30 Times Celebrities Were Replaced in Hit TV Shows
Have you ever started an episode of your favorite TV show to find a different actor playing your favorite character? Whether it’s due to scheduling conflicts, behind the scenes drama, or because the producers found a better person for the role, recasts are more common than you think.
Here are 30 times characters were recast in popular TV shows. Some of the reasons why the actors left may shock you.
Anita Barone — Carol Willick-Bunch, 'Friends'
Carol Willick-Bunch is Ross Geller’s first ex-wife and the mother of his son, who also left Geller for another woman. Actress Anita Barone originally played Carol. Barone landed the recurring role of Carol, but she wanted more of a full-time gig.
As a result, Barone left “Friends” after appearing in the first episode in 1994.
Barone moved on to other acting roles on TV movies and shows such as “The Jeff Foxworthy Show,” “Daddio,” “Shake It Up” and “The War at Home.” After Barone quit “Friends” in 1994, Jane Sibbett took over the recurring role of Carol for the remainder of the show. An interesting factoid: Sibbitt started working on the show two days after giving birth to her son, Kai.
Ross Butler — Reggie Mantle, ‘Riverdale’
In season one of the CW’s “Riverdale,” Ross Butler starred as Reggie Mantle, Archie Andrew’s competitor and friend. He quit the show in 2017 because of a scheduling conflict between “Riverdale” and Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why,” where he plays one of the main characters, Zach Dempsey.
In 2017, model and actor Charles Melton took on the recurring role for season two. During the audition, Melton tried watching “Riverdale” to study the role of Mantle, but Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (the series developer) encouraged him to make the character his own instead of following Butler’s portrayal. Although the majority of fans felt excited about Melton starring as Mantle, some felt angry. Those who opposed the recast posted #NotMyReggie on social media. However, overall reception to Melton has been positive. In addition, Melton became a cast regular in season three.
Lisa Robin Kelly — Laurie Forman, 'That ‘70s Show'
Lisa Robin Kelly starred as Eric Forman’s older sister, who loved making him suffer. Since 1998, Kelly was a regular in “That ‘70s Show” until the writers removed the character in season three, when Laurie Forman left home to attend beauty school. In 2003, Kelly returned for small appearances in season five. Later in 2012, Kelly explained her disappearance from the show, saying, “I had lost a baby. As a result of that I lost it. I lost everything and I was abusing alcohol.” After running into the law a couple of times, Kelly died from a drug overdose in 2013.
Christina Moore joined during the sixth season in 2003 as the new Laurie Forman. However, Moore only appeared in six episodes for the rest of the show. While she only had a small role on “That ‘70s Show,” fans widely recognize Moore as a comedian from “MADtv” and a main character from “The Bad Girl's Guide.”
Shannen Doherty — Brenda Walsh, 'Beverly Hills, 90210'
Shannen Doherty starred as Brenda Walsh, the new girl at West Beverly High. After season four, show makers wrote off Doherty’s character, relocating Walsh to London to attend the Royal Academy for Dramatic Arts. Doherty was fired after clashing with the show’s crew and co-stars on set. Reports state she would usually arrive late to work or start physical fights.
Tiffani Thiessen joined the cast as the character Valerie Malone in 1994. Thiessen’s role became the new villain in the show. Although Thiessen shined on “Beverly Hills, 90210” from 1994 to 1998, she was already a well-known actress from her days as Kelly Kapowski in “Saved by the Bell.”
Janet Hubert-Whitten — Vivian Banks, 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'
In 1990, Janet Hubert-Whitten starred as Vivian Banks, Will Smith’s aunt and Philip Banks’ wife. For three seasons, Hubert’s strong character helped shape Smith into a responsible young man. However, when Hubert left the show in 1993, her departure was not a happy one. The show’s star, Will Smith, clashed with Hubert on the set. Smith mentioned that Hubert had a bad attitude, which made working with her extra difficult. Hubert responded that she was always professional on set.
After Hubert’s controversial exit, producers searched for her replacement. For the remainder of the show, actress Daphne Reid took over the role of Vivian Banks. Vivian Banks became Reid’s best-known role, playing the character for three seasons.
Erinn Hayes — Donna Gable, 'Kevin Can Wait'
In 2016, Erinn Hayes portrayed Donna Gable, the female lead married to Kevin Gable, played by Kevin James. However, producers fired Hayes and killed off her character after season one. Kevin James, who portrayed her husband Kevin Gable, tried to explain Hayes’ departure. James revealed the creators were running out of ideas. James says, “The plot of the show didn't have enough drive. If we got through a second season, I wouldn't see us getting through a third one." Donna Gable’s death made fans upset.
In 2017, Leah Remini joined the CBS sitcom, but didn’t replace Donna Gable’s character. Instead, Remini became the show’s new female lead, starring as Vanessa Cellucci. But fans were still unhappy about Donna Gable’s death and Remini joining the show. As a result, CBS canceled “Kevin Can Wait” after season two.
Charlie Sheen — Charlie Harper, 'Two and a Half Men'
“Two and a Half Men” also killed off one of their main characters. For eight seasons, starting in 2003, Charlie Sheen played Charlie Harper, a bachelor and alcoholic. The producers killed Harper off the show in 2011, when Sheen got fired for making derogatory comments about the series’ creator, Chuck Lorre. After getting fired, Sheen continued to speak negatively about Lorre.
In 2011, Ashton Kutcher signed onto the show in season nine, becoming the new male lead. Kutcher portrayed Walden Schmidt, a billionaire who buys Harper's house after his death. According to Business Insider, the first episode with Kutcher received 28 million viewers. Some fans gladly welcomed Kutcher on the show, while others were unimpressed. Kutcher continued to play the role of Schmidt until the series finale in 2015.
Shailene Woodley — Kaitlin Cooper, 'The O.C.'
Shailene Woodley starred as young Kaitlin Cooper, Marissa Cooper’s little sister who went off to boarding school in season one. For Kaitlin Cooper's return from school, producers wanted to cast a teenager for the role. Woodley reauditioned for the role of Kaitlin Cooper, but she didn’t get the part. "I didn't go through puberty until late. I was the 15-year-old who had no boobs... I looked like an 8-year-old," says Woodley.
In 2006, producers cast Willa Holland to replace Woodley on season three. Holland portrayed the role of Kaitlin Cooper, a teenager who began stealing clothes and smoking pot. Initially, Holland stepped in to play a recurring character. However, in the fourth season, Holland became a series regular.
Shannen Doherty — Prue Halliwell, 'Charmed'
In 1998, Shannen Doherty played Prue Halliwell, a powerful witch and the eldest sister to Piper Halliwell and Phoebe Halliwell. While Doherty’s character “left” “90210” for misconduct, her character in “Charmed” was killed off. The demon assassin, Shax, fatally attacked Prue Halliwell in the third season’s finale. The show’s producer, Aaron Spelling, allegedly fired Doherty after she frequently fought with her co-star, Alyssa Milano. However, Milano addressed Doherty’s supposed firing, saying, “I don’t know if she got fired, we never really found out what happened.”
In 2001, producers created the character of Paige Matthews to replace Prue Halliwell. Rose McGowan starred as Matthews, who is introduced as the long-lost half-sister of the Halliwell witches. From season four to season eight, McGowan captivated fans with her bewitching performance.
Lacey Chabert — Megan "Meg" Griffin, 'Family Guy'
Meg Griffin is usually ignored and bullied by her family in the animated series “Family Guy.” That can be a tough role for anyone, even as a cartoon. Lacey Chabert voiced Meg just for the first season of the show, in 1999. Chabert explained her departure from the show, stating, “I actually left the show of my own accord. And only because I was in school and doing ‘Party of Five’ at the time.”
After Chabert left “Family Guy,” Mila Kunis began voicing Meg in 2000. The creator of “Family Guy,” Seth MacFarlane, says Kunis started voice acting in the show when she was only 15 years old. To this day, Kunis continues to voice Meg in the show, which is currently in its 18th season.
Nick Jonas — Ryan Vogelson, 'Last Man Standing'
On season one of ABC’s “Last Man Standing,” Nick Jonas guest starred as Ryan Vogelson, the atheist and politically liberal son-in-law of Michael Baxter. When Jonas stepped away from the role in 2011, he moved on to more TV series including “Smash” and “Hawaii Five-0.”
Shortly after, the producers cast Jordan Masterson to replace Jonas in 2012. Masterson took over the recurring role in season two and three, but he became a cast regular in season four. Currently, Masterson is still starring in the show, which is in its seventh season. In addition, Masterson is well known for his work in the film “40-Year-Old Virgin” and the show “Greek.”
Luke Grimes — James Kent, 'True Blood'
Luke Grimes starred as James Kent, a vampire with human qualities, in HBO’s “True Blood.” HBO has stated that Grimes abruptly quit the show because he was worried about the character’s creative direction in 2013. However, Buzzfeed reported that Grimes actually refused to play a gay character. Eventually, the character James Kent would begin a romantic relationship with Lafayette Reynolds, a short order cook. The show’s writers opposed changing the script for Grimes.
In 2014, HBO recast the role of Kent with Nathan Parsons, who is known for his work in “General Hospital” and “The Originals.” Parsons addressed his character's romantic relationship with Reynolds, saying “The story is important and should be told and needs to be shared. It's a story that’s being told all over the place, and TV doesn’t pay enough attention to it.”
Alicia ‘Lecy’ Goranson — Rebecca ‘Becky’ Conner-Healy, 'Roseanne'
For the first five seasons of “Roseanne,” Alicia Goranson portrayed Becky, a spoiled and self-centered teenager. In 1993, Goranson left the show to pursue a degree at Vassar College. After Goranson’s departure from the show, actress Sarah Chalke became the new Becky in 1993.
In season eight of the show, Goranson returned to the role of Becky. However, Goranson quit the show again to finish school. Chalke carried on the role of Becky until the ninth and final season. Recently in March 2018, “Roseanne” received a revival, where Goranson returned as an adult Becky, while Chalke played the role of Andrea. Two months later, ABC canceled “Roseanne” when the show’s star, Roseanne Barr, posted a racist tweet.
Peter Capaldi — The Doctor, 'Doctor Who'
The Doctor is an extraterrestrial being that regenerates into a new body when their current body is damaged beyond repair. This means that it makes sense to switch the actor who plays the role regularly. Peter Capaldi starred as the Doctor for three seasons in BBC’s “Doctor Who.” Capaldi explained his departure to Australia’s The Courier-Mail. “‘Doctor Who’ is a great show and experience, but to be at the centre of that brand is a lot of work. There’s a lot more than just acting. It was hard to maintain that level of commitment with that schedule any longer,” says Capaldi.
When Capaldi left the show in 2017, Jodie Whittaker replaced him as the first female doctor. She debuted in the episode “Twice Upon a Time” on the 11th season. Capaldi and fans welcomed Whittaker. However, a small amount of fans had an angry reaction to the recast.
Stellina Rusich — Trudy Monk, 'Monk'
“Monk” initially cast Stellina Rusich as Trudy Monk, Adrian Monk’s wife who was murdered. Rusich’s role as Trudy Monk mainly consisted of small flashback scenes in season one and two. When the producers wanted to give the character a more substantial role, they sought another actress that resembled Rusich. After the producers decided to recast her role in 2003, Rusich moved on to feature in TV movies including “Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again.”
During the search for a new star, producer Randy Zink says that actress Melora Hardin “just knocked us out. She had an angelic quality without being too syrupy or heavy-handed. It's a softness that we like, because Trudy would definitely have that quality.” As a result, producers replaced Rusich with Hardin for season three in 2004. Hardin is best known for her role as Jan Levinson on the series “The Office.”
Ed Skrein — Daario Naharis, ‘Game of Thrones’
In “Game of Thrones,” Daario Naharis is a sellsword who becomes the advisor, lover and enforcer of The Dragon Queen, Daenerys Targaryen. Ed Skrein first portrayed the sellsword in season three, appearing in multiple episodes. According to reports, Skrein left the show to take the lead role in “The Transporter: Refueled.” However, Skrein revealed that those reports were false. “That's what has been reported in the press but it was a lot more political than that. My plan was to stay with ‘Game of Thrones’ for the long haul. That was always my plan,” says Skrein.
In 2014, Michiel Huisman starred as the new Naharis from seasons four to six. Before Huisman took on the role, producers advised him to avoid recreating Skrein’s version of Daario and to reinvent the character instead. The show’s audience felt surprised about the change, but accepted the switch.
Claire Foy — Queen Elizabeth, 'The Crown'
For the first two seasons of “The Crown,” actress Claire Foy brought the story of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign to life. In 2016, Foy began her role as Queen Elizabeth II. Foy won a Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance. However, the producers pulled Foy off of the show. Since the third season features the Queen in middle age, the creators needed to recast the character to depict her age adequately.
Olivia Colman is set to play Queen Elizabeth II on season three in 2019. For her role as the Queen, Colman shares that many experts help her with historical accuracy on subjects such as pronunciation and attire. Colmon adds that the team sends her historical videos to watch and follow, such as Winston Churchill's funeral.
Michael Pitt — Mason Verger, 'Hannibal'
Actor Michael Pitt portrayed Mason Verger, the twisted antagonist who has sadistic personality disorder. While Pitt starred in “Hannibal,” he earned two award nominations including a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Critics' Choice Award. Pitt chose to leave the role after season two in 2014. There was no explanation on why he quit, but Pitt left right after his character’s face became mutilated beyond recognition. Following his departure, Pitt worked in some films such as “The Smell of Us” and “Ghost in the Shell.”
In 2015, Joe Anderson succeeded Pitt for the role in season three. After he landed the part, Anderson posted a picture on Instagram of himself as the mutilated Mason Verger. However, NBC canceled “Hannibal” after season three due to low viewership.
Jake T. Austin — Jesus Adams Foster, 'The Fosters'
For two seasons, fans watched Jake T. Austin portray Jesus Adams Foster, Mariana Foster’s loving twin brother with ADHD. Austin announced on Twitter the reason behind his sudden and shocking exit in 2015. He revealed his character would only star in three episodes of season three. Austin didn’t want less work to interfere with other possible opportunities. Austin adds, “I just wanted to do roles with more substantive content.”
In 2015, Noah Centineo replaced Austin for the final three seasons of “The Fosters.” Centineo took over a recurring role, but he actually became part of the main cast. In addition, Centineo is best known for his roles in the films “How to Build a Better Boy,” ”To All the Boys I've Loved Before,” and “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser.”
Aml Ameen — Capheus "Van Damme" Onyango, 'Sense8'
Aml Ameen initially starred as Van Damme, a matatu driver who takes care of his sick mother and protects his community from bandits in the science fiction drama “Sense8.” The character is a sensate who becomes mentally and emotionally linked with seven different strangers. Ameen took on the role of Van Damme for season one.
Due to creative differences with the producer, Ameen abruptly left the show in 2016. One week after Ameen quit the show, he was replaced by Toby Onwumere, a UC San Diego MFA acting graduate. However, Onwumere stepped in as Van Damme for only one season. Netflix decided not to renew “Sense8” for a third season due to low viewership and high production costs.
Jared Gilmore — Henry Mills, 'Once Upon a Time'
Henry Mills is known as The Author and son of Emma Swan in “Once Upon a Time.” For six seasons, actor Jared Gilmore played the original Henry Mills. In season seven, Gilmore only made a brief appearance. The show needed to recast the role of Mills because the character aged 10 more years in season seven.
In 2017, Andrew J. West picked up the adult role of Mills, who became an Uber driver and retired writer. West discussed his experience on the show, stating, ”It’s been surprisingly positive ... It’s easy to psych yourself out and think that it’s just going to be a negative thing. It’s been the opposite actually. People seem genuinely excited about it.”
Phil Bruns — Morty Seinfeld, 'Seinfeld'
Phil Bruns was originally cast as Morty Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld’s dad. However, Bruns only had the chance to appear in one episode before being replaced. After Bruns The creators recast the role with actor Barney Martin.
“The Seinfeld” creators gave the part to Martin because they wanted an actor who could portray the character with a harsher personality. Martin had no idea someone else had already played the character. Sometimes when actors are replaced, shows reshoot previous scenes to feature the new actor. However, in this situation, the scenes with Bruns were never reshot.
Alessandra Torresani — Ann Veal, 'Arrested Development'
Ann Veal is George Michael's religious girlfriend in the comedy, who often gets forgotten. On season one, Alessandra Torresani portrayed the original Ann Veal. The series creator, Mitch Hurwitz, thought it would be funny to have multiple actresses take on the role of Ann.
Instead of casting more actresses to play the role, the show only used Mae Whitman and Torresani. Torresani and Whitman also never shared the role of Ann as Hurwitz had originally planned. While Torresani starred in only one episode of season one, Whitman continued to make appearances as Ann from season two to season four.
Santino Fontana — Greg Serrano, 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend'
Greg Serrano is an intelligent bartender who has mixed feelings for the main character, Rebecca Bunch. Santino Fontana portrayed Serrano for two seasons. Fontana requested to leave the show in 2016. He discussed his exit with Vulture, saying, “I didn’t know my future with the show regardless, and I didn’t know if the show would be coming back.” As a result, fans didn’t see Serrano at all in the show’s third season.
Later in 2018, a new face brought Serrano back for the show’s fourth season. “Pitch Perfect” star Skylar Astin took over as Serrano to replace Fontana. The show’s co-creator, Rachel Bloom, says Astin brings something unique to his character. Bloom elaborates, “There’s a sweetness and a kindness that radiates from Skylar, and it’s wonderful for Rebecca Bunch.”
Laura Benanti — Alura Zor-El, 'Supergirl'
Fans saw Laura Benanti star as Alura Zor-El, Kara’s biological mother, during seasons one and two. “Supergirl’s” executive producer, Andrew Kreisberg, announced that Benanti quit the show due to other commitments. Benanti posted a tweet about her departure, saying "I loved working on this show and will miss it so much! Right now it's time for me to be supermom to my own little one in NYC.”
In 2017, Erica Durance joined “Supergirl” in season three and took over the recurring role of Alura Zor-El. Previously, Durance starred as Lois Lane on The WB’s “Smallville.” More recently, she starred as Dr. Alex Reid in “Saving Hope” in 2017.
Nathalie Kelley — Cristal, 'Dynasty'
Cristal Carrington is the wife of billionaire Blake Carrington and a woman with a mysterious past. Actress Nathalie Kelley portrayed Cristal Carrington on the CW’s revamped version of “Dynasty.” At the end of the first season, fans didn’t know if Cristal Carrington survived a life or death situation. However, Kelley confirmed that she wasn’t returning to the show. Kelley’s statement caused fans to believe that Cristal Carrington died.
In addition, Kelley released her statement before the CW publicly revealed their anticipated ideas for the show. The creators cast telenovela star Ana Brenda Contreras as Cristal Jennings. When the creators Introduced Cristal Jennings, they revealed that the character Cristal Carrington had died.
Conan Stevens — Gregor Clegane, 'Game of Thrones'
Gregor Clegane, also known as The Mountain, is a knight of the house of Clegane and a warrior in “Game of Thrones.” Three different actors have portrayed Clegane. In season one, the original Clegane was played by Conan Stevens, a stuntman and former professional wrestler.
However, actor Ian Whyte replaced Stevens on season two in 2012. Whyte isn’t new to “Game of Thrones.” He has also played the Wun Wun and several White Walkers. Later in 2014, the character was recast yet again and Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson filled the role. Björnsson is known as the World’s Strongest Man.
Parker Bagley — Jason DiLaurentis, 'Pretty Little Liars'
Jason DiLaurentis is the older half-brother of main characters Alison DiLaurentis, Spencer Hastings and Alex Drake. Initially, Parker Bagley played DiLaurentis on “Pretty Little Liars.” Fans saw Bagley in two episodes of season one. However, the producers recast the role of DiLaurentis in 2011 with a different actor.
In the second season, actor Drew Van Acker stepped in to replace Bagley for the rest of the show. The executive producer, I. Marlene King explained the recast to E! News, stating, "This actor works more for where we're going with that story. He plays a dark and mysterious guy, and he taps into Aria's dark and mysterious side.”
Riff Regan — Willow Rosenberg, 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'
Did you know there’s an unaired presentation pilot of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer?” Many slayer fans had no idea that Willow Rosenberg’s character was recast. Before Alyson Hannigan became the Rosenberg audiences knew, actress Riff Regan originally played the geeky witch in 1996.
The show’s casting director, Marcia Shulman, revealed that the show struggled to cast Rosenberg’s role. Shulman adds, “We actually had cast someone else in the pilot, and it just didn’t work.” The casting team had a difficult time finding Regan’s replacement, but after seven auditions they found Hannigan in 1997. “The qualities that Willow had to have are the exact opposite qualities of what actresses have to have. Sort of insecure, shy, self-effacing. Every line that somebody else would play like they were sad, Alyson was joyful about. That made her the only one for the role,” says Shulman.
Lily Nicksay — Morgan Matthews, 'Boy Meets World'
For the first two seasons of “Boy Meets World,” fans saw actress Lily Nicksay star as Morgan Matthews, Cory Matthews’ funny little sister. According to The List, Nicksay quit “Boy Meets World” because she was unhappy and “a little girl who did not want to be on the show.”
In the show’s third season, the audience suddenly noticed a brand new face. This new Morgan Matthews also aged a few years. Another star, Lindsay Ridgeway, came in to replace Nicksay in 1996. The show casually addressed the recast with Ridgeway’s character saying she had “the longest timeout ever.”