15 Famous Actors From TV Shows Who Were Replaced Mid-Series
There is something jarring about having one of your favourite characters suddenly recast. Whether it’s just after being introduced to them, or after you’ve already grown to know and love (or hate) a specific role, casting changes can make or break a show. With that in mind, we have a list of 15 roles that were recast during production.
JAN BRADY IN THE BRADY BUNCH VARIETY SHOW
Jan Brady was the Brady family’s middle child. When she wasn’t jealous of her older sister or self-conscious about her glasses and freckles, Jan spent most of her energy fretting about what she would look like when she was older. The poor girl was a beacon of teenage angst, and thus a highly relatable character in the show.
When actress Eve Plumb, who played Jan, turned down the chance to reappear in a 1977 Brady Bunch variety show, fans were disappointed. Plumb was reluctant to reprise the role because she was basking in the newfound success of a solo career. So, the role went to Geri Reischl, who only featured for nine episodes before the show was canceled.
Despite this, Plumb agreed to play Jan in the Brady Bunch spin-offs (including ‘The Brady Girls Get Married’, ‘The Brady Brides’, ‘A Very Brady Christmas’, and ‘The Bradys’), which were successful, proving that a show is only as popular as it’s cast members!
CHRIS PARTRIDGE ON ‘THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY’
The Partridge Family was a sitcom documenting the lives of a musical family comprising mom, Shirley, and her five children. Chris Partridge was the second-youngest of the five children and was the family’s drummer. The show was loosely based on the Cowsills, a popular family band prominent in the 1960s and 1970s.
In the show’s first season, Chris was played by actor Jeremy Gelbwaks, but then later replaced by Brian Forster. The reason for Gelbwak’s departure from the show is unclear, and the rumour mill has not helped to set the record straight. The possible reasons include moving away with his family, or not being a good fit for the show.
Regardless of the reason, the change had little impact on the show. Perhaps it was lucky that the role was relatively small, and that other strong actors such as Rodney Scott (who played David Cassidy) actually carried the show with their performances.
JACKIE GEARY FROM ‘THE GOLDBERGS’
This was evident when the role of Jackie Geary (who was Adam Goldberg's love interest) was recast in the sixth season of the show. The character was portrayed by Rowan Blanchard for the first five seasons, who proved to be a fan favourite, evidenced by the outcry when the role was given Alexis Zall.
Despite rumours once again doing the rounds about the reason for the recast, Creator Andy Goldberg took to the Twitterverse to clarify that Blanchard turned down the role, and the show was thus forced to recast. Perhaps fans were more bothered by the change in the character’s look – from girl next door to punk rocker, the change wasn’t subtle.
MORTY FROM ‘SEINFELD’
Jerry’s dad, Morty, was played originally played by Phil Bruns in the first season of Seinfeld. However, he was replaced by Barney Martin from the second season, because creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld wanted someone who could be a little grumpier, to bump up the comedic factor. Well, it definitely worked!
CAROL FROM ‘FRIENDS’
Ross Gellar’s ex-wife and the mother of his son, Carol, was a recurring character on Friends, and the representation of an important backstory – Ross’ failed marriage and fatherhood are major influences on his character. Despite this, the character was changed after only a single appearance. Luckily, the change took place early enough that many viewers failed to notice!
Carol was initially played by Anita Barone, who was offered the role after auditioning for one of the show’s female leads. After only one episode, however, Barone left the show to pursue a full-time acting career elsewhere, and the role of Carol was given to Jane Sibbett, who played it with grace and humour, making the character memorable.
AUNT VIVIAN FROM ‘THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR’
The Fresh Prince of Bell-Air follows Will Smith’s move from West Philadelphia to stay with his aunt, uncle and cousins in fancy Bel-Air. Will’s aunt, Vivian Banks, is a classy lady that is always well-groomed, poised and loving. For the show’s first three seasons, the role was played by Janet Hubert, but was recast for the fourth season.
Unlike some of the other recasts in this list, Aunt Viv’s recasting came amid significant discord on the show. According to several sources, Hubert and Smith had several differences of opinion, and disliked working together. As such, Hubert left the show, and her replacement, Daphne Maxwell Reid, filled Viv’s shows for the duration of the show.
BECKY FROM ‘ROSEANNE’
Roseanne was a sitcom that followed the lives of the working-class Connor family and the various adventures they entered into. The family consisted of mom Roseanne, her husband Dan, and their three kids; Becky, Darlene, and DJ. Rebecca (Becky) Conner, the eldest of the children, was occasionally spoiled and vain, but overall a loveable and normal teenage girl.
Becky was originally played by actress Lecy Goranson for five seasons. Thereafter, the actress left the show to dedicate her time to college. Originally, the show dealt with her departure by having the character leave home, appearing in fewer episodes. However, the producers wanted Becky’s character to feature more form the sixth season, requiring a recast.
Sarah Chalke thus became the new Becky for the show’s sixth, seventh, and ninth seasons. (in case you’re wondering about the math, Goranson once again played Becky in season eight). With so many discrepancies between who was actually playing Becky, it’s no wonder fans were disappointed with the changes.
DARRIN FROM ‘BEWITCHED’
Bewitched chronicled the life of Samantha Stephens, a housewife that was also a full-fledged witch. Samantha lived with her advertising executive husband, Darrin. Together, the couple maintains a façade of suburban normalcy, hiding Samantha’s abilities from the world, while also working on their relationship – a wholesome, happy family.
Darrin Stephens was originally portrayed by actor Dick York for the first five seasons. However, the sixth season featured a change in casting, with Dick Sargent taking over York’s role. The reason for the change was a sad one – York suffered from health problems that prevented him working, forcing him to give up the role.
The show’s writers and crew initially tried to accommodate York and his health concerns, but the longer he worked on the show, the more his health declined, until a mutual decision was made to recast the character. While the show continued for two more seasons after York’s departure, it was sadly to lower ratings.
COUSIN MARILYN FROM ‘THE MUNSTERS’
The Munsters were just your average suburban family…. Of vampires and monsters. Despite being unconventional and weird, the family was a loving and wholesome one. Of the entire family, only cousin Marilyn was truly ‘normal’, making her the black sheep of the family.
Originally played by Beverley Owen for the first 13 episodes, Marilyn’s character was recast and played by Pat Priest for the remaining two seasons. While there are many factors which contributed to Owen’s departure from the show, her main motivation was to be closer to her partner in New York, which meant she left California (where the show was filmed).
JENNA WADE FROM ‘DALLAS’
Jenna Wade was Bobby Ewing's first love, before she left him for an Italian count. Unusually, Jenna’s role was recast twice! Jenna Wade was first portrayed by Morgan Fairchild for one episode in 1978, before being played by Francine Tacker for two episodes in 1980. In 1983, a THIRD actress (Priscilla Presley) took over as Jenna.
A single recast can play havoc in a show, but what about having three ladies play play the same role in as many years? Chaos. Thankfully, Presley was the last Jenna, playing the role until the character was originally written out of the show.
JOHN BOY FROM ‘THE WALTONS’
The Walton’s follows protagonist John-Boy Walton (the eldest son) as he works his way to become a writer, from childhood to success. All the while, it also follows the Walton family’s trials and successes as they navigate through a world ravaged by war and economic depression.
John was originally played by Richard Thomas for the show’s first five seasons, before being replaced by Robert Wightman for the eighth and ninth seasons. Why the recast, you ask? Thomas was successful in the role, receiving two Emmy awards for the role. Despite this, he left the show to pursue other interests and was successful in many other roles.
LIONEL JEFFERSON FROM ‘THE JEFFERSONS’
The Jeffersons was a popular 1970s sitcom revolving around the life of Lionel Jefferson and his family, as they navigate through the various challenges of suburban life. Lionel’s character was originally played by actor Mike Evans, who left the show to pursue his writing career.
Mike Evans was replaced by Damon Evans for a period of four years. Despite this, he returned to the show for three years (1979 to 1981). Thereafter, Lionel’s character, as well as that as that of his wife, was written out of the show, eliminating the problem of who plays who.
MORGAN FROM ‘BOY MEETS WORLD’
Boy Meets World was a sitcom revolving around Cory Matthews (played by Ben Savage) as well as his friends and family, including his younger sister, Morgan. As the show progresses, each of the characters comes into their own, with Morgan growing from pre-teen to young woman.
Lily Nicksay portrayed the role of Morgan in the show’s first two seasons, before being replaced by an older actress, Lindsay Ridgeway, for the remaining four seasons. The actresses weren’t the only change to the character, however. Nicksay’s Morgan was a younger, more innocent version to the sassy and trouble-making version played by Ridgeway.
The reason for the recast seems straightforward enough – Nicksay, only four years old when the show premiered – realised she did not want to commit to being on the show, and left to pursue other interests, including her high school career!
NAOMI FROM ‘PRIVATE PRACTICE’
'Private Practice' was a popular spin-off inspired by medical drama, Grey’s Anatomy. The show follows the life and career of Dr. Addison Montgomery’s, a fertility specialist who is a partner in a medical practice. Dr Naomi Bennett features in the show as Montgomery’s best friend and colleague.
Initially played by Merrin Dungey, the character was recast to be portrayed by four-time Tony winner, Audra McDonald. While the change occurred relatively early in the show, the reasoning was unclear. In a press conference, the creators mentioned that the changes came among character fine-tuning across the show.
PAMELA BURKHART FROM ‘THAT 70s SHOW’
That 70s Show features a group of teenage friends growing up in the seventies, and the hilarious situations they get up to. Part of the group is rich-girl Jackie Burkhart, who plays Michael’s high-maintenance love interest. Jackie’s mother, Pamela, also appears on the show.
Originally, the role of Pamela Burkhart was earmarked for Eve Plumb, who played the character for five seasons. However, at the start of the sixth season, viewers were treated to a new Pamela, played by Brook Shields. While a reason was never given for Shields’ appearance in the role, she was a fan favourite.
THE REST IS HISTORY
The changes in cast can have a significant effect on a show’s popularity and success – especially if the audience decides against the change! Thankfully, for every bad casting decision made, there are multiple good ones, ensuring that our favorite shows are always epic!