18 Famous TV Roles Originally Played by Someone Else

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Many popular TV shows would have been totally different had the executives stuck with the actors from the pilot episode.

1. Cousin Larry from Perfect Strangers. Would you believe comedian Louie Anderson was in the pilot as Balki’s cousin? Yep. But after reviewing the (unaired) episode, executives decided that Louie just didn’t have the right chemistry with Bronson Pinchot, whom the series was basically built around. Louie got the axe and Mark Linn-Baker stepped in.

2. Danny Tanner from Full House. Although show producers always had Bob Saget in mind, the widower and single dad was first played by an actor named John Posey because Saget was contractually obligated to a morning show on CBS. Posey was ousted when Saget got fired from The Morning Project, freeing him up for the family-friendly sitcom.

3. Carol Seaver from Growing Pains.

The original Carol Seaver was an actress named Elizabeth Ward. After her character didn’t seem to resonate with test audiences, producers called back Tracey Gold, who was on vacation with her family. She didn’t want to go back, feeling they had seen her audition and didn’t like her and nothing had changed. She was eventually convinced to give it another try.
 
4. Meg Griffin from Family Guy. The eternally picked-on Meg was voiced by Party of Five and Mean Girls actress Lacey Chabert for the first season. Feeling her voice just wasn’t quite right, Seth MacFarlane and co. asked Mila Kunis to try out after seeing her on That 70s Show.

5. Officer Tom Hanson from 21 Jump Street. An actor named Jeff Yagher was originally cast as Officer Tom Hanson in the pilot. Who? This guy. Fox didn’t care for his performance in the pilot episode and sought to recast the role, maybe with Josh Brolin. Creator Patrick Hasburgh decided to first try Johnny Depp one more time - he had already turned down the part once - and was thrilled when Depp finally accepted.

6. Eddie Haskell from Leave it to Beaver. Before he was renamed Eddie Haskell, the sycophant character was called Frankie and was played by Harry Shearer, whose parents pulled him from the show so he could have a normal childhood. Yep - this Harry Shearer:

7. Jim Walsh from Beverly Hills 90210. Can you picture Ferris Bueller’s dad as Brenda and Brandon’s dad? It almost happened. Lyman Ward was the original Jim Walsh, but he was deemed not quite right for the show after shooting scenes for the first episode. Enter James Eckhouse.

8. D.J. Conner from Roseanne. The youngest Conner was originally played by an actor named Sal Barone, who appeared in the pilot. Michael Fishman took his place and played D.J. for the duration of the show.

9. Half the cast of Gilligan’s Island. If the producers had gone with the cast from a pilot episode, the classic sitcom would have been an entirely different show indeed. The unaired pilot included a high school teacher, not a professor, and he was played by actor John Gabriel, who eventually went on to play Seneca Beaulac in Ryan’s Hope. Instead of Mary Ann the farm girl and Ginger the movie star, the girls were a pair of secretaries named Ginger and Bunny, neither of them played by Tina Louise or Dawn Wells. And the theme song was completely different.

10. Alice Kramden from The Honeymooners. Pert Kelton played Alice Kramden for the first seven episodes of The Honeymooners and was supposedly replaced when her husband was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. The role, of course, was taken over by Audrey Meadows.

11. Mister Ed from Mister Ed. The horse in the pilot was a chestnut gelding, replaced after the pilot by a crossbred gelding named Bamboo Harvester . I just blew your mind, didn’t I?

12. Chrissy Snow from Three’s Company. Two actresses played the Chrissy character before Suzanne Somers. First there was Susanne Zenor, who was in the original pilot (when Chrissy was named Samantha). The script was entirely rewritten after that pilot and, as a result, Zenor was replaced with Susan Lanier. But Lanier didn’t do the trick either - critics were pretty harsh on her performance in the second pilot, and Somers was hired instead.

13. Face from The A-Team. In the pilot, Face was portrayed by Tim Dunigan. After reviewing his tape, producers decided that Dunigan just looked too young to be a Vietnam Vet and replaced him with Dirk Benedict.

14. Gloria Stivic from All in the Family. Like Three’s Company, All in the Family went through a couple of actresses before finally sticking with Sally Struthers to play Gloria Stivic. First, Kelly Jean Peters played the daughter of Archie and Edith Justice in a pilot called Justice For All. Then actress Candice Azzara was cast when the show was titled Those Were the Days. For the third incarnation, the Justices became the Bunkers and Sally Struthers had secured the role.

15. Roz Doyle from Frasier. A pre-Friends Lisa Kudrow was originally cast as Roz, but she was replaced after just a couple of days of rehearsals. "I knew it wasn't working. I could feel it all slipping away, and I was panicking, which only made things worse,” she later said.

16. Jenna Maroney from 30 Rock. Tina Fey originally cast her good friend Rachel Dratch in Jane Krakowski's role, but it was ultimately decided that Dratch was better suited to “playing a range of different characters.”

17. Eddie Munster from The Munsters. When the show was pitched to the good folks at CBS, the role of Eddie was played by Nate "Happy" Derman. Studio execs didn't like that he portrayed Eddie as a spoiled brat, so Derman was canned and Butch Patrick was brought in.

18. Rudy Huxtable from The Cosby Show. Well, Rudy wasn't exactly recast, but I felt like we had to share this nugget of information: Jaleel White was considered for the role of Rudy when the part was written for a boy. Ultimately, the producers just didn’t love any of the male auditions and opened it up for females as well. They ended up falling for Keshia Knight Pulliam.
 

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September 1, 2011 - 11:17am
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