In recent years, certain Netflix series have become the gold standard for television, replacing the previous big names in premium television like HBO and Showtime in conversations about quality and awards contention.
Regardless of whether the show is a drama, a sitcom, a work of science fiction, or a high quality period series, Netflix has consistently put out highly entertaining and well-crafted series.
However, while Netflix has certainly built a reputation for producing high quality shows and movies, some of their recent output has shown that the streaming giant may be starting to slip in terms of quality. With each series wavering in quality, notable mistakes are being made in one key department: casting.
However, even a series with the best writing, directing, and design would be nothing if the casting decisions weren’t absolutely spot on. Unfortunately, as much as they’ve hit the target with casting so far, Netflix has also had its fair share of terrible miscasts.
Here are the 9 Incredible Netflix Casting Decisions (And 8 Terrible Ones).
17. Incredible: Uzo Aduba (Orange Is the New Black)
When her character was introduced in season one, Suzanne Warren was used as an unfortunate punchline. Known as “Crazy Eyes,” Suzanne’s character displayed passionate intensity and vulnerability in equal measure, declaring herself loyal to Piper from the moment she met her, only to have her heart broken in the end.
Over the subsequent seasons, Suzanne’s character has become one of the series’ most nuanced.
Through the Emmy-winning performance of her portrayer, Uzo Aduba, Suzanne has offered an often heartbreaking depiction of the intersection of mental illness, ableism, racism, and homophobia.
In her fleeting moments of happiness, Suzanne provides some of the series’ biggest laughs; and in her many moments of struggle and heartbreak, thanks to Aduba’s performance, Suzanne’s character elevates the series to a whole other level of dramatic quality.
16. Terrible: The entire cast of Friends from College
With as much ostensible comedic talent in a single cast as the series Friends from College boasts, this really should have been a surefire hit for Netflix.
However, lackluster writing, utterly detestable characters, and a cast that somehow does not play off one another well in a single key scene led to this poorly thought out work that has been polarizing at best and panned at worst.
Starring the likes of Keegan-Michael Key, Cobie Smulders, Nat Faxon, Billy Eichner, and Fred Savage, the series has built a cast that has literal decades of experience in comedy when put together.
Yet barely a single joke lands in the entire first season, no matter how talented its deliverer may be.
And with Netflix having renewed this cringe-worthy sitcom for another season, unfortunately, it looks like these otherwise talented comedians will be stuck delivering these unfunny lines for the foreseeable future.
15. Incredible: Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones)
Television nowadays is full of anti-heroes who are battling their own demons, whether in the forms of alcoholism, tragic pasts, or concealed feelings of guilt.
Few of those anti-heroes find themselves confronting all three of those, however, and even fewer do so while struggling with the powers they were given, and the ways in which their body has been used without their consent.
The titular hero of Jessica Jones is a character who finds herself thrust into the spotlight of superheroism, confronted with the reality that she must once again take part in things she doesn’t wish to do.
Krysten Ritter’s portrayal of the jaded private eye is one that transcends the cliches of a hard boiled detective, imbuing the damaged heroine with nuanced representations of trauma and moments of unflinching vulnerability and selflessness.
For an actress who had once been known primarily for her comedic talents, the fact that the series wouldn’t work with anyone else in this highly dramatic role truly does say a lot about how far she has come.
14. Terrible: Neil Patrick Harris (A Series of Unfortunate Events)
For fans of Lemony Snicket’s iconic children’s series, the news that Netflix would be adapting A Series of Unfortunate Events into a series brought feelings of long overdue joy. Over a decade after the film series starring Jim Carrey was abandoned, leaving 10 of the 13 novels unadapted for screen, finally the book series would be receiving the adaptation it deserved.
Unfortunately, as it turns out, this series is far from what the books deserve.
Much of that blame rests squarely on the shoulders of Count Olaf himself, Neil Patrick Harris.
No matter what faults you can find in the film version of the series, Carrey’s Count Olaf is able to quickly switch modes from comedic to menacing at the drop of a hat. Harris’s Olaf, however, flounders awkwardly on the precipice of parody, never fully achieving the necessary air of villainy.
13. Incredible: Claire Foy (The Crown)
To portray a historical figure in a biographical work is never an easy task. The task is only made all the more difficult when that historical figure is still alive. Further compounding the level of difficulty is when that same living figure just so happens to be, not just royalty, but the very Queen of England herself.
All of these factors combined make Claire Foy’s astounding turn as the young Queen Elizabeth II in the first two seasons of The Crown all the more impressive. Foy is able to capture every possible emotion with requisite grace and ease, as we watch the queen transition from new leader to elegant and regal monarch.
Reserved and vulnerable in equal measure, Foy’s Elizabeth is everything that a queen should be.
12. Terrible: Jennifer Jason Leigh (Atypical)
It’s an unfortunate problem with most successful sitcoms that there will always be one character in particular who doesn’t fit with the rest. It’s also usually the case that this character receives an undue amount of screentime, stealing narrative space away from characters who are more engaging, more sympathetic, and usually better acted in turn.
In the case of Netflix’s Atypical, you’d have to look no further than the utterly selfish and self-destructive Elsa, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, to find a culprit guilty of all of these accusations.
Elsa, the epitome of a paranoid helicopter parent, somehow decides that she’s unhappy with her son with autism growing more independent. As a result of her dissatisfaction and the free time afforded to her by it, she begins an affair with a local bartender, hurting each member of her family along the way.
11. Incredible: Lili Reinhart (Riverdale)
Although considered a CW series in the United States, Riverdale is regarded as a Netflix original series in other territories, which means that they receive both credit and blame for the series’ hits and misses in the casting department.
Perhaps one of the clearest cases of success for Riverdale has been in the casting of relative newcomer Lili Reinhart as the iconic girl next door, Betty Cooper. Riverdale has done what most Archive Comics adaptations over the years have failed to do: given Betty a personality, a character, and compelling struggles and nuance outside of her relationship with Archie.
Most of these things would have been unthinkable without the incredible skills of Lili Reinhart.
Whether tapping into Betty’s innate goodness in her relationship with the tortured Jughead, or exploring Betty’s inner demons in her dark Betty scenes, Reinhart has proven herself time and again to be a true scene stealer.
10. Terrible: Taylor Schilling (Orange Is the New Black)
Orange Is the New Black is a series about women from all walks of life finding themselves at the lowest points of their lives, and the journeys they take to rebound from them. Certain characters provide truly compelling stories, such as the already mentioned Suzanne, or the quasi family of Nicky and Red.
Other characters, however, began the series as slightly irritating, only to become full blown annoying wastes of screen time over the years.
Look no further than Piper Chapman to find the worst offender in this category.
As portrayed by Taylor Schilling, Piper is utterly bland, devoid of seemingly basic human emotions that don’t benefit herself, and unwilling to see the error of her ways nine times out of ten.
Following a misguided season arc in which she decided to make herself a gang leader, it’s hard to imagine a version of OITNB that manages to make her sympathetic again, especially with Schilling’s lukewarm acting talent behind the reins.
9. Incredible: Rita Moreno (One Day at a Time)
In perhaps one of Netflix’s most clutch instances of casting, the inimitable EGOT winner Rita Moreno’s role as Lydia Riera in the reboot of One Day at a Time is a true pleasure to behold.
As the beating heart of the passionate Riera family, Lydia is larger than life in all the ways that matter, fiercely protective and devoted to her family each and every step of the way.
Season two’s finale, which finds Lydia in a coma and the family faced with the prospect of losing her, only reaffirms what fans of the series know to be true: the show would not ever have worked without her. No matter how talented they all may be, Lydia – and Moreno, along with her– brings out the best in each and every character, and elevates each performance to another level.
Thankfully, for the Riera Alvarez family and for the audience as well, Lydia decides her journey isn’t over and returns to the family who so desperately needs her, allowing us to bask in the glory of Moreno’s endless talent for just a little while longer.
8. Terrible: Lorenzo Richelmy (Marco Polo)
A series’ success can truly hinge upon whether its lead actor is a good fit for the role or not. Sure, production budget and storyline matter a whole lot, too, but if an actor isn’t suited for a role, and if an audience is unable to connect with them, that can really affect a series’ longevity as well.
Marco Polo was Netflix’s first real attempt at a lavish period drama on the scale of something like Vikings or a smaller Game of Thrones.
They made the decision to cast Lorenzo Richelmy as the titular historical figure.
Despite Richelmy’s bearing no clear physical resemblance to the historical Polo, and despite his performance being panned all but universally by critics following the first season, Netflix renewed the series for a second costly season… only to realize the error of their ways soon after and cancel the series after yet another poorly received outing.
7. Incredible: Mahershala Ali (Luke Cage)
If the casting of an EGOT in Rita Moreno is one of Netflix’s best casting decisions, the casting of now Oscar winner Mahershala Ali for the role of Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes may be one of the next best things they have ever managed to do.
As the ruthless and charming Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, Ali is able to tap into his endless well of talent, plumming the depths of the ugliest sides of humanity to provide one of the MCU’s best villains to date– and perhaps even the best villain in the Marvel Netflix universe, at that.
Luke Cage, as a series, feels a lot less enjoyable without his presence looming large over its last half season.
There’s no denying that a large part of what makes the series work to begin with is Ali’s impressive talent– so we can only wonder what its second season will come up with to fill that considerable void.
6. Terrible: KJ Apa (Riverdale)
Just as Netflix deserves some of the credit for the successful casting of Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper, they also deserve so very much of the blame for the horrible miscasting of KJ Apa as Archie Andrews.
Of course, Riverdale‘s version of Archie is highly problematic to begin with. Unflinchingly selfish, completely oblivious, and openly inconsiderate of women’s feelings for much of the series’ first season, Archie is nothing like the adorable oaf who fans of the comics have come to know and love for so many decades.
Making Archie truly insufferable, however, is just how poorly acted Apa’s performance is. Somehow paradoxically ranging from monotone to over dramatic, and sometimes in the same scene, his interpretation of Archie is almost unbearable to endure, especially when surrounded by far more gifted young actors.
5. Incredible: John Lithgow (The Crown)
John Lithgow has long been considered an incredible actor with an amazing range.
Whether in comedy or drama, in film or on stage, Lithgow has shown time and again that he is a true talent.
However, it was perhaps his award-winning, heart-wrenching turn as the renowned Prime Minister Winston Churchill in season one of Netflix’s The Crown that truly showed audiences just what the actor could be capable of in the most surprising of roles.
Lithgow himself has expressed his own confusion at having been cast as the legendary British figure, but regardless of his nationality, he proved time and again that he was so much more than the right man for the job.
Whether in his moments of leadership or in his truly tender and heartwarming connection with Foy’s young Queen Elizabeth II, Lithgow’s performance went to great lengths to humanize this illustrious historical figure in a way that will keep his portrayal among the best performances for many years to come.
4. Terrible: Finn Jones (Iron Fist)
There’s hardly anything we can say about just how bad Finn Jones’s performance as Danny Rand is that hasn’t already been said. Arguably the weakest Marvel property on Netflix, if not the weakest Marvel property altogether, Iron Fist is almost impossible to get through.
With shoddy writing, boring characters, lackluster fight scenes, and basically a lack of anything that makes standard Marvel fare enjoyable, the series has proven to be easy pickings for critics everywhere to point out how not to make a comic adaptation.
Adding insult to injury is the blatant miscasting of Finn Jones as the insufferable Danny Rand.
No matter the slight improvement Jones displayed in The Defenders, it’s clear that his portrayal is the weakest of the entire cast of Marvel Netflix heroes. Hopefully, further seasons can allow him to improve, but we have to wonder how many fans will continue to tune in.
3. Incredible: Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Every once in a while, a character comes along that is truly a career-defining and stardom-making turn for a talented actor who has long been overlooked within Hollywood.
Within Netflix’s world of sitcoms, this character couldn’t possibly be anyone other than the larger than life Titus Andromedon, portrayed by the impossibly gifted Tituss Burgess.
True, the series may be called Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but the quirky Netflix comedy is undoubtedly Titus’s world and we’re all just living in it. Brought to life with gut laughter-inducing wit and absolutely out of this world comedic timing by Burgess, Titus Andromedon is even more of an other worldly presence than you would think based on his name.
Whether Lemonade-ing his way through romantic struggles, or fretting about having eaten the great Dionne Warwick alive, Burgess brings genuine heart and humor to each and every moment of Titus’s less than conventional journey.
2. Terrible: Erik LaRay Harvey (Luke Cage)
Following in the footsteps of the inimitable, Oscar-winning Mahershala Ali can’t possibly be a thrilling prospect for any actor. Unfortunately for Erik LaRay Harvey, those were precisely the circumstances he found himself in as he entered the first season of Luke Cage as Luke’s half-brother Willis Stryker, also known as Diamondback.
It would stand to reason that having brother turn against brother would serve as a great opportunity for actors to work opposite one another for truly dramatic performances.
However, Harvey’s performance as Diamondback never reaches the caliber necessary to prove as a worthy adversary.
He is thus unable to foil to the strong on screen presence of Mike Colter’s Luke Cage.
1. Incredible: The entire cast of Stranger Things
Casting child actors is something that has long been considered one of the worst parts of working in Hollywood. Whether considered difficult to work with, or not up to par with their adult counterparts, child actors have gotten a bad reputation, and all without their own doing.
When it comes to a series with a cast primarily comprised of children, it’s safe to say that Stranger Things hit the jackpot.
Whether in the form of tiny powerhouse Millie Bobby Brown, the heartbreaking scene stealer Noah Schnapp, or the lovably adorable Gaten Matarazzo, Stranger Things has armed itself to the hilt with only the best of the young talent out there today.
As if that weren’t enough, its adult cast is just as impressive, including a strong comeback turn from Winona Ryder, a crushing performance from geek legend Sean Astin, and a career-making performance from the internet’s new hero David Harbour.
If it weren’t for all of the monsters that plague it, Hawkins, Indiana really does seem like it may be the perfect place to be.
Who do you think are the best and worst Netflix casting decisions? Let us know in the comments!
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