TV Characters Who Were Recast After The Pilot Episode


When a network picks up a pilot, execs are free to keep what they like and get rid of what they don’t, which can lead to script rewrites and characters being recast. While we don’t always hear about this sort of thing, it’s more common than people realize. Here are 16 television characters that were recast after the pilot episode:

16. Charmed – Phoebe

In the unaired pilot for Charmed, the character, Phoebe, isn’t played by Ayssa Milano! She’s played by actress Lori Rom. The tabloids reported that Rom left because she and her co-star Shannen Doherty were bitter enemies (which both women deny) and there were  other rumors that she quit the role because of her religion; however, she has always insisted that her departure from the series was due to “personal reasons.” After she left, Aaron Spelling then contacted Milano and the rest is history!

(c)The WB Television Network/courtesy Everett Collection


15. Roseanne – D.J.

Michael Fishman wasn’t the original actor cast in the role of D.J. on Roseanne. Sal Barone played D.J. in the pilot, but the part had to be recast. Reports indicate that he and Sara Gilbert didn’t get along and when he had a growth spurt following the pilot producers became worried that he would outgrow his two older on-screen sisters, so he was recast with Fishman.

(c)Carsey-Werner Company

14. Game of Thrones – Catelyn Stark

The Game of Thrones’ character Catelyn Stark was played by Jennifer Ehle in the unaired pilot but left the role before the series before it was picked up. She reportedly left the show because she felt it was too soon after the birth of her daughter and she didn’t want to commit to such a long-running role while also raising a young family. The part was recast with Michelle Fairley.

Source: James Gourley/REX/Shutterstock / Everett Collection

13. Full House – Danny Tanner

In the original pilot for Full House, it wasn’t Bob Saget playing Danny Tanner – it was actor John Posey! He didn’t see his recasting coming. ABC had picked up the series with Posey when producers decided to test Saget in the role. They had originally wanted Saget, but he was busy, at the time, so when his schedule cleared up, they recast him in the role and then reshot the pilot.

(c)Warner Bros. Television/courtesy Everett Collection

12. Growing Pains – Carol Seaver

Tracey Gold will forever be associated with her role as Carol Seaver on the sitcom Growing Pains, but she wasn’t the first actress cast in the part! Elizabeth Ward was originally cast and appeared in the pilot episode for the series, but after the pilot, the show decided to go in a different direction with casting, and Gold ended up getting the part.

©Warner Bros. Courtesy: Everett Collection

11. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Principal Flutie

Actor Stephen Tobolowsky was in the unaired pilot for Buffy the Vampire Slayer playing Principal Flutie. The reason the part was recast with Ken Lerner was because Tobolowsky was under contract with ABC for another series, The Pretender. Joss Whedon convinced him to do the pilot, but then he wasn’t available after that. It sounds like he regrets how things turned out! “Well, the series for ABC, I believe, lasted for nine shows, whereas Buffy The Vampire Slayer lasted for years. It could have made life so much sweeter through difficult times to have a steady paycheck, but that’s the way the chips roll,” he told The A.V. Club.

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10. Game of Thrones – Daenerys Targaryen

Tamzin Merchant – who played Catherine Howard in The Tudors – was the first actress cast in the part of Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones. She was in the unaired pilot but was recast after showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were forced to reshoot the episode after the original received negative feedback. Merchant was then replaced with Emilia Clarke.

Source: Photo by Dan Wooller/REX Shutterstock / Everett Collection

9. The Catch – Benjamin Jones

Damon Dayoub was set to play the male lead in The Catch, but was let go after the series was ordered in May 2015 and Peter Krause from Parenthood was brought in to replace him. Dayoub wasn’t the only actor who was recast. One Tree Hill’s Bethany Joy Lenz was originally cast as Zoe, but was replaced with actress Sonya Walger after the pilot.

Source: Everett Collection

8. Beverly Hills, 90210 – Jim Walsh

James Eckhouse wasn’t the first actor cast to played Brenda and Brendon’s dad. Lyman Ward – who played Ferris Bueller’s dad in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – was originally cast in the role. The studio didn’t think he was right for the part, so the role was recast with Eckhouse and all of Lyman’s scenes in the pilot were cut and re-shot.

7. 30 Rock – Jenna

Saturday Night Live alum Rachel Dratch was originally cast as Jenna DeCarlo on 30 Rock before the role was recast with Jane Krakowski and the character’s name was changed to Jenna Maloney. Dratch didn’t take her firing personally and went on to play multiple characters on the show, including that of a cat wrangler in the aired pilot.

Abaca Press / Everett Collection

6. Firefly – Inara

Rebecca Gayheart was originally cast as Inara on Firefly, but was fired after just one day of filming. Creator Joss Whedon reportedly said that there wasn’t enough chemistry there between her and the other cast members, so Morena Baccarin was cast in the role a couple of days later and began filming the same day she was hired.

5. Pretty Little Liars – Toby Cavanaugh

During Pretty Little Liars’ pilot episode, James Neate was playing Toby Cavanaugh, but during the third episode of the first season, Neate was gone and it was Keegan Allen in the role. That wasn’t the only thing that changed about the Toby character – with Neate, Toby’s last name was the same as Jenna’s, Marshall. With Allen, Toby got a new last name, Cavanaugh. This was probably changed to make the relationship between Toby and Jenna seem a little less incestuous.

4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Willow

In the unaired pilot for Buffy, actress Riff Regan portrayed Willow Rosenberg, but the network recast the role with Alyson Hannigan. The way Regan portrayed Willow as more of a sweet doormat — she didn’t have the neurotic, eager-to-please quality that Alyson Hannigan brought to the part.

3. Gilmore Girls – Sookie

In the original, unaired pilot for Gilmore Girls, Alex Borstein played Sookie St. James, but her MADtv contract prevented her from taking a main cast role, so the role was recast with Melissa McCarthy. Borstein did make several appearances during the show’s seven-season run as the harpist Drella, then as Miss Celine and Doris. The Sookie role wasn’t the only one that was recast. During the first pilot, Dean Forester was played by Nathan Wetherington, but then was recast with Jared Padalecki!

2. Gossip Girl – Eleanor Waldorf

A different actress played Blair Waldorf’s mother Eleanor in Gossip Girl’s pilot. Her name is Florencia Lozano, but she was replaced when the show was put into full production with Margaret Colin, who made her small screen debut on the show in episode four. The part was reportedly cast because Lozano looked too young to play Blair’s mother.

1. Parenthood – Sarah Braverman

Maura Tierney was originally cast as Sarah Braverman on Parenthood, but she had to withdraw from the role so that she could recover from breast cancer surgery. Initially, production tried to accommodate her treatment by temporarily halting production, but her treatment plan conflicted with the series’ filming schedule. A few months later, Lauren Graham was cast in the part.