voice of the character with Scarlett Johansson in the role instead.
Dumbledore (‘Harry Potter’ Films)
Albus Dumbledore was recast after the original actor playing him, Richard Harris, died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2002. Michael Gambon replaced him as the new Dumbledore starting with the third film. The role was recast a third time in 2018 when Jude Law was picked to play the young Dumbledore for the prequel film, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.”
Meg Griffin (‘Family Guy’)
Mila Kunis has voiced Meg Griffin, the daughter on “Family Guy,” since the show’s second season. But before her, Lacey Chabert was Meg’s voice. She left because of schedule conflicts. And for a short time at the start of the show, voice actor Cree Summer did the part.
Emperor Palpatine (‘Star Wars’ Films)
The evil Emperor Palpatine, also known as Darth Sidious, first appeared in holographic form in “The Empire Strikes Back.” At that point, the character was played by veteran actor Marjorie Eaton, who wore a lot of prosthetics to pull off the look. The voice, meanwhile, was that of actor Clive Revill. Starting with “Return of the Jedi,” Ian McDiarmid played Emperor Palpatine. George Lucas later reshot McDiarmid in the emperor’s scenes from “The Empire Strikes Back,” replacing inserting him into the film’s DVD releases.
Ross Geller’s Wife Carol Willick (‘Friends’)
Loyal “Friends” fans may be familiar with this swap. The first time viewers met Ross’ ex-wife, Carol, in the second episode of the first season, she was played by Anita Barone; however, in all subsequent episodes, the character was played by Jane Sibbett. Barone reportedly left the role after that one episode in pursuit of a higher-profile role, so fans most likely remember Sibbett in the role. Barone went on to star in a few other sitcoms, most notably “The Jeff Foxworthy Show.”
Rachel Dawes (‘Batman’ Movies)
Katie Holmes originally played Batman’s love interest, Rachel Dawes, in “Batman Begins.” But the actress picked a role in “Mad Money” over returning as Dawes in “The Dark Knight.” Maggie Gyllenhaal stepped in to play the character in that movie.
Ann (‘Arrested Development’)
George Michael’s girlfriend Ann on “Arrested Development” was supposed to be forgettable. So forgettable that the show originally planned to keep changing the actress playing Ann as part of the joke. Instead, just two actresses played Ann: Alessandra Toressani for one episode and Mae Whitman after that.
George McFly (‘Back to the Future’ Films)
Another “Back to the Future” recasting involved replacing Crispin Glover with Jeffrey Weissman for the second movie in the trilogy. Glover reportedly wanted too much money to return as Marty McFly’s father, George McFly. Glover later sued the film studio, saying they used a face mold he made for the first film to make Weissman look like him in the sequel.
Jodie Foster famously played FBI agent Clarice Starling in 1991’s “The Silence of the Lambs,” winning an Oscar for the role. But she declined to return for the 2001 sequel film, “Hannibal,” and the role was played by Julianne Moore instead.
Willow Rosenberg (‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’)
Alyson Hannigan wasn’t the original Willow on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” In an unaired pilot for the show, the role was played by Riff Regan, who was recast because she was too self-confident and sexy for the role. In another type of recast, Sarah Michelle Gellar took over the role of Buffy from Kristy Swanson, who had played her in the movie on which the show was based.
Jenna Maroney (’30 Rock’)
Rachel Dratch was originally cast as self-obsesses character, Jenna, on NBC’s “30 Rock” in its unaired pilot before the show went with a different take on the part, choosing Jane Krakowski. Dratch played various recurring characters and cameo parts on the show after that.
Russell Hammond (‘Almost Famous’)
Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous” had Brad Pitt as the lead band member, Russell Hammond, before Pitt dropped out because of creative differences. Billy Crudup replaced him in the role.
Catelyn Stark (‘Game of Thrones’)
Much recasting and retooling went on with HBO’s “Game of Thrones” between the show’s first, unaired pilot and HBO’s finalized show. Jennifer Ehle was originally slated to play Lady Catelyn Stark but dropped out to spend more time with her baby daughter. Michelle Fairley replaced her.
Daenerys Targaryen (‘Game of Thrones’)
Similarly, Tamzin Merchant was replaced by Emilia Clarke in the role of Daenerys Targaryen. Apparently, she wasn’t the right fit and Clarke has now run away with the role, making it one of TV’s most iconic parts in the process.
Daario Naharis (‘Game of Thrones’)
Between seasons three and four of the hit series, actor Michiel Huisman replaced Ed Skrein as Daario Naharis. Skrein said his replacement happened for political reasons. The two actors didn’t really look alike, making the change immediately apparent to fans, who appeared to prefer Huisman in the end.
Gordon (‘Sesame Street’)
Most of the human characters on “Sesame Street” have — rather incredibly — been played by the same actors throughout the show’s long run. And many “Sesame Street” viewers only remember one Gordon, who has been depicted by Roscoe Orman since 1976. But there were three other actors before him who played the friendly science teacher, including Matt Robinson, who played him for the show’s first few seasons.
Evelyn Carnahan (‘The Mummy’ Films)
In the first two “The Mummy” movies, Rachel Weisz played Evelyn Carnahan, the wife of Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser). But Weisz opted out of the third Mummy film,”The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.” Her decision reportedly was due to either scheduling conflicts with other projects or not liking the third movie’s script. Maria Bello was cast to replace her in the role.
Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
While comic book and fantasy films are often spun out into multiple overlapping movies and sequels, necessitating new casting, there are some cases in which back-to-back films by the same creative teams do replace their lead actors. This was the case when Mark Ruffalo replaced Edward Norton as Dr. Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel Studios said Norton was replaced for being creatively difficult. Norton’s agent said the studio wouldn’t meet his pay requirements. And a few years later, Norton said he just was over being the Hulk.
Julie Newmar was the first Catwoman in the “Batman” TV series that ran from 1966-1968. While the show was running, “Batman: The Movie” came out, in which Lee Meriwether played Catwoman / Ms. Kitka. (Meriwether also appeared in a small role in two episodes of the 1967 season of the show.) In the TV show’s final season, Eartha Kitt took over the iconic role.
Christine Cagney (‘Cagney & Lacey’)
There were three actresses in the role of Christine Cagney on the 1980s female cop drama “Cagney & Lacey.”
In the TV movie that first launched the show, Loretta Swit originally played Cagney. However, once the show was picked up by CBS as a midseason series, Swit wasn’t able to get out of her “M*A*S*H” contract. Instead, Meg Foster played Cagney alongside Tyne Daly’s character, Mary Beth Lacey, in the first season. Foster was replaced for the second season by Sharon Gless, who played Cagney for the rest of the show’s seven seasons and, later, in more TV movies.
Why the switcheroo? In decidedly un-PC and bigoted terms, a CBS executive at the time said the recasting was because Foster and Daley came across as “too harshly women’s lib” and gay. The network planned to cancel the show if the role wasn’t recast. So Cagney was recast with the more traditionally feminine Gless in the role.
Marilyn Munster (‘The Munsters’)
The one non-monster family member on “The Munsters,” Marilyn was originally played by Beverley Owen. But Owen was allowed to back out of her contract when she decided she wanted to move back to New York to be closer to her future husband. Pat Priest replaced Owen for the rest of the original series. Various other actors, including Christine Taylor, have played Marilyn in subsequent TV shows and movies based on “The Munsters.”
James Rhodes/War Machine (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
Air Force Lt. Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes, a buddy of Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, has been played by two different actors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Terrence Howard was Rhodes in the first “Iron Man” film, and Don Cheadle has played the character in all subsequent movies. Howard has said he was pushed out of the role after being offered a low paycheck, and that Robert Downey Jr. didn’t have his back. The two seem to have resolved any issues since.
Sarah Braverman (‘Parenthood’)
Maura Tierney filmed the original pilot for NBC’s “Parenthood,” playing the character of Sarah Braverman. But she was also battling breast cancer at the time. She ended up bowing out of the show when her cancer treatments became too hard to work into the show’s filming schedule. Lauren Graham ended up replacing her for the show’s entire run.
Lily Tucker-Pritchett (‘Modern Family’)
Mitchell and Cam’s daughter, Lily, was originally played by twin actresses Jaden and Ella Hiller. But the twins’ parents decided the kids weren’t enjoying the experience and told show creators that Jaden and Ella wouldn’t continue in the role. So in season three, the character of Lily was aged forward and replaced by just one actor, Aubrey Anderson-Emmons.
Marty McFly (‘Back to the Future’)
Filming was well underway when a decision was made to replace Eric Stoltz with Michael J. Fox in “Back to the Future.” Stoltz, apparently, was too serious to pull off the comedic aspect of the part, which was obviously the most important role in the entire blockbuster.
Laurie Forman (‘That ’70s Show’)
Lisa Robin Kelly left the role of Laurie Forman, Eric Forman’s sister, on “That ’70s Show” due to personal issues. Christina Moore finished off the role on that popular Fox sitcom. Kelly was on the show from 1998 until 2003 and Moore replaced her until the series ended in 2006.