I know that this may come as a surprise to some of you, but many of those iconic television roles that we associate the likes of Bryan Cranston, Steve Buscemi, and Jon Hamm with WERE OFFERED TO OTHER PEOPLE FIRST. It’s true! Our television landscape could’ve been completely different: We could be hating on Rob Heubel right now, for instance, or there could be countless Internet memes devotes to John Cusack (man, talk about a terrible left turn that could’ve been).
Anyway, I love to look at the early casting considerations for movies, but I’ve never collected a list of them for television shows … until now.
Take a look at who could’ve ended up playing 20 television roles that are now forever linked in our minds to the actor or actress who made those roles famous.
1. Christina Hendricks auditioned to play Midge Daniels in Mad Men, which means she could’ve been a one season and done cast member.
2. John Slattery originally auditioned to play Don Draper in Mad Men.
3. Rob Huebel also auditioned to play Don Draper. Weird.
4. John Cusack and Matthew Broderick were considered for the role of Walter White in Breaking Bad. Eek.
5. Alec Baldwin was considered for the role of Nucky Thompson in Boardwalk Empire. I could see that.
6. Donnell Rawlings was originally considered for the role of Omar Little before he was cast as Damien ‘Day-Day’ Price.
7. Likewise, Seth Gilliam originally auditioned to play Stringer Bell before he was cast as Detective Ellis Carver.
8. Norman Reedus originally auditioned to play his brother on the show, Merle Dixon. They liked Reedus’ audition so much that they invented the character of Daryl Dixon for him.
9. In “Lost,” Yunjin Kim originally auditioned for the character of Kate. The producers felt she was not what they were looking for in Kate, but decided to create a new character for her, along with a spouse.
10. Forest Whitaker was originally cast as Sawyer in “Lost.”
11. Michael Keaton was also originally cast as Jack in “Lost,” and that character was supposed to die early on, but after ABC decided not to kill the show’s hero, Michael Keaton was elevated to a series regular and backed out, not wanting to commit.
12. In Sons of Anarchy, Scott Glen was originally cast in the role of Clay Morrow; in fact, they shot the pilot episode with Glenn, but they re-shot the pilot with Ron Perlman after Kurt Sutter decided to take it in a different direction.
13. Julie Benz (Rita Bennett) originally auditioned for the role of Debra Morgan in Dexter.
14. Dominic West (The Wire) was offered the role of Mance Rayder in Game of Thrones, but declined.
15. In “Homeland,” Laura Fraser originally played Jessica Brody in the pilot but was replaced by Morena Baccarin before the first airing.
16. Gillian Anderson turned down the role of Lady Grantham in Downton Abbey.
17. Eugene Levy was considered for the role of Toby Ziegler in West Wing.
18. Jon Cryer was considered for the role of Will Bailey, the character that replaced Rob Lowe’s character, played by Joshua Malina.
19. Juliette Lewis auditioned for the role of Brenda in Six Feet Under
20. Anna Faris auditioned for the role of Claire in Six Feet Under. She was laughed out of the casting room.