It’s been nearly 20 years since Dawson’s Creek landed on the WB (now The CW) and had an entire generation watching the kids in Capeside grow up. In a lot of ways, the series paved the way for the current crop of teen dramas. It featured first loves, first tragedies, love geometry galore, student-teacher relationships, philandering parents, and small town scandal -- and that was all just in the first season.
Thanks to the popularity of Dawson’s Creek, teen dramas are some of the most popular media consumed by TV viewers. The series is also responsible for giving the likes of Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams, and Joshua Johnson their big breaks. The TV landscape today has changed so much that many of the storylines wouldn’t be groundbreaking by today’s standards, but the show would definitely fit right in.
Now, no one is suggesting that a studio needs to get on a remake of Dawson’s Creek right away. When there’s a crop of talent waiting for plum parts in Hollywood though, and with TV fans loving their '90s nostalgia, the audience would definitely tune in! Take a stroll through the modern day version of Capeside and see what the characters would look like if Dawson’s Creek were cast two decades later.
Evelyn Ryan began the series as a no-nonsense conservative charged with keeping her wild granddaughter (Michelle Williams) in line. Having spent most of her adult life in Capeside, she didn’t condone Jennifer’s behavior in the big city of New York, and she took her duties very seriously. Over the course of the series, she loosened the reigns and realized that her granddaughter wasn’t as wild as she originally thought, and that their differing belief systems didn’t have to create a cold relationship between the two. The role needs someone who can be stern, formidable, but also warm and forgiving. It’s not an easy one to master, and the character was a huge fan favorite during the run.
That’s why it seems crazy to recast at all, so we're going to start with a bit of a cheat right out of the gate. When Mary Beth Peil snagged the role, according to Kevin Williamson on the DVD commentary, she didn’t even “look old enough” to play the part, so the hair stylist added a little grey to her ‘do every week. Now, Peil is 80 years old and she’s still all over TV and movies. Most recently, she appeared in The Good Wife and Collateral Beauty. If Dawson’s Creek was made today, casting directors need look no further.
The new girl in town, Jen Lindley moved in with her grandmother in the pilot episode of Dawson’s Creek. As someone who grew up too fast, she was constantly at odds with the less experienced Joey Potter (Katie Holmes) when the series began, though the two eventually became close friends. Jen is someone who seems incredibly self-assured at first glance, but in reality, she masks her insecurities until she’s able to form meaningful friendships. Over the course of the series, she loses her grandfather and one of her best friends, has something of an emotional meltdown, and becomes a radio DJ in college. She goes through some serious changes, and as a result, a versatile actress is a must for the role.
Erin Moriarty had already made a name for herself on various television programs, but she really blew audiences away with her performance as one of Kilgrave’s (David Tennant) victims in the first season of Jessica Jones. The same kind of emotional turmoil and depth demonstrated there would serve her well as Jen Lindley. She has the range to turn on the rage and sadness that Jen often keeps buried, but we get the sense that she possesses the comedic timing for Jen’s lighter storylines as well.
The girl the audience loved to hate, Abby Morgan only appeared in 15 episodes of Dawson’s Creek, but she made a big impact. Capeside was just too small for her, and she loved to stir the pot whenever she had the chance. Whether she was instigating games of truth-or-dare during Saturday detentions, or leading drunken escapades with the popular kids, she was always in the thick of trouble. Trouble is just where Abby ended up, as the character was killed off during an accident as she tipped back off a pier while partying with Jen. In reality, Monica Keena requested to be written out of the show because she disliked flying back and forth across the country every few weeks. The character’s death was a good move for the series, as it caused Jen to spiral, and for the rest of the core characters to confront their views on death.
TV audiences might not be familiar with Camila Mendes yet, but she’s currently making waves as Veronica Lodge of Archie comic book fame on Riverdale. She’s a reformed mean girl trying to find her place in a small town. She’s not as snobby or as conniving as Abby in the role, but she plays Veronica with a calculating take that says she could easily go a little colder or a little wilder if needed, which makes her perfect to take on Capeside’s resident bad girl who never gets the chance to grow up.
The McPhee family arrived in Capeside in season two. A perfectionist, Andie strived to be her best in quite literally everything, prioritizing her education and the activities that would go on her college applications above anything else in her life. That is, until she fell for Pacey Witter (Joshua Jackson). But even then, she motivated him to do his school work more than she allowed him to distract her. Andie was also one of the only characters on the show to be diagnosed with a mental illness and spend time in a treatment facility, adding an emotional weight to that need for perfection.
Madina Nalwanga might seem like an unconventional choice for Andie McPhee, since she only has a single acting credit to her name, but her role in Queen of Katwe is a powerful one. As a young woman who strived to make a better life for herself and her family, she demonstrates the same kind of strength and passion that Andie does throughout the series. Also, if there’s one thing that’s undeniably true about the casting on Dawson’s Creek in 1998, it’s that the collection of actors were about as vanilla as they come. The small town of Capeside was populated by largely Caucasian faces, which simply wouldn’t fly on television today.
With Andie McPhee, of course, came her brother Jack. A relatively quiet and unassuming character at first, he became a love interest for Joey when she was in between her Dawson-loving-phases. Of course, that love wouldn’t last, as Jack would become the show’s first (and only) gay main character. As Jack, Kerr Smith filmed the first kiss between two men to air on primetime television. It’s a little crazy to think that happened less than 20 years ago. Jack is typically the most even-keeled of the characters on the show, but he does spend a lot of the series’ run struggling to figure out who he is and where he fits in. He also spends one season partying so much that he almost flunks out of college before the show ends with him raising Jen’s daughter.
As a result, the part requires an actor who can effortlessly become a part of a group, someone who can be the cool guy along for the ride, and someone who can be the dude everyone is paying attention to -- all at the same time. Justice Smith, who has had a string of roles as part of an ensemble, most notably in Paper Towns and The Get Down, would be perfect to bring Jack to life this time around. He’s got a quiet focus, but can also let himself get lost in a role when necessary. He's definitely a rising star in the industry, to be sure.
Making her debut as Joey’s college roommate in season five, Audrey was someone who was always up for a good time. She helped break her roomie out of her shell in college, as Joey was frequently more concerned with keeping her scholarship than having a social life. Audrey also fronted a band, moved to Boston from Los Angeles, and was an aspiring actress. She brought a little Hollywood to the show about a boy who grew up loving movies.
Unlike Busy Philipps, who played the role in the original series, Rose Williams isn’t as well known of a name today. Philipps, as you may recall, already had a bit of a following as a result of her big break in Freaks and Geeks. Williams, who had a few roles in England before making the move across the pond, got her big break as a princess on the CW series Reign. As the scheming Claude who yearns for her mother’s attention, Williams has exhibited the regal version of the kind of character Audrey already is, though with a more malicious streak. Throw in a few rounds of karaoke, and she could make Claude into the French court’s Audrey.
The one police officer in Capeside who always seems to be on duty, Dougie is the big brother to main character Pacey. He’s straight-laced, serious about his job, hard on his little brother, and he’s got a soft spot for showtunes. He spends much of the early seasons of the show trading insults with his baby bro and denying teases about his sexuality. By the end of the series, though, he’s dating Jack McPhee and they’re godparents to Jen’s daughter.
This role requires someone can play one person pretending to be another; someone who has a bit of swagger, but who doesn't quite feel comfortable in their own skin. Brett Dalton is perfect for the role. Not only did he play a double agent for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but he also played a closeted man in the independent film Beside Still Waters. Dalton has a wicked sense of humor and can deliver on the dramatic front as well, making him a perfect fit for a role like Dougie.
Like Abby Morgan, Pacey’s big sister doesn’t appear in a ton of episodes of the series. The Witters come from a very large family and the audience never really gets to know them all, but Dougie and Gretchen are the two that help flesh out the story of Pacey’s life. In the case of Gretchen, she also broadens Dawson’s horizons. Despite her very conservative parents, Gretchen lives a more liberal lifestyle. She’s the wise older woman who briefly dates Dawson when he’s a little lost, and she teaches him that the world isn’t always as black and white as he thinks.
Most of Ivana Baquero’s work on screen has been in Spanish language projects, thanks to her growing up in Spain. She recently became known to wider audiences, however, thanks to her role as Eretria on MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles. There, she plays a young woman who grew up fast, learning how to protect herself in a society of con artists and thieves. While Gretchen doesn’t pull off the same physical heroics as a character like Eretria, Gretchen would give Baquero a role to sink her teeth into and demonstrate a different range of emotions.
A recurring character during the early episodes of the series, Miss Jacobs was a teacher at Capeside High. Of course, Pacey spent the summer flirting with her as she rented videos (yes, on VHS...from a store...it was the '90s) before he knew she would be teaching him in the fall. Unlike teen dramas now, when Dawson’s Creek premiered in 1998, teacher-student relationships weren’t happening on every channel. Miss Jacobs and Pacey entering into a secret relationship was racy, and a story point that taught Pacey about growing up, instead of simply being inappropriate.
In the final season of the series, Dawson actually shot the movie version of life in Capeside with Audrey playing the Miss Jacobs character. How fitting would it be then for Busy Philipps to be the one to take on the role this time around? She already nailed it once, she can easily do it again. As someone smart, sassy, impulsive, but also wise enough to know when she’s taken things too far, Philipps could make an excellent Miss Jacobs.
Despite the series being called Dawson’s Creek, in its heyday, Pacey Witter was the standout. He frequently pops up on favorite television character lists, and he’s everyone’s favorite sidekick. He’s got sarcasm galore, a self-deprecating sense of humor, but also a passionate nature and a willingness to go all in on a performance. Pacey is the guy who fails his classes unless a girlfriend is motivating him. He’s also the guy who buys an aspiring artist a wall to paint, acts out a scene from Braveheart during a beauty pageant, and sails around the world on a boat before running his own restaurant. He’s got one of the biggest learning curves of the show, and perhaps its finest character arc.
As someone who has been in sitcoms, independent films, and even the blockbuster Jurassic World, Nick Robinson is no stranger to playing a teenage slacker or an annoying brother. He’s got the deadpan humor and the class clown attitude down pat. Playing the guy who seems like the perennial screw-up who goes on to become the romantic lead would be a new path for one of his characters, but definitely one he could pull off.
When the series began, Bessie Potter was little more than the wise-cracking older sister to Joey, who was basically there to remind the audience that the Potters never had it easy. Over time, though, she became a mom, and was there for Joey when their parents couldn’t be. The actress playing the role, Nina Repeta in the case of the '90s series, had to be someone who could shift from older sister dispensing jokes at their sibling’s expense to parental figure with more life experience.
Best known for appearing in web series, Joanna Sotomura has played Jane Austen heroine Emma and even tried her hand at portraying Marvel’s Silk. She has frequently played young women with sweet dispositions, but she exhibits moments of a little more fire now and again that make it clear she has the resolve and steeliness to play someone like Bessie, who managed to hold her family together and keep a roof over her younger sister’s head while opening her own business. She's a left-field candidate, for sure, but one we'd be willing to put our money on.
The girl from down the creek, Joey Potter spent much of her childhood climbing in and out of the title character’s bedroom window. Though she’s had a crush on Dawson for years, the dreamy blond is completely oblivious. That tension is what leads most of the series, though Joey is much more than just Dawson’s love interest. Sarcastic to the point of being caustic, her quips cut those around her down when they get too close. She grows so much from the young woman afraid of letting anyone know how she really feels, though, which is why an actress who can grow with the character is absolutely vital.
Auli’i Cravalho hasn’t yet booked an on-camera role. In fact, her only professional role so far is as the voice of the title character in Disney’s Moana. In her voiceover work alone, however, she displays a depth of emotion recording the work as a teen that many adults can’t master. Only having just turned 16-years-old, she’s the youngest of the cast assembled here, but that would work just fine for Joey Potter, who, despite her cynical attitude, is one of the most naive characters at the start of the series.
Gail Leery was an accomplished woman in her field. Well, as accomplished as she could be in a small New England town, anyway. Often referred to as a hot mom by Dawson’s friends in the early days of the series, she was also an on-camera reporter for the local news station and still had a thriving relationship with her husband by all appearances. It wasn’t long until viewers discovered that she was having an affair with one of her coworkers, though. She was never portrayed as the villainous sort, however -- just someone who makes mistakes.
Madchen Amick has been all over TV and movies since she played a waitress/series regular Shelly Johnson on Twin Peaks nearly 30 years ago. She’s played just about every role under the sun, from witches to criminals to teachers. In fact, she appeared briefly on Dawson’s Creek for three episodes as a teacher at Capeside High. These days, she’s starring as Alice Cooper, mother of Betty and owner of the local paper, on Riverdale (we're fans, can you tell?). That mother is controlling and very focused on making sure her daughter remains the perfect child, but playing Gail would give her a different angle to take on.
Mitch Leery is the kind of dad who seems like he would build his kid a treehouse in the middle of the day, catch a football game with his buddies, and then take his wife out for a steak dinner. He goes through ups and downs on the show as his marriage with Gail takes its hits, and he has moments of anger and denial, but he’s also the kind of father who is understanding and allows his kid to push the limits. Mitch only survives a few seasons of the show, unfortunately, as a car accident takes his life when the main cast move on to college. It was one way to shift the focus onto the teens at the center of the story and away from their families, and another way the group was forced to confront the realities of life.
Mitch Leery was played by John Wesley Shipp, who actually requested to be written out of the show when he realized it was heading into the college years. He’s still playing TV dads as the father of Barry Allen on The Flash on occasion, but rather than bring back another original player for this casting, it seemed like a good idea to give David Harbour his due. Harbour has been acting steadily in TV and film for the last 15 years, but it wasn’t until 2016’s Stranger Things that people really took notice. As a rough-around-the-edges sheriff who bonds with the kids at the center of the story, he didn’t get to showcase too much of his fatherly vibes, but it’s easy to tell they’re in there.
Despite the many times that Dawson’s Creek shifted its focus away from the titular character, the show is ultimately about Dawson’s journey into adulthood. He begins his teen years as a naive idealist, but becomes someone who is willing to put in the hard work even after he thinks his dreams have fallen apart. There were a lot of audience members who claimed to hate Dawson throughout the run of the series, favoring nearly anyone else in the main cast. Dawson was called annoying for his willingness to cling to his childhood ideals and refusal to grow up, even though everyone around him was changing. But in our oh so humble opinion, that dreamer-like quality is an admirable (and necessary) one for someone who sees the world through a camera lens.
Most TV audiences are probably familiar with Colin Ford thanks to his work as a young Sam Winchester on Supernatural and his turn as the one teenager in town paying attention to what’s going on in Under the Dome. Ford could walk that same fine line that James Van Der Beek had to tread between a dreamer and an emerging adult. There’s an earnestness to the way he performs his roles that we think is perfect for capturing the spirit of Dawson Leery on his quest to becoming a great filmmaker.
What do you think? Is this Dawson’s Creek cast list inspired? Or way off the mark? Let us know in the comments!