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12 Notable TV Characters Who Were Completely Recast After The Pilot

By / 03.20.14

It often happens that, when a network decides to pick up a pilot, they like everything about it except maybe one character, or maybe the actor or actress who plays a particular character drops out after the pilot is shot. In those cases, the role has to be recast and scenes have to be filmed again (though, on occasion, some residual shots of the recast character remain). Below are 12 instances in which an actor played a notable television role, only to be recast and edited out of the pilot.

1. Fred Dryer (pictured below) was originally cast as Sam Malone in Cheers, but after he was recast with Ted Danson, the character was changed from a former football player to a former baseball player. Dryer would appear later in the series as a sports reporter.

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2. Rachel Dratch was originally cast as Jenna in 30 Rock, before NBC put pressure on the network to recast the character with someone prettier, aka, Jane Krakowski. Most people know that.

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However, many people do not know that the original 30 Rock pilot also had a different Cerie Xerox (Katrina Bowden). I have no idea what the actress’ name is, but this is what she looked like (she was recast because apparently, she was too young):


3. Instead of Joe Rogan, the original Newsradio pilot had a janitor-like character named Rick played by Greg Lee (top of the photo).

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4. You may recognize the character actress below, Frances Fisher, from Resurrection. She was originally cast in the role of Jill Taylor, Tim Allen’s wife in Home Improvement. She was replaced by Patricia Richardson when Fisher didn’t test well with audiences.

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5. Related: Stephen Tobolowsky was originally supposed to be Tim Allen’s sidekick on Home Improvement, but due to a film commitment, he couldn’t do it. Richard Karn, instead, was cast as Al Borland.

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Tobolowsky was also originally cast as the principal in the pilot for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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6. Speaking of Buffy, Willow (Alyson Hannigan) was originally played by Riff Regan.


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7. Several characters have been recast in Game of Thrones, but perhaps most notably, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) was originally played by Tamzin Merchant and Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) was originally played by Jennifer Ehle in the pilot.

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8. Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) was originally played by John Posey before being recast. It would’ve been a completely different show (and probably one that would’ve been cancelled after one season).

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9. See the woman on the top right of this photo? Her name is Elizabeth Ward. She was the original Carol Seaver (Tracy Gold) in the pilot.


10. Rebecca Gayheart played Inara in the original pilot for Joss Whedon’s Firefly, but all her scenes were reshot with Morena Baccarin.

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11. Lou Ferrigno’s role was originally played by Richard Kiel in the television version of The Incredible Hulk. Kiel is better known as Jaws from Bond.

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12. Doctor Who fans might appreciate this: Howard Attfield was originally cast as Donna Noble’s father, but he died during filming and was replaced by Bernard Cribbins (who would be a Who companion during a Christmas episode).


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