Your favorite character on your favorite television series is probably your favorite, at least partly, due to the person playing the part. We can all thank casting directors for making sure the right actor gets to the right part.
Before a show can head into production, the right cast has to be found to put it on screen. It doesn’t always come down to who has the best skills, but who is the best fit for the part.
Grant Gustin, for example, didn’t have experience playing an action star, but for a lot of the audience, he is the Flash now. Likewise, Lea Michele, despite being a Broadway darling, didn’t have experience acting for camera when she came to Glee, but the role of Rachel Berry was written for her.
The right actor can make or break a show. The CW knows that especially well since it’s a small network with a small audience. CW shows never find their ratings placing them in top spots, but that doesn’t mean the network isn’t putting out quality programming.
The network has a much narrower audience than most, and sometimes, the casting directors helping to shape the shows just don’t knock it out of the park.
We’re taking a look at just how great (and awful) their work can be with 10 Incredible CW Casting Decisions (And 10 Terrible Ones).
20 Incredible: Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin)
Inspired by a Latin soap, Jane The Virgin focuses on a young woman (Gina Rodriguez) who plans on saving her virginity for marriage, but finds herself unexpectedly impregnated during a mix-up at her doctor’s office. With an outlandish premise, the show needed someone to ground it.
Rodriguez trained at the Tisch School of the Arts as a teenager and had already appeared in a string of guest starring roles, a few independent films, and turned down the soapy Lifetime series Devious Maids before reading the script for Jane The Virgin.
In an interview with Backstage, she called it her “dream role,” and she was only the third actress to read for it, prompting creator Jennie Snyder Urman to remark, “it can’t be that easy,” after watching her read.
Rodriguez is one of only two actors on the CW to earn a Golden Globe Award for her work on the network.
19 Terrible: Katie Cassidy (Arrow)
Katie Cassidy boasts a loyal fan following thanks to work on the early seasons of Supernatural and a turn on Gossip Girl. Known for playing characters that shake things up, her casting as Laurel Lance on Arrow was exciting for so many - until the show made it to air.
Though her character eventually became the Black Canary, Cassidy’s character was plagued by soap-opera-like storylines in the first seasons of the series, which didn’t gel on a show about the rise of a superhero. Laurel was a lawyer who barely made an impression on screen, let alone in a courtroom.
When female characters like Sara (Caity Lotz) and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) were introduced, it only made Cassidy’s take on Laurel, and the writing that went with it, seem even more lackluster.
Luckily for Cassidy, her turn as villain Black Siren seems to be going better.
18 Incredible: Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)
The CW can’t really take all of the credit for casting Rachel Bloom in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. After all, the actress is also the co-creator of the show and has a hand in writing the scripts and songs for the series as well.
Co-creators Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna initially pitched to cable networks, and Showtime showed interest, but ultimately passed on the project.
The CW had only recently added Jane The Virgin to its lineup, and the network found the show a good creative fit. While recasting was possible (one of the principal actors from the original pilot for cable was recast during the move), replacing Bloom was unthinkable.
Since then, Bloom has been praised for her portrayal of a woman afflicted with mental illness, comedic timing, creative talent, and dramatic abilities.
Bloom won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy two years in a row.
17 Terrible: Thomas McDonell (The 100)
The 100 was a breath of fresh air when it debuted on the CW. With a cast of largely unknowns in the lead roles, there were bound to be some who rose above, but others… not so much.
Thomas McDonell came to The 100 with movies like Fun Size and Prom under his belt, which allowed him to play the pretty and popular guy in average teen fare, and that was largely his role as Finn as well.
The problem is that when most of your characters are on a collision course with becoming warriors, a pretty boy who briefly loses his mind just doesn’t fit the bill.
The cast of The 100 routinely turn out devastatingly heartbreaking performances, and McDonell just didn’t fit with the rest. When his character became a sacrifice to avoid war, plenty of the fandom were just fine with that move.
16 Incredible: Camila Mendes (Riverdale)
Fresh out of NYU’s prestigious drama program, Veronica Lodge is Camila Mendes’ first professional acting role. The inexperience might have been obvious with anyone else, but Mendes brings Veronica to life with perfect sincerity.
Many of the roles filled by young actors on Riverdale are done so by those with only a few credits under their belt. What makes Mendes so special? She’s got the same quality the young actors of Dawson’s Creek brought to their roles - the ability to make the audience believe even the most ridiculous reading of a line.
Mendes is able to turn on the charm to whip out dialogue that should be far above a high-schooler’s vocabulary level, but she’s also able to shrug her shoulders and pull out some quintessential Riverdale slang moments later- the perfect balance for the town’s latest queen bee.
15 Terrible: Kristin Kreuk (Beauty and the Beast)
Plenty of Smallville fans lamented the casting of Kristin Kreuk in the days of the WB, and that lamentation carried over when CW provided Kreuk with the starring vehicle of Beauty and the Beast.
Kreuk’s performance was criticized as flat and wooden by critics, and the show shed viewers every season until it was averaging less than 800,000 viewers an episode-- and still somehow managed to get a renewal.
Kreuk might not be entirely to blame for her disinterested acting though as the series writing was also lambasted by even many of its loyal fans.
A better fit for Kreuk, possibly because she has decades of experience in the industry behind her now, is her new Canadian legal drama Burden of Truth. Kreuk is also an executive producer on the series and acts as a producer on the upcoming documentary Phoolan.
14 Incredible: Devon Sawa (Nikita)
Who would have thought that the teenager trying to escape death in Final Destination could grow up to be a super spy with anger issues who saved the world? The CW, that’s who.
Devon Sawa appeared in the first season of Nikita as a “guardian” of a hard drive with secret government documents.
Fans were excited to see the familiar face, but didn’t expect him to stick around on a show that frequently killed its guest stars within three episodes. Sawa proved a popular recurring character though, and by season three, he was upped to series regular.
The actor got the chance to play a cold blooded killer, a secret agent, and a romantic with a memory problem, showing his range.
Sawa claimed in various interviews that it was one of the most fun roles for him, so perhaps that’s the secret to him blowing expectations away: enjoying the work.
13 Terrible: Chris Wood (Supergirl)
Chris Wood is something of a CW mainstay. He’s appeared in The Carrie Diaries, The Vampire Diaries, Containment, and now, Supergirl. He’s charismatic and charming, but he’s also one of the worst additions to Supergirl.
Chris Wood, to his credit, does have great chemistry with the other actors on the show, which definitely helps to sell Mon-El a bit more. The problem lies in the fact that Wood, as the partying alien hiding on Earth who gradually becomes a hero, appears to be relying on that chemistry and charm to do the work for him instead of really digging into the role.
Considering the writers shifted the spotlight to Mon-El very obviously in season two, pushing other characters aside in favor of developing his story, Wood should be able to bring more depth to the character than he has so far.
12 Incredible: Megan Follows (Reign)
To an entire generation of television audiences, Megan Follows will always be Anne Shirley, the little girl who found a home in Green Gables. To a whole new generation though, she’s now the unhinged Queen Catherine.
In the role of Queen Catherine, Follows was initially an antagonist for leading lady Adelaide Kane’s Queen Mary. She was snarky and strong while commanding the screen and instilling fear into the other characters.
The writers fleshed her character out over the course of the show to make her at turns vulnerable, frightened, and even an ally for Mary following the latter’s sexual assault. Follows made every version of Catherine perfection.
Follows’ role as a commanding presence on screen translated well behind the scenes as well as she earned the opportunity to direct three episodes of the series in its final seasons.
11 Terrible: Aimee Teegarden (Star-Crossed)
Aimee Teegarden got her big break courtesy of the NBC drama Friday Night Lights. The Jason Katims series allowed the actors an element of realism with rapid fire dialogue and a family atmosphere that translated to the screen. Teegarden didn’t have that same family to cushion her performance when she landed a role in Star-Crossed.
The CW series focused on a human-alien divide in a small town where a spaceship crashed, with Teegarden as the human in the middle of it all. After playing a supporting character in an ensemble series for five years, Teegarden might not have been ready to weather the storm of a dramatic led.
Her performance was, as most viewers would attest, largely one-note over the course of 13 episodes. It’s possible a longer set of episodes would have allowed her to grow into the character, but the CW canceled the series after one season.
10 Incredible: Lindsey Morgan (The 100)
In the bloodbath that is The 100, any time a new character is brought on, fans are careful not to get too attached. With Lindsey Morgan’s Raven Reyes though, they just couldn’t help it.
Morgan was so great in her initial episode arc as Raven Reyes that her time on the show was extended. The writers intended to kill the character by the end of The 100’s first season, but the actress impressed them so much that they brought her back and made her a series regular. She’s since become a fan favorite.
Morgan has gone from playing simply the girl who knows how to blow things up to one of the most trusted members of the core characters’ inner circle. Her work as Raven in the depths of despair due to a leg injury, and as Raven working around a traumatic brain injury, is nothing short of magic.
9 Terrible: Ashlee Simpson (Melrose Place)
When your big sister is a performer like Jessica Simpson, it seems only natural that you would want to be in the business as well. Ashlee Simpson started off as a dancer, admitted into the prestigious School of American Ballet at just 11 years old, but she’s also dabbled in music and acting.
Simpson was actually one of the frontrunners for the role of Elena Gilbert on The Vampire Diaries, though that role escaped her grasp. The starring vehicle that she attached to was instead a Melrose Place reboot.
The series was meant to capitalize on the popularity of the 90210 reboot the previous year, but it was just as soapy and campy as the original, which required some heavy dramatic work and incredible range to pull off. Simpson, unfortunately, didn’t have it as she played the unhinged Violet for the short lived show.
8 Incredible: Misha Collins (Supernatural)
Before joining the cast of Supernatural, Misha Collins was typically a day player on television. In fact, that’s what he was supposed to be on Supernatural.
Collins debuted as the angel Castiel in 2008. The writers initially envisioned a short arc for the character before he would be killed - par for the course for any recurring character on Supernatural.
Instead, Collins clicked so well with the cast and did such a good job on his reading of the part that writers decided to bring him back. 10 years later, he’s still a series regular.
While most actors put a little of themselves into any role, Castiel is a stark departure from who Collins is in real life. The show requires the jokester to often play the straight man in scenes and his portrayal of a much deeper voice than his own causes havoc on his vocal chords.
7 Terrible: Thomas Dekker (The Secret Circle)
Thomas Dekker seems to have a lot more success with indie films than he does with primetime television. The actor frequently finds himself out of a job after a season or two.
For The Secret Circle, Dekker played Adam, one of the few male characters in a coven of witches just learning how to manage their powers. Dekker played the love interest of two of the main characters on the show, but as the romantic lead, his performance felt forced and even flat.
By his own admission, Dekker didn’t particularly fit well with the direction the writers took. As the episodes continued, the direction of the show changed, and his character became very different than he expected.
Perhaps if the audience had been introduced to the darker version of Adam, as Dekker initially hinted at during press for the show, his portrayal would have felt more natural.
6 Incredible: Rose McIver (iZombie)
Primarily known for her roles as a Power Ranger and Tinkerbell before landing the role of Liv on iZombie, Rose McIver already proved herself a versatile actress, but nothing showcases her talent as well as the CW series.
As Liv, a zombie who takes on the personality of the brain she consumes, McIver finds herself playing at least one new character in every episode. She’s played preschool teachers, dominatrixes, housewives, college students, and more over the course of the show’s run (so far).
She’s been able to make each one distinct without entirely relying on stereotypes to fuel her performance, and underneath them, she’s still maintained a semblance of the role she’s actually playing-- Live, an accidental zombie helping to solve crimes while struggling to hide who she is from the general public.
5 Terrible: Lauren Cohan (Supernatural)
There’s no denying that Lauren Cohan kicks butt as Maggie on The Walking Dead. Before she was Maggie though, she spent some (brief) time as Bella, a thief on Supernatural.
Cohan made her Supernatural debut in season three, not long after the series was brought over from its days on the WB. Bella was sexy and shrewd and meant to give the Winchesters a run for their money.
Cohan modeled her performance after Catherine Zeta-Jones in the movie Entrapment, and it showed. Instead of feeling like she owned the role, it felt very much like she was playing pretend.
Surprisingly, Bella wasn’t Cohan’s only shot at appearing on the CW. She was also up for the role of Supernatural’s Ruby, appeared in a few pilots that didn’t make it to series, and was the frontrunner for Arrow’s Huntress before The Walking Dead scheduling conflicts got in the way.
4 Incredible: Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries)
Her role in The Vampire Diaries might be what Nina Dobrev is best known for now, but before she beat out Ashlee Simpson for the part, she was a girl from Degrassi. Now, she’s the CW’s version of Tatiana Maslany.
Dobrev’s initial role as Elena Gilbert was relatively typical for the CW-- an ordinary teenage girl caught up in a supernatural love story. Over time, Dobrev got to show off her range as she played multiple characters and multiple versions of those characters at that.
In addition to the teenage Elena, she also played vampire Elena, vampire Elena with no soul, vampire Katherine, human Katherine, Katherine pretending to be Elena (and vice versa), and doppelganger Amara, proving her versatility on the show again and again. She even got to speak in her family’s native Bulgarian for some of the roles.
3 Terrible: Grant Show (Dynasty)
Grant Show claims more than 30 years entertainment industry experience, including time on the 90s soap Melrose Place. The campy drama of something like Dynasty should have been a perfect fit.
The CW, having various degrees of success with reboots, decided to bring the 80s series Dynasty into 2017.
Instead of focusing solely on wealth made from oil, there’s also clean energy, and plenty of interracial relationships instead of the mostly Caucasian cast of the original. Those points aren’t the problem with the cheesiness of the show. Instead, it’s a cast that seems to be phoning it in - with the exception of ready-for-anything Elizabeth Gillies.
None of the cast seems particularly thrilled to be dressed to the nines and arguing about backstabbing and money, but Show is the biggest culprit of flatly delivering lines and looking like he wishes he could have been cast in anything else on the network.
2 Incredible: Cress Williams (Black Lightning)
Cress Williams has been in everything from Living Single to Veronica Mars to Friday Night Lights to Hart of Dixie. He’s the kind of actor who can slip into just about any role. The one role he hasn’t delved into before now is that of a superhero.
For Black Lightning, Williams is the title character, a man who was the superhero his city needed years ago. Now, he’s got a family, he’s a school principal, and he has his own life to protect, but his city still needs him.
Williams isn’t breaking a hero’s origin story on the screen. Instead, he’s a charismatic divorced father who has tried to come at the system another way.
Williams, at admittedly just one episode in, plays the role with just the right amount of optimism and world weariness to show how someone can step away from the role of a hero.
1 Terrible: Taylor Momsen (Gossip Girl)
In the first season of Gossip Girl, no one pegged Little J as the worst casting decision made by the show. A supporting character naive to the ways of the rich and populars, she didn’t need to make a huge impression yet. As the show went on, it was clear that Taylor Momsen wasn’t the right fit for the part.
Momsen began the role as it was written, but her growing disinterest was apparent as she broke into music with The Pretty Reckless. The writers were forced to change Jenny Humphrey to fit Momsen as the entertainer changed her real life image - and eventually wrote her out of the show.
It’s possible that Jenny could have played a larger role as the series drew to a close. It’s also possible the storylines would have gone in a completely different direction if Momsen had been on board. Now, we’ll never know.
What do you think about these casting decisions? Do you have a favorite on the CW? Tell us when you think the CW hit their target, and when they were way off the mark, in the comments!
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