When casting directors begin to piece together their ensembles, they generally have a rough idea of what they want in their characters: Their race, their age, their gender, and maybe even their hair color. But sometimes, people who do not fit the description come in and audition anyway. In very rare instances, those auditions are so good that the casting directors end up changing the character to suit the actor, instead of finding an actor to suit the character. In even rarer instances, characters are created specifically for an actor who was so good auditioning for a different roles.
Here are ten of those instances.
1. Saved by the Bell.
Role: Lisa. Original Character Description: White, Jewish princess from Long Island.
Cast Instead: Lark Voorhies
Role: Mr. Belding.
Original Character Description: Male, Black, in his 50s.
Cast Instead: Dennis Haskins
Role: Agent Dana Scully
Original Character Description: Someone “taller, leggier, blonder and breastier” than the woman that Chris Carter wanted for the role, Gillian Anderson.
Cast Instead: Gillian Anderson
3. Agents of Shield
Role: Agent Althea Rice
Original Character Description: A white woman, known as “The Cavalry.”
Cast Instead: Ming-Na Wen (and changed the character name to Melinda May)
Role: Sun-Hwa Kwon
Original Description: Did not exist
Cast Instead: Yunjin Kim, who actually auditioned for Kate, but was liked so much, they created the character of Sun-Hwa Kwon for her.
5. House, M.D.
Role: Gregory House
Original Description: No non-Americans, and especially no British actors (because their American accents were poor).
Cast Instead: Hugh Laurie (who director/exec producer Bryan Singer didn’t realize was not American because of his flawless Boston accent. In fact, Singer singled Laurie out as an example of the kind of compelling American actor he had been looking for.)
6. Doctor Who
Role: The Doctor
Original Description: After David Tennant, Steven Moffat insisted that he would not go younger with the character and that he wanted someone who was at least middle age.
Cast Instead: Matt Smith, who impressed Moffat to such an extent in auditions that he had to cast him (Peter Capaldi, who is replacing Matt Smith, may have been more in line with what Moffat was thinking at the time).
7. Grey’s Anatomy
Role: Miranda Bailey
Original description: Blonde, hard-nosed white woman.
Cast Instead: Chandra Wilson
8. Criminal Minds
Original description: A middle-aged Mexican man
Cast Instead: Kirsten Vangsness
Role: Slade Wilson
Original description: An American (in fact, the character was American in the comics, too)
Cast Instead: Manu Bennett, a New Zealander of Maori descent
10. The Walking Dead
Role: Daryl Dixon
Original description: Did not exist
Cast Instead: Norman Reedus, who originally auditioned for Merle Dixon. They liked him so much they created the character of Daryl for him.