Casting can be a tricky thing. Finding an actor who can totally embody a role, who has the free time in their schedule, the perfect level of audience draw, and who has no issues with anyone else working on the project, all at the right price? It’s a tough call for anyone to make, especially knowing that the stars can be the ones to make or break a show.
So, what to do when a show is going well, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that a casting decision was not the right one? Sometimes, actors have to pull out, and in an ideal world, that happens with enough notice to allow their character to be appropriately written out of the series. However, when that character is a major player, or their reason for leaving is completely unexpected, writing someone off just isn’t possible.
It’s times like these that create one of the most frustrating experiences for fans of a TV show: seeing a major character suddenly and inexplicably re-cast part way through the series… and sometimes even partway through a season.
Fans are left shaking their heads as no-one in their favorite fictional world even notices when their friends and family members suddenly show up with a whole new face or are now several years older than when we last saw them. Nope, in TV-land, the shows must go on, even after these fifteen stars dropped out of them.
With that said, here are the 15 TV Actors Who Were Shockingly Replaced Mid-Series.
15 Penny (The Big Bang Theory)
Kaley Cuoco has become synonymous with the central female character of this nerd-sitcom, but she wasn’t the original choice for The Big Bang Theory’s Penny. The role was actually recast after the original pilot.
Before Cuoco took over, the female lead’s name was Katie, and she was played by Amanda Walsh. Unlike Penny, Walsh’s Katie was far more hardbitten, sarcastic, and quite mean at times, and ended the pilot living with Leonard and Sheldon, not moving in across the hall.
The second version of the character, with her softer, sweeter side, and ditzy approach to life is a far more appealing option-- it’s no wonder that this major change was made before The Big Bang Theory hit the air.
14 Meg Griffin (Family Guy)
This one is a hard one to spot, because it’s the voice actress that changed in an animated series. The downtrodden (and increasingly insane) daughter of Family Guy’s Griffins, Meg, was voiced by Rachael MacFarlane in the original pilot, before Lacey Chabert took over for the first season.
Chabert ended up leaving after season one, however, at which point Mila Kunis took over and became commonly known as the voice of Meg.
One or two others have also voiced Meg for various reasons over the years-- John Viener became Meg post-sex-change, aka Ron, for a single episode, as well as some substitutes for singing episodes. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Kunis is going anywhere after voicing Meg for fifteen seasons.
13 Carol Willick (Friends)
Ross’s lesbian ex-wife and mother to his son, Ben, was re-cast after her very first episode. We first meet Carol when she is played by Anita Barone, in "The One With The Sonogram At The End", when she comes to the museum to tell Ross that she is pregnant with his child.
For the rest of Friends’ ten-year run, Carol was played by Jane Sibbett, who had originally auditioned for the main cast. However, as she was pregnant at the time, the producers told her that it simply wouldn’t work, but that they would keep her in mind for another part.
As for Barone, she reportedly quit the show after only one episode because she didn’t think that the part was big enough-- a decision that she undoubtedly regrets today.
12 Lily Tucker-Pritchett (Modern Family)
This may be one of the few mid-series re-casts that most of the audience is probably unaware of, as the change was made at a point in time when the character of Lily was still a baby.
Twins Jaden and Ella Hiller played the adopted daughter of Cam and Mitchell for the first two seasons of Modern Family, when she was a newly-adopted infant.
However, by the end of the second season, they "retired" in order to simply enjoy being toddlers with a normal life, rather than hard-working child actors.
From season 3 onwards, the part was taken over by Aubrey Anderson-Emmons-- and while she and the twins undoubtedly look very different now, toddlers change so quickly as they grow up that Modern Family could sneak in this re-cast without much difficulty at all.
11 Laurie Forman (That ‘70s Show)
The role of Eric Forman’s older sister Laurie was played by Lisa Robin Kelly for the first five seasons of That ‘70s Show, a recurring role that saw her return home from college in order to cause chaos in Point Place.
However, when season 6 began, Laurie was now being played by Christina Moore, another pretty blonde who appeared for a few episodes. The switch was never mentioned, although the finale included a joke about the fact that Laurie didn’t appear in the last two seasons at all, which was a nod to the change.
Sadly, the re-cast was due to issues with an alcohol addiction-- one that the young star never managed to beat, and Lisa Robin Kelly passed away of an overdose in 2013.
10 Kaitlin Cooper (The OC)
Everyone goes through some changes if they are sent to boarding school, but in the case of Marissa’s spoiled brat of a little sister, Kaitlin, these changes were a little more extensive: she returned as a totally new person.
Kaitlin appeared in the first season of The OC played by Shailene Woodley, of Divergent fame, before the character returned in the third season with a new face: that of Willa Holland.
In the interim, Kaitlin was off-screen because she was away at boarding school, and returned to wreak havoc as a teenager. When the character returned, Woodley did actually re-audition for the part, but as a late bloomer, she was deemed to still look a little too young and innocent for the part.
9 Aunt Vivian (The Fresh Prince)
For the first three seasons of The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, the incomparable Aunt Viv was played by Janet Hubert… who left the show after season three, thanks to a very intense and public spat with star Will Smith.
In the years since Hubert has left the show, she has spoken about Smith’s alleged "arrogance" and "immaturity," as well as his refusal to help the rest of the cast get a better deal when it came to contract re-negotiation.
When Hubert couldn’t get a contract that she was happy with, she left, and was replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid for the rest of the series. Now, over twenty years later, Hubert is still upset about the feud, although there’s no way of knowing exactly what happened to cause her split from The Fresh Prince.
8 Tommen and Myrcella Baratheon (Game Of Thrones)
Game of Thrones has such a huge cast of characters (despite constantly killing them off), that it wasn’t too difficult to slip a cast-change past viewers-- in fact, several characters have been recast since season one.
Two of Cersei’s children, Tommen and Myrcella, were both recast in order to age them a bit for more mature storylines. Tommen, originally played by Callum Wharry for seasons one and two, was replaced with Dean Charles Chapman in season four in order to deal with Margaery’s advances, their marriage, and eventually, his death.
Meanwhile, Tommen’s sister Myrcella was also re-cast after the second season when Nell Tiger Free replaced the younger Aimee Richardson in time for her own royal romance and demise.
7 Ann Veal (Arrested Development)
Unlike every other entry on this list, the part of Ann Veal, the incredibly forgettable sometimes-girlfriend of George Michael, was actually intended to be played by more actors than it eventually was.
The original plan for the series was to highlight the intentional blandness of the uber-religious Veal by having her played by a different actor in every appearance, but she was actually only played by two different women: Alessandra Torresani in her first episode and then Mae Whitman for the remaining fifteen episodes in which Ann appears.
Her forgettable face was even referenced in her first appearance, when Maeby described her by saying "she barely has a face. You couldn’t pick her out of a lineup of one." Much as we love Whitman, it’s actually a shame that she stuck around-- sixteen different Anns would have been amazing.
6 Basically Everyone (Last Man Standing)
Tim Allen’s latest family sitcom, Last Man Standing, didn’t just recast one, but three of the main Baxter family members between seasons one and two.
In a family of seven, that’s a big change-- but once the first round of recasts were complete, the cast remained the same for the following five seasons. In the first season, Kristin was played by Alexandra Krosney before being replaced by Amanda Fuller due to "creative differences."
Kristin’s son, Boyd, was originally played by twins Luke and Evan Kruntchev, but was recast with Flynn Morrison during the switch up in order to age the character from a baby to a five year old.
Finally, Boyd’s father, Ryan was played by Nick Jonas in a single episode the first season, before the part was taken over by Jordan Masterson.
5 Daario Naharis (Game Of Thrones)
Another switch-up from Game of Thrones, Daenerys’s lover and advisor Daario Naharis looks very different in his earliest appearances. In season 3, when Naharis first joined the show as a member of the Second Sons, he was played by Ed Skrein. Michiel Huisman then took over for seasons four through six (and presumably season 8).
It was originally reported that scheduling conflicts between Game of Thrones and The Transporter Refuelled (in which Skrein plays Frank Martin Jr.) were the reason for his departure, but Skrein later blamed "politics," saying that he would have preferred to stay with the role for the long haul.
It seems like he’s still sore about being booted from Westeros, although his role in Deadpool (as Ajax) has probably soothed those wounds a little.
4 Becky Conner (Roseanne)
The oldest Conner daughter, Becky, wasn’t just re-cast part-way through Roseanne, but brought back… before the series went back again to the re-cast actress.
From season one through season five, Becky was played by Lecy Goranson, who left to go to college. With Goranson gone, the role of Becky went to Sarah Chalke, who played her until season eight… at which point, Goranson came back, and the two shared the role for a season, before Chalke took over again in season nine.
Confusing as this was, it seems that the reason behind this was that producers desperately wanted to find a way to get Goranson back on board. They offered her higher pay and attempted to share the role so that Goranson could fit Roseanne into her schedule, but it was just too difficult.
3 Batman’s Villains (Batman)
The iconic Batman TV series of the ‘60s starred Adam West as the titular Dark Knight, but when it came to its villains, the producers were happy to switch things up on a regular basis.
Catwoman was played by three different women (Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, and Lee Merriweather in the film), with no explanation as to why Catwoman suddenly looked very different.
Similarly, there were multiple versions of Mr Freeze (played by Eli Wallach, Otto Preminger, and George Sanders) and two Riddlers (Frank Gorshin and John Astin).
Some of these changes were down to scheduling conflicts, and some also saw the original actor return to pick up the role again later in the series… none of which was considered an issue, as long as Batman was still having his madcap adventures.
2 Cousin Marilyn (The Munsters)
The classic-horror take on the American sitcom, The Munsters didn’t have a particularly long run, but still managed to need one of the main characters re-cast partway through.
Cousin Marilyn was originally played by Beverley Owen, who was on contract with Universal, but she was never happy in the part. Owen has since said that she didn’t want to take the role, especially as it would mean living apart from the man she loved (who was in New York).
She felt forced to take it, and struggled through the first 13 episodes before quitting, moving back to New York, and getting married. Pat Priest then took over the role of Marilyn for the rest of the series, while Owen struggled to deal with the fallout from breaking her contract.
1 Darrin Stephens (Bewitched)
Darrin, the sweetly hapless husband of witchy Samantha was originally played by Dick York when Bewitched first aired in 1964. The clean-cut York was the perfect fit for the part, balancing Elizabeth Montgomery’s spell-casting housewife, and was even nominated for an Emmy for the role.
So it was a shock for fans when York left Bewitched in 1969, to be replaced by Dick Sargent. The switch was made because a back injury of York’s was making it impossible for him to continue in a role that involves a significant amount of slapstick and physical comedy-- the actor was often barely able to stand due to the amount of pain he was in, and was having to take a cocktail of daily drugs to push through it.
Despite Sargent’s talents, Bewitched was simply never the same without York, and the series was cancelled soon after.
Can you think of any other actors who were replaced mid-way through a series? Sound off in the comments!