Television actors used to get a bad rap. Unless they were lucky enough to star in a well-regarded show on a prestigious network, TV roles just didn’t hold the same amount of clout as acting in big budget movies. This wasn’t an unfounded bias, as the majority of TV roles couldn’t attract the kind of talent that producers would have liked.
In recent years, there has been a monumental increase in talented actors making the move to television. This no doubt has to do with the Golden Age of television we are currently experiencing. The emergence of streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon have helped create a newly competitive market where every network is battling for an audience.
This competitive climate means that some shows get rushed out of the gate and casting directors are forced to make quick decisions. A bad pick in a leading role won't necessarily doom a show, but it can limit its options moving forward.
Here are 8 TV Leads Who Don’t Fit The Role (And 8 Actors Who Should Replace Them).
16 Dylan Minnette (13 Reasons Why)
The reaction to 13 Reasons Why was similar to watching the tide go in and out at the beach. Initially, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Unfortunately, the water soon started to recede.
A backlash against the show started when parents and teachers spoke out against the show, saying that it romanticized teen suicide and marginalized the effects of mental illness. Fans of the show who didn’t have any issues with the show’s content argued that it brought the topic in to the spotlight. This ebb and flow will probably continue in to the show's second season as it was renewed by Netflix.
While the show has many great aspects to it, the casting of Dylan Minnette as Clay Jensen fell a bit flat. The story was told from Clay’s perspective in an effort to make the show more relatable. Unfortunately, Dylan Minnette ends up giving a very cold performance.
15 Replaced by Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann is a talented actor who has been the best of some very bad movies. Mann was able to give a shockingly good performance in the terrible Project X and he somehow managed to survive the disaster that was Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.
Eventually, he decided to move on to independent films. Mann then starred in the critically acclaimed Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and had a major role in The Stanford Prison Experiment.
Mann’s performance in the former is exactly what a show like 13 Reasons Why needs. He has proven to be a dynamic and relatable actor. Mann would bring a sense of humanity to the show that just isn’t present in Dylan Minnette’s performance.
14 Andrew Lincoln (The Walking Dead)
The Walking Dead is one of the most uneven shows on television. Despite incredible popularity and longevity, it hasn’t received the same respect of other AMC hits like Mad Men or Breaking Bad.
While The Walking Dead has managed to give audiences some incredible set pieces and over-the-top character deaths, it has also punished fans with long stretches of uninteresting mediocrity. At the center of the show is Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. He’s a fine actor, but he’s never been more than average on The Walking Dead.
When the show deviates from the original comic book material it is often to mixed results. While some of the time we get interesting subplots, too often the character of Rick might as well be a mannequin on set.
13 Replaced by Ethan Hawke
At its core, The Walking Dead is a modern take on a western. It is largely about what happens when societal norms are gone and people ultimately have to make due in the ensuing chaos. Rick is even a prototypical Western hero. He’s the character that serves as the audience’s moral compass, the one who is able to make tough choices in order to survive.
With recent films like In the Valley of Violence and The Magnificent Seven, Ethan Hawke proves once again that he has an extremely compelling western presence. He also has a proven track record with interpersonal dramas. Whether in the stellar Before trilogy or 2015’s Born to Be Blue the 4-time Oscar-nominated writer and actor has proven he doesn’t need a gun in his hand to be compelling.
12 Isaac Hempstead Wright (Game of Thrones)
Despite arguably being the most important character in Game of Thrones, both the show and the books largely forget about Bran. He doesn't even appear in a single episode of season 5. Despite this significant absence, Bran still plays a major role in Westeros and is one of the most powerful weapons against the Night King.
As Bran’s role increased in season 7, fans started to take note of Isaac Hempstead Wright’s strange performance. He made the character not only robotic but kind of creepy. After his transformation into the three-eyed raven he loses every aspect that used to define him, but Wright is never able to make it convincing. His performance is so inconsistent that sometimes you think Bran might just be a weird person.
11 Replaced by Finn Wolfhard
Part of the jarring performance from Isaac Hempstead Wright can be attributed to adolescence. At the beginning of the book Game of Thrones, Brandon Stark is only 7 years old. For the HBO series, the producers decided to age Bran by three years and make him a ten year old. While this decision certainly made the earlier seasons easier to film, it has resulted in some of the younger actors aging faster than audiences would have expected.
If the Game of Thrones’ showrunners had been casting for the entirety of the show rather than the first few years, perhaps they would have been the ones to discover Finn Wolfhard rather than Netflix’s Stranger Things.
Wolfhard is undeniably a promising young talent and he certainly could have imbued Bran with a bit more approachability.
10 Seth McFarlane (The Orville)
When The Orville premiered earlier in 2017, it was generally embraced by the fanbase. However, it was criticized for its lowbrow humor by the majority of publications. Unsurprisingly, the criticism focused on the creator Seth McFarlane.
In the first episode of The Orville Seth McFarlane, who plays Captain Ed Mercer, is told by Admiral Halsey, “You’re nobody’s first choice for this job, but we have 3,000 ships to staff and we need captains.”
Similarly, McFarlane shouldn’t have been Fox’s first choice to star in the show he created. The former king of adult animation has a default level of smugness that he can’t seem to overcome. He never seems to be anything more than a guy pretending to be a space captain.
9 Replaced By Zachary Quinto
Zachary Quinto obviously has a great deal of experience playing characters in faraway galaxies. As Spock in the most recent Star Trek movies, he was up to the task of filling Leonard Nimoy’s prosthetic ears. What is less proven is his comedic abilities.
He has a short list of comedic appearances in television and film and he’s had a number of small comedic moments in more serious roles. But he has never had the chance to prove his comedic chops in a major role.
This ultimately may not matter, since Captain Ed Mercer is The Orville’s straight man. Quinto doesn’t have to be funny, he just has to react to the crazy things that are happening around him. Perhaps that’s why Seth McFarlane is doing such a poor job.
8 Jared Padalecki (Supernatural)
Possibly best known for their fan fiction and cosplay, Supernatural has perhaps the most rabid fan base of any current TV show. It’s impressive that fans are able to add storylines to the show’s already impressive 12, soon to be 13, seasons. A feat made even more impressive when considering the fact that even the best fantasy/sci-fi shows have rarely survived past 5-6 seasons.
Given the passion that fans have for the show, there’s a certain amount of trepidation when one considers any kind of criticism. However, there is one glaring weakness in the show.
Despite his lovable qualities, Jared Padalecki is not a very good actor. While Jensen Ackles brings a wry sense of humor to the show, there’s very little that Padalecki does that couldn’t be done better by a different actor.
7 Replaced By Milo Ventimiglia
Admittedly, there’s a certain amount of irony that makes Milo Ventimiglia a perfect pick to replace Padalecki. Ventimiglia is perhaps best known for his role as Jess Mariano on Gilmore Girls. Fans of the show remember Ventimiglia as the boy who stole Rory Gilmore from Dean Forester, who was played by Jared Padalecki. Despite this connection between the actors, there is a better reason for this much needed swap.
Sam Winchester is written as an intellectual character. He was accepted to Stanford University and, in early seasons, is often the voice of reason. This is the kind of role that Milo Ventimiglia has always excelled in. He has the ability to cooly play a smart character without hampering the rest of his performance. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also a major hunk.
6 Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black)
The first season of Orange is the New Black is set up as a fish out of water story. Piper Chapman, played by Taylor Schilling, is a privileged woman with a seemingly perfect life, who is taken out of her element and thrown in to Litchfield Penitentiary.
This is a dynamic that held up for a brief time before the character of Piper began to fundamentally change. To nobody's surprise, her time in prison hardens her and takes away some of her innocence. This is a quality that Schilling struggles with.
She does an excellent job playing the sweet, innocent Piper but has trouble following the character into the abyss. The result is an unconvincing portrayal which constantly comes across as play-acting rather than a believable character.
5 Replaced by Piper Perabo
Piper Perabo may not be a household name, but she has accumulated a solid body of work. Best known for her earlier roles in Coyote Ugly and Cheaper By the Dozen, the Golden Globe-nominated actress has kept busy in recent years. She has twice proven that she is able to be the driving force of a show.
She was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2011 for her starring role as Annie Walker in the USA action series Covert Affairs. It’s not a prestigious role, but she does well with what she’s given. She also starred in the short-lived ABC drama Notorious. The show only ran for 1 season in 2016 and was poorly received, but Perabo managed to salvage a decent performance.
4 Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory)
For years, The Big Bang Theory has been living proof that the good guys don’t always win. While it's consistently one of the least funny shows on television, it has been on the air for an inexplicable 11 seasons. It has never managed to be more than half hour regurgitations of overused jokes and tired portrayals of nerd culture. While he is not entirely to blame, Johnny Galecki is a great example of this.
Over the last 30 years, the Belgium born actor has enjoyed a very successful and very lucrative career, but he has never stood out. He’s been a reliable, albeit bland, screen presence for most of his career and hasn’t ever fit as the super-scientist Leonard Hofstadter. He simply doesn’t know how to play the character.
3 Replaced by Richard Ayoade
If there is a single actor in the world who is capable of playing a funny and convincing nerd on television, it’s Richard Ayoade. The comedian is best known for his leading role as Maurice Moss on the Channel 4 sitcom The IT Crowd. Ayoade has a knack for impeccable comedic timing. As Moss, Ayoade showed a genuine humanity that has never existed on The Big Bang Theory.
Not only is The IT Crowd one of the best British shows of recent memory, but it’s also a shining example of what The Big Bang Theory could have been and Ayoade is a big part of that.
While Ayoade would certainly improve The Big Bang Theory as a cast member, his inclusion in the show might even improve things behind the camera. Ayoade's recent forays into directing with Submarine and The Double have been very promising.
2 Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)
Kevin Spacey may be the actor who best fits his role. He won a Golden Globe in 2015 for his portrayal of Francis Underwood on House of Cards and has been nominated for multiple primetime Emmys.
Despite these accolades, Netflix announced that they would be firing Spacey from the show after fellow actor Anthony Rapp publicly alleged that Spacey sexually assaulted him in the 1980's. After Rapp’s accusation, there were some crew members from House of Cards who came forward with disturbing stories of their own about Spacey's behavior on-set.
Netflix announced in November that season 6 would be the final season of the show, but spinoffs would likely be coming soon. The streaming giant has been clear that Kevin Spacey would not be appearing again in the series, but hasn’t conclusively said if the character of Frank Underwood would be recast or written off.
1 Replaced by Ralph Fiennes
From the very first scene, House of Cards can be described as Shakespearean. The dark humor and characterization harken to a classical writing style that isn’t often used in modern storytelling. It also has a reputation for punching above its weight division in the casting department. It’s clearly a show that has quite a few award season aspirations.
While it’s still a long shot, a spinoff season with an excellent team of writers might just be enough to lure the likes of esteemed British actor Ralph Fiennes. The twice Oscar-nominated actor, for Schindler’s List and The English Patient, is a noted Shakespearean interpreter and would bring quite a bit of credibility to the project.
In addition, if anyone could bring the same level of menace to the role it would be Lord Voldemort.
Do you have a lead actor in mind who should be replaced on their current show? Let us know in the comments!