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11 Characters Played by Different Actors

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Having more than one actor portray the same character happens more often than you’d think on many popular TV series. The reason behind the switcheroo is not always explained to the viewing public, which means of course that we automatically assume the actor asked for a raise. But that’s not always the case.

1. Poor Durwood, er Dumbo, er Darwin…

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A classic example is Dick York, the original (and to many fans, the definitive) Darrin on Bewitched. York started his professional acting career in 1943 and found steady work both on TV and in films. While filming They Came to Cordoba (with Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth) in 1959 a mishap while propelling a railroad handcar caused York to tear most of the muscles in the right side of his back, an injury that would plague him the rest of his life. During his tenure on Bewitched, the pain became increasingly worse, despite the studio doctors loading him up with painkillers. Eventually he was only able to stand upright for 30 minutes at a time, so he retired his role to Dick Sargent.

2. “She looks the same, but isn’t the same…”

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The role of Becky on Roseanne was something of a revolving door. Alicia “Lecy” Goranson played Becky from 1988 until 1992, when she graduated from high school and enrolled at Vassar College. At first, she was able to make occasional cameo appearances on the show, so the writers developed the Becky-elopes-with-Mark storyline to explain her absence. But soon her studies took priority, and Sarah Chalke was hired as Becky #2. By 1997, Goranson was able to schedule some Roseanne time, bumping Chalke out of the role temporarily. Personal circumstances forced her to miss a few episodes, leaving Chalke to pinch-hit for her. The show’s producers never tried to conceal the actress switch and actually poked fun at it in several episodes.

3. Yo homes, to unemployment!

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Janet Hubert-Whitten portrayed Aunt Vivian on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air from 1990 until 1993. Her real-life pregnancy apparently wasn’t too much of a problem, as it was written into the script, so why was she ultimately replaced by Daphne Reid for the last three seasons of the series?  The official explanation at the time was that she’d gained 60 pounds and had become “hormonally difficult,” but in a revealing interview with Jet magazine, series star Will Smith stated:  “I can say straight up that Janet Hubert wanted the show to be The Aunt Viv of Bel-Air Show. She said once, ‘I've been in the business for 10 years and this snotty-nosed punk comes along and gets a show.'”

4. Who shot my career in the neck?

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Barbara Bel Geddes originated the role of Southfork matriarch “Miss Ellie” on Dallas. She exuded a quiet strength that enabled her to stand up to J.R. while also nurturing Jock and letting him think that he ran the ranch. In 1984, Bel Geddes took a break from the show for heart bypass surgery, and during her post-operative recovery, she decided that she’d worked long enough and it was time to retire. Donna Reed was brought in as the new Miss Ellie, but fans openly expressed their displeasure with Reed’s glamour versus Bel Geddes’ earth mother persona. More to the point, Larry Hagman disliked her and when the show’s ratings dipped, he made a personal appeal to Bel Geddes to return to the series. Reed was dismissed despite having signed a three-year contract.

5. Abner! Look! It’s a Different Gladys!

Poor Gladys Kravitz – the across the street neighbor on Bewitched knew that something was not as it seemed at the Stephens’ house, but no one ever believed her…especially her curmudgeonly husband Abner, who simply questioned her sanity. Character actress Alice Pearce played the role from the pilot episode until she succumbed to cancer in 1966. She won a posthumous Emmy Award for her work that year, and all these years later “Gladys Kravitz” is still a common term in the American lexicon used to describe a nosy neighbor. Sandra Gould took over the role after Pearce’s death.

6. Different Drummer

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Jeremy Gelbwaks was originally cast as the youngest son, Chris, on The Partridge Family. Of course, the best lines on PF went to Shirley Jones, David Cassidy, and Danny Bonaduce. The youngest kids were pretty much just there to fill out the family band and occasionally look cute during close-ups. Gelbwaks left after the first season; the official party line was that his father’s job had transferred the family out of state. However, Danny Bonaduce has since revealed that Jeremy was something of a terror on-set, known for pranks such as kicking his fellow actors viciously in the shins just before the director yelled “Action!” He was replaced by blond, blue-eyed Brian Forster, who looked nothing like his predecessor. Nevertheless, the producers only received one fan letter questioning the change.

7. No One Notices the Homely One

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Beverly Owen played “plain” cousin Marilyn in the first 13 episodes of The Munsters. Then suddenly Pat Priest, daughter of U.S. Treasurer Ivy Baker Priest, took over the role. What happened? Something very simple: love. Owen was engaged to a man who lived in New York and couldn’t move due to his work commitments, so she chose to break her contract (earning herself a five year ban in the studio system as a result) and move from Hollywood to the East Coast. She’s still married to that gent, so despite the crimp the move put on her acting career, she believes she made the right decision.

8. Pamela’s Fallon Out

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Dynasty wasn’t the first show Pamela Sue Martin left in the lurch—she quit her role as Nancy Drew in the 1977 Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys Mysteries after one season, when the producers chose to focus the series on the Hardy Boys portion of the equation. She landed the role of Fallon Carrington on the prime time soap in 1981 and spent the next three seasons hopping from bed to bed with the frequency of a cheap transistor radio. She left without much explanation in 1984 (interviews she gave at the time indicated that she was bored with the constraints of a weekly series; in recent years she’s said that it was due to health issues) and was replaced by Emma Samms.

9. Working Girl

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Phyllis Coates portrayed Lois Lane in the first 26 episodes of The Adventures of Superman and received top billing alongside series star George Reeves. Coates’ Lane was aggressive and somewhat hard-nosed; she was more interested in her work as a reporter than in flirting with the Man of Steel. When the show went on hiatus after the first season, it was uncertain whether it would be picked up for a second, as a national sponsor hadn’t yet been secured. During the break Coates was offered a role in a pilot for another series, so she left Superman to take it. That show ultimately didn’t fly, and in the meantime the role of Lois Lane was softened up a bit and given to Noel Neill.

10. Movin’ On Up…and Around

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Mike Evans originated the role of Lionel Jefferson back when his family still lived next door to the Bunkers on All in the Family. When The Jeffersons was spun off into its own series, he continued playing the part until 1975 when Good Times, a sitcom he’d co-created, took off. He was also one of the main writers for the new series, and eventually had to take a leave of absence from The Jeffersons because, well, there were only so many hours in a day. Damon Evans (no relation) filled in as Lionel until Good Times was cancelled in 1979.

11. Back Behind the Camera

Flea Market Funk/Wikimedia/Wikimedia Commons

Matt Robinson (dad of actress Holly Robinson-Peete) played Gordon on Sesame Street from 1969, when the series debuted, until 1972. But he was never very comfortable in front of the camera and had only taken on the role because none of the other actors that tested played the part as well as Robinson. He’d joined the Children’s Television Workshop to work behind the scenes producing and developing educational shows with diverse characters, not to be an actor. After he decided that he preferred being behind the scenes (he continued to work on the show and voice the Muppet Roosevelt Franklin until 1975), the role of Gordon was first given to Hal Miller then to Roscoe Orman, who is still playing the part 36 years later.

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9 People Who Just Did It Anyway
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Gettu Images

This week’s mental_floss video entitled 18 Famous People Who Are Missing Body Parts reminded me that April is Limb Loss Awareness Month. You may be aware that we have a continuing series about people who are technically classified as “disabled,” but don’t let it get in the way of doing as they please. While it’s still April, let’s meet some other people who are excelling in areas they weren’t supposed to because of lost limbs or other anomalies.

1. Baxter Humby

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Baxter Humby, nicknamed “One Arm Bandit,” is an MMA fighter and Muay Thai Kickboxer. He is currently the IMTC World Super Welterweight Champion. Shortly after birth, Humby’s right hand and most of his forearm was amputated due to injury from a tangled umbilical cord. He started running at a young age, made the Canadian National Paralympic Track Team, and participated in the Paralympics in 1992 and 1994. He took up martial arts at 17.

In addition to holding various martial arts championships, Humby teaches at both a martial arts school and his local YMCA, and finds time for motivational speaking as well. Humby also has his hand in show business: he starred in the Chinese film One Arm Hero, appeared on the TV show The Shield, and worked as a stunt man on the film Spider-Man 3.

2. Randy Pierce

Randy Pierce grew up in New Hampshire, a fan of sports, nature, and the New England Patriots. At age 22, his vision began to fail due to a neurological disorder. Eventually he went blind, and twelve years later, the disorder confined him to a wheelchair. Pierce was determined to regain his mobility, and worked for two years to leave the wheelchair. When he succeeded, Pierce and his guide dog Quinn climbed all 48 of the 4000+ foot peaks in the New Hampshire White Mountains! Pierce founded the organization 2020 Vision Quest, in order to funnel the funds he raised through mountain climbing to charities for the blind.

3. Lee Reid

Illustration by Joshua Drummond.

Lee Reid is a musician and composer who has a Master’s in Neuroscience from the University of Auckland. Ironically, as an adult he was stricken with a mysterious and painful neurological disorder that affected his hands. Reid could no longer work, nor could he play music. He still wanted to compose, but even with computer software, he couldn’t use his hands to control what he wrote. Reid came to the conclusion that he would have to design his own software. He read up on programming, and, using a mouse with his foot, created a composing program one character at a time. It took a year, and the result is Musink, a program in which you can write music notation with only a mouse, available free to download.

Two years after Reid lost the use of his hands, an experimental treatment restored enough function for him to return to neuroscience for a living, although he still suffers with pain. You can read an illustrated version of his story at Cakeburger

4. Nico Calabria

Nineteen-year-old Nicolai Calabria graduated from high school as an all-around athlete. He was co-captain of the wrestling team, midfielder for the soccer team, and hiked to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. He’s now working as a gymnastic instructor and a motivational speaker. All this, despite the fact that he was born without his left leg and hip. This fall, Calabria will travel with the US National Amputee Soccer Team to the 2014 Amputee World Cup in Mexico. He will also begin his college career at Colorado College. That’s a pretty good resume for a 19-year-old! See Calabria in action on video

5. Jahmir Wallace

Jahmir Wallace of Phillipsburg, New Jersey, was born without arms, so he does everything with his feet. The dexterity the fifth-grader developed with his toes is serving him well as he learns to play the trumpet. But even more important is Wallace’s can-do attitude.

“My older sister used to play the piano. So I thought maybe I should try an instrument. I thought maybe I could try and figure out new things,” he said.

6. Barney Miller

Photograph from No Means Go.

Barney Miller is an Australian surfer who was severely injured in a traffic accident 15 years ago. With his neck broken, he was told he’d never breathe on his own again, much less walk. With determination and hard work, he took his first steps with a walker last year. He is also in the water constantly, surfing with friends despite his lack of movement. Miller is the subject of a documentary called No Means Go which is in production now. 

7. Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham

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In 2010, hardcore sitter (extreme wheelchair athlete) Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham became the first person to successfully execute a double backflip in a wheelchair. Seeing just a part of what he went through to perfect the stunt will make you cringe, but it paid off. Born with spina bifida, Fotherington was also the first athlete to perform a single backflip in a wheelchair when he was only 14 years old! From his biography

After posting that “first ever back flip” on the Internet, life has changed for Aaron; he has had the opportunity to travel within the US, as well as internationally, performing and speaking in front of many. He has attended summer camps for disabled children as a coach/mentor. He has been featured in magazines, newspapers, and sports television. He receives and responds to e-mails from all over the world.

Aaron enjoys showing young kids with disabilities that a wheelchair can be a toy, not a restriction. He loves helping younger children learn how to handle their chairs in new and different ways and teaching them a trick or two.

Someday he hopes to design “the most wicked” chair in the world.

See a more recent video of Fotheringham showing off here.

8. Annette Gabbedey

British goldsmith Annette Gabbedey has been crafting custom jewelry and setting precious gems for 24 years, despite the fact that she was born without fingers. The "about" page at her business site doesn't even mention the lack of fingers, but as you can see from the picture, she doesn't hide it.

Gabbedey doesn't consider herself disabled, just different. She doesn't use special tools, but has her own method of using regular jeweler's tools, like setting the piece she's working on in a vice, and keeping a strap around her wrist to set a tool into. Gabbedey says fingers would just get in her way! See more pictures here.

9. Jorge Dyksen

Photograph from Twitter.

Jorge Dyksen is a 16-year-old high school soccer player, despite the fact that both his arms and both his legs were amputated due to a massive infection when he was a toddler. Adopted from Panama, he now lives in Haledon, New Jersey. He is the starting forward on the junior varsity team at Manchester Regional High School. See a video of Jorge in action.

See more stories of people with amazing accomplishments in previous posts of this continuing series.

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Raising Mercury
Four Cats With Fewer Than Three Legs
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Raising Mercury

We often read stories about the amazing adaptability of animals. They endure pain, but they do not wallow in self-pity. A disabled animal will do what it must do to get on with life using what it has. A four-legged animal can get around pretty well on three legs, as I learned when our border collie lost one. In these stories, four cats learned to get around pretty well with even less than three. I should say fewer than three, but you know what less than three means: <3.

1. Mercury: Two Rear Legs

Meet Mercury, the kitten that gets around on his two rear legs, like a T. rex. He was found in September, when he was only about four days old, having already lost his two front forelegs and most of the toes on one back leg. Neighbors suspected it was due to a weed whacker. After veterinary care, he was placed with an Oklahoma foster family even before his eyes opened. Mercury learned to get around on two legs as he first learned to walk, and now he runs, jumps, climbs stairs, and holds his own with the other cats. His foster family decided to make him a permanent member of the family.

Photograph from Raising Mercury.

Here’s a video that shows how he moves around on two legs. You can see more pictures and videos at Mercury’s Facebook page.

2. Anakin: Two Front Legs

Photograph by Carrie Hawks via Facebook.

Anakin was born with neither a pelvic bone nor his rear legs. Artist Carrie Hawks adopted him as a young kitten from a feral colony of cats. He was named after the character who became Darth Vader, who was also missing some limbs. Ani learned to walk balancing on his front limbs only. The Hawks considered wheels for his back end, but since the kitten got around well enough without them, he does not use wheels. Besides, that would hinder him from climbing stairs or cat towers, which you can see him do here. If he needs wheels as he gets older, he will have them. This video was recorded in the summer of 2012, when Anakin was first settling into his new home.

Anakin had a few medical interventions due to his abnormalities. He lives with several other cats and a dog, and gets plenty of human interaction. The rest of Anakin’s feral family was captured, fixed, and vaccinated, and then relocated to a private woodland where they are fed regularly. You can follow Anakin, now full grown, at his Facebook page

3. Caffrey: Two Legs on One Side

Caffrey, a Persian cat in England, has had to adapt to losing a leg twice in his life. At age three, he was struck by a car and his left hind leg had to be amputated. His front left paw was damaged, too. He adapted to walking on three legs for the next ten years. Then about a year ago, Caffrey developed a tumor in his left front leg, where he was injured in the earlier accident. The best hope for his survival was amputation, but veterinarians thought he’d never be able to get around on just two legs on the same side. Caffrey’s owner Sue Greaves knew it was Caffrey’s best chance for survival, so the operation was carried out, leaving Caffrey with only his two right legs. The old cat surprised everyone by walking around on two legs only a few days after the second amputation! See how well Caffrey moves about in this video. 

Caffrey inspired WeiChang Chiu to create a short animation called Caffrey’s Run.

4. Callie Mae: No Paws At All

In 2008, an adult cat named Callie Mae was chased up a telephone pole by dogs. At the top, she was electrocuted, which did so much damage to her legs that they all had to be amputated above the knee joint. The Theodore Vet Clinic in Mobile, Alabama, cared for Callie Mae, who learned to walk on her stumps. By 2010, she was pronounced well enough to go to a permanent home

After the story ran in the local news, many people applied to adopt Callie Mae. There has been no news about her since then, but we assume that she found a home with one of the applicants.

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