Hopefuls come far and wide to Hollywood to try and make it big. 80% of all Hollywood projects are cast in Los Angeles. Walking down Hollywood Boulevard, you’ll meet a slew of people auditioning and training to become a star. Look beneath your feet and you’ll find the Walk of Fame with the names of those who made it. And yet, despite the plethora of talent and ambition in L.A., only a few end up becoming successful.
Once in awhile, someone will score big. Before Jennifer Aniston was cast in the star making performance of Rachel Green in the hit sitcom Friends, hundreds of women were called in to read for the role. In fact, for each of the of the six lead roles, NBC received a list of more than 1,000 actors who were considered for a part on the series. Anything could have happened to change the cast we see today.
Casting in Hollywood is mostly kept under wraps. Production can change even after shooting begins, so studios try to remain discrete about any creative decisions before the product hits the screens. Sometimes we get a glimpse into the casting process when an actor shares an anecdote after the project is released. Sometimes we get an interview that offers insight into an actor’s career and the direction they’ve taken. It’s also impossible to detect what show will become a hit and what will end up a miss. Ray Liotta, for example, passed on The Sopranos because he didn’t want to do a TV show. The role went to James Gandolfini who breathed so much life into Tony Soprano it’s now difficult to even imagine Liotta – or anyone else – in the role.
We’ve gathered some of the most interesting and at times shocking casting decisions that could have changed the way we experienced some of the most iconic TV shows ever. Check out who could have starred in your favorite series and who missed out on the role that created star performances for the actors who landed the job.
Seth Rogen/Rainn Wilson
Movie star Seth Rogen auditioned with a long line of Hollywood royalty for a role in The Office. His audition came years before his breakout roles in the Judd Apatow-produced comedies Knocked Up, Superbad, and Pineapple Express. Rainn Wilson landed the role of Dwight Schrute after appearing as minor characters in hit shows including Charmed and Entourage. There are likely no hard feelings between the two, as Rogen has starred in a number of hit films since The Office premiered back in 2005.
Elisabeth Shue/Julianna Margulies
It’s hard to believe the role of Alicia Florrick could have went to anyone other than the multiple Emmy-winning Julianna Margulies. Producers were originally considering Leaving Las Vegas and Adventures in Babysitting star Elisabeth Shue to play the tough yet vulnerable attorney in The Good Wife. Margulies played Alicia off the back of ‘90s medical drama ER. Both shows were bonafide hits for the actress, and have made Margulies one of the highest grossing TV actors of all time.
Jim Parsons/Neil Patrick Harris
Before filling the shoes of Sheldon Cooper on the hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory, Jim Parsons came close to filling another famous character’s shoes – that of fast-talking womanizer Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother. Though the role eventually went to Neil Patrick Harris, CBS originally brought in Parsons for an audition. Both series were major hits for the network, and both actors received critical acclaim for their performances. Parsons in particular won four Emmys for playing Sheldon.
David Cross/Hugh Laurie
British actor Hugh Laurie landed the role of cantankerous, arrogant and seeminlg all-knowing Dr. House on the smash medical drama House. The show was a critical and commercial success. Critics had it on yearly top 10 lists as the best show of the year throughout its eight-season run. Things could have gone a different way when David Cross auditioned role. Most famous for playing out-of-touch analrapist Dr. Tobias Funke on Arrested Development, Cross was a few auditions away for the title role in House.
Ethan Embry/Andrew Lincoln
Californian actor Ethan Embry is most famous for his roles in rom-com Sweet Home Alabama and musical drama That Thing You Do. He decided to make a move to television and auditioned for the central role of Rick Grimes in the zombie thriller series The Walking Dead. The role went to Andrew Lincoln, who played lovesick best man Mark in the Christmas-themed Love Actually. The Walking Dead is widely considered Lincoln’s big break, and his performance in it has received universal, critical acclaim.
Lindsay Lohan/Hilary Duff
Two Disney princesses were vying for the role of Lizzie McGuire in the original TV series. The role went to Hilary Duff, but Lindsay Lohan also auditioned for the part. Duff is an actress and singer who has released a number of studio albums and currently stars on TV Land’s comedy series Younger. Lohan made waves playing twins in the hit family film The Parent Trap and was famous for a number of scandals throughout the 2000s. She later starred in the hit films Mean Girls, Freaky Friday, and Disney’s Herbie: Fully Loaded.
Michael Keaton/Matthew Fox
Academy Award-nominated Michael Keaton was originally slated to play Jack Shephard on the adventure drama Lost. When the writers told Keaton that Jack Shephard was only meant to be in the pilot episode, he dropped out. Matthew Fox was then brought in to play the part after the writers liked his performance and decided to expand the character’s arc. The show wrapped in 2010 and Fox had trouble landing more roles following a very public 2012 DUI and assault allegation. Keaton most recently played former McDonald’s CEO Ray Kroc in The Founder.
Rob Lowe/Patrick Dempsey
Teenage heartthrob Patrick Dempsey was ready to quit acting altogether. He enjoyed a great deal of popularity in the ‘80s, starring in teenybopper comedies such as Can’t Buy Me Love and Loverboy, with Dempsey’s face plastered on posters across America. Later on, though, he struggled to overcome typecasting. Just as he was about to leave Hollywood he landed the role of Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd in the TV drama Grey’s Anatomy. Another teenage, however, heartthrob almost took the part. Rob Lowe eventually dropped out of consideration and Dempsey signed on.
Megan Mullally/Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Jerry Seinfeld told Howard Stern that before Julia Louis-Dreyfus read for the role of Elaine Benes on the hit sitcom, Seinfeld, Megan Mullally was almost offered the role. He told Stern that he loved her audition but offered the job to Dreyfus after her own stellar audition. Mullally did OK in the end and starred as the boozy and hilarious Karen Walker on the hit sitcom Will & Grace. The role landed the actress two Emmy awards and four Golden Globe nominations.
Paul Shaffer/Jason Alexander
Seinfeld co-creator and actor Jerry Seinfeld originally suggested Late Night With David Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer to play Seinfeld’s quirky sidekick George Costanza. However, Shaffer was too busy to check his answering machine for the news, and the part was quickly offered to Jason Alexander. After the series ended, he turned to directing and has helmed episodes for numerous TV series, including Mike & Molly, Franklin & Bash, and Criminal Minds. He was nominated for seven Emmys for playing George. Reading all this, we’re guessing Paul is getting angry!
Matt LeBlanc/Ty Burrell
Before Ty Burrell signed on to play Phil Dunphy in the hit family sitcom Modern Family, the show’s producers had another funnyman in mind for the part: Friend’s star Matt LeBlanc. “I remember reading it thinking, this is a really good script, (but) I’m not the guy for this,” LeBlanc told USA Today. The part went to Ty Burrell, who won two Emmys for playing Phil. In 2017, Ty told People Magazine that he is considering quitting acting after the series ends and is more interested in producing.
David Duchovny/The cast of Full House
X-Files star David Duchovny told Jimmy Kimmel that he tried out for not one, but three of the lead roles on the family sitcom Full House. He told the late-night host that the producers struggled to find a place for him on the show and brought him in on three separate occasions to audition. The roles eventually went to Bob Saget (Danny Tanner), John Stamos (Uncle Jesse), and Dave Coulier (Uncle Joey). The truth is now out there, and honestly, we couldn’t imagine him as any of these PG-rated goofballs.
Rainn Wilson/Will Arnett
Before The Office made Rainn Wilson a bonafide star, he almost played Gob Bluth on the hilarious comedy series Arrested Development. The role eventually went to Will Arnett who his famous for his voice work in the films Ratatouille and Despicable Me. He has also guest starred in a number of series including Will & Grace, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and The Sopranos. He currently stars on the Netflix relationship dramedy series Flaked.
Leah Remini/Courtney Cox
Joining the long list of actresses who auditioned for a role on Friends, Leah Remini was considered early on to play Monica Geller. King of Queens star Remini even made it to the final round of auditions to play the clean and ultra competitive Monica. Producers eventually offered the role to Cox, who had originally auditioned for the role of Rachel Green. She had the longest resume of the Friends cast and previously starred in the hit comedy Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
Sam Claflin/Kit Harington
Game of Thrones is HBO’s most watched show of all time. It’s hard to imagine the cast with anyone else, especially London-born heartthrob Kit Harington as Jon Snow. Hunger Games actor Sam Claflin originally auditioned for the role. He told reporters that he knew early on that he was not meant for the role and that he admires Harington’s performance. Claflin made his film debut in the 2010 Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides opposite Johnny Depp.
Matthew Broderick/Bryan Cranston
There were several A-list actors vying for the role of Walter White on the breakout thriller series Breaking Bad, including actor John Cusack. Another big ‘80s star, Matthew Broderick, was also at the top of the list for role. Creator Vince Gilligan ended up offering the role to Bryan Cranston who was previously most known for his role as the hilarious dad on the family sitcom Malcolm in the Middle. In 2016 he received his first Academy Award nomination for his performance in Trumbo.
Jennifer Lawrence/Blake Lively
Blake Lively was cast in Gossip Girl off the heels of her breakout role in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants film series. Things could have gone a different way when Hollywood’s other golden girl, Jennifer Lawrence, auditioned for the part of Serena. Creator John Schwartz told Vulture that he remembered the X-Men, Silver Linings Playbook, Mother! actress coming in to audition and being disappointed when she did not get the job. Things worked out for Lawrence, as she is currently the highest paid actress in the industry.
Amanda Walsh/Kaley Cuoco
It’s hard to picture anyone sparring with Sheldon better than Kaley Cuoco’s Penny. Sheldon meets his match with the charismatic and energetic character and the show thrives off of their dynamic. In the original pilot, however, Amanda Walsh was cast as Penny. She was tougher and more assertive and the show’s producers inevitably decided to go in a different direction. They called Cuoco in for an audition and they knew they had to hire her.
Taraji P. Henson/Kerry Washington
Soon after earning an Academy Award nomination for her role as Brad Pitt’s lovable mother in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Taraji P. Henson auditioned for the iconic role of Olivia Pope in Scandal. Kerry Washington eventually nabbed the part and Henson admits that the role was meant for Washington. She didn’t wait long for work to come around and currently stars as the tough Cookie Lyon on the hit musical soap Empire.
Katie Holmes/Sarah Michelle Gellar
Buffy The Vampire Slayer is one of the most discussed show in sci-fi history. Even though the show went off the air in 2003, fans still blog and tweet about it consistently. It’s hard to believe that the central role could have gone to anyone other than Sarah Michelle Gellar. Before she was offered the role, however, Katie Holmes went through several rounds of auditions. Soon after Gellar accepted the role, Holmes landed the part of Joey Potter on the hit teen series Dawson’s Creek.
In the original pilot, actress Retta was just meant to play an extra in the Parks & Recreation office. After she improvised a line and made the entire crew laugh she was immediately cast in the role of Donna Meagle on the comedy series Parks & Rec. At the time they were holding auditions for the character, Oscar winner Octavia Spencer was brought in to read for the part. Retta will next be seen in her first starring role in the upcoming series Good Girls.
Nicollette Sheridan/Debra Messing
Desperate Housewives star Nicollette Sheridan originally auditioned for the role of the neurotically charming Grace Adler on the hit NBC sitcom Will & Grace. Debra Messing eventually landed the role and it’s hard to imagine anyone else filling Grace’s shoes. Messing is currently starring as Grace once again on the revival of Will & Grace, while Nicollette is due to make her dramatic entrance as none other than Alexis Carrington on the revival of Dynasty.
Taylor Momsen/Miley Cyrus
The Voice judge Miley Cyrus is so good as the title character in Hannah Montana, it’s hard to believe that the part wasn’t written specifically for her. The show made her a star both as an actress and singer. Before she got the part, Gossip Girl star Taylor Momsen originally went in for the role. A singer in her own right as well, Momsen is the lead singer of rock group The Pretty Reckless. The group have released three studio albums with another one on the way.
Pamela Anderson/Gillian Anderson
Although there is no direct relationship, two Andersons battled it out for the role of brilliant investigator Dana Scully on the supernatural series The X-Files. Gillian Anderson beat out Baywatch star Pamela Anderson for the role just two years after she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in screen acting. The show was revived several times and its eleventh season just premiered to critical acclaim. Gillian Anderson most recently received her own star on the Walk of Fame boulevard in Hollywood.
Thomas Jane/Jon Hamm
The dashing Jon Hamm wasn’t the first choice to play Don Draper on Mad Men. The role was initially offered to Thomas Jane, who decided to turn it down at the last minute. In addition to playing a well-endowed gigolo in HBO’s Hung, Jane is known for playing bad boys in films such as Boogie Nights, The Punisher, and The Thin Red Line. Hamm beat out 80 actors for Don Draper. He was relatively unknown at the time and was close to abandoning his Hollywood dreams before landing the role.
Sandra Bernhard/Cynthia Nixon
Comedian Sandra Bernhard auditioned for the role of cynical Miranda Hobbes on HBO’s romantic comedy series SATC. She passed on the role after they offered her less money than her rate. She famously told Howard Stern that she thought the script was “terrible” and she didn’t want to work with star Sarah Jessica Parker. Cynthia Nixon played Miranda instead. Nixon won an Emmy for her portrayal and was nominated for an additional four Golden Globes during her run on the show.
Gillian Anderson/Elizabeth McGovern
The X-Files star Gillian Anderson is no stranger to period pieces and she almost played Lady Cora Crawley in the British drama series Downton Abbey. Elizabeth McGovern landed the role and we can’t imagine it any other way. McGovern made her screen debut in the 1980 Best Picture Oscar winner Ordinary People. She has performed in a number of period films including Ragtime and Once Upon a Time in America. She will next appear in the ‘20s era drama The Chaperone.
Whitney Houston/Sabrina LeBeauf
The late and great Whitney Houston was slated to play Sondra on The Cosby Show. In fact, director Jay Sandrich almost signed on the dotted line but backed out last minute citing conflicts between the TV series and Whitney’s music career. Sabrina LeBeauf was then offered the role and played Sondra throughout the show’s duration. Houston continued rise to her superstardom and released a number of best-selling albums. Her soundtrack for her film The Bodyguard is still one of the biggest selling albums of all time.
Ray Liotta/James Gandolfini
The late James Gandolfini wasn’t the only tough New Jersey actor vying for the role of Tony Soprano on HBO’s The Sopranos. Liotta didn’t want to work on television at the time and Gandolfini signed on. Liotta is currently starring as another Italian wise guy on NBC’s Shades of Blue opposite Jennifer Lopez. While Gandolfini was mostly known for playing tough characters, he sometimes showed off his vulnerable sides on films such as Where the Wild Things Are and Enough Said.
Michael Richards/Tony Shalhoub
Seinfeld’s Michael Richards was close to playing another quirky character on Monk. The actor most known for playing Kramer on the sitcom almost played Adrian Monk. Shalhoub won three Emmys for his performance. He currently stars in the Amazon comedy series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with Rachel Broshanan. The show just took home the Golden Globe award for Best Comedy Series. Shalhoub is also a talented voice actor who voiced the role of Luigi in Cars 3 last year.
Micky Dolenz/Henry Winkler
Best known as the lead singer of the ‘60s rock group the Monkees, Micky Dolenz dabbled in acting and nearly landed the iconic role of Fonzie on Happy Days. The producers thought that the rocker was too tall and Winkler was offered the role. Fans responded so well to the Fonz at the time he was promoted from a recurring character to a series lead. “The Fonz was everybody I wasn’t,” Winkler recalled in a 2008 interview. “He was everybody I wanted to be.”
Tamzin Merchant/Emilia Clarke
Before Game of Thrones became – well – Game of Thrones, it was an entirely different show. It deviated from the source material and the unaired pilot featured a completely different cast. The original pilot was canned by HBO and production was forced to shift directions. That included the recasting of Tamzin Merchant as Daenerys “Khaleesi” Targaryen, despite George R.R. Martin’s praise of her performance. Emilia Clarke was brought in to play the Mother of Dragons after producers loved her audition.
Paul Rudd/Andrew Shue
Before Andrew Shue was cast as the suave Billy Campbell on Melrose Place, Paul Rudd was almost cast in what would have been his first major role. He later went on to debut as Alicia Silverstone’s love interest Josh in Clueless. Shue is Elisabeth Shue’s brother. Although he mostly quit acting following Melrose Place, he starred with his sister in the 2007 indie film, Gracie. He is married to The Today Show co-anchor Amy Robach.
Lisa Kudrow/Peri Gilpin
Before her star making performance as Phoebe on Friends, Lisa Kudrow was hired and began working as Roz Doyle on Frasier. The network decided during rehearsals that it just wasn’t working and Kudrow was replaced with Peri Gilpin. It didn’t take long for Kudrow to bounce back and she was quickly cast in Friends. She most recently starred in with Alec Baldwin in the animated The Boss Baby and with Emily Blunt in the high-octane thriller The Girl on the Train.
Ray Winstone/Dominic West
Before season four of HBO’s The Wire went into production, actor Dominic West asked the show’s producers to reduce his role as Jimmy McNulty so that he could spend more time with his family. During this time, actor Ray Winstone told the Digital Spy that he passed on the role originally for the very same reason. He told reporters that he did not want to spend seven months away from his family to shoot the series in Baltimore.
Halle Berry/Claire Danes
Although Claire Danes was the first actor to sign on to Showtime’s hit thriller series, Homeland, the show’s producers had another A-lister in mind: Halle Berry. Berry reportedly turned down the role of the intense and complicated Carrie Mathison because she wasn’t ready to dedicate her time to a TV series. Berry eventually went on to star in the short-lived sci-fi series, Extant, and most recently co-starred in the action-comedy Kingsman: The Golden Circle with Colin Firth.
Dwight Yoakam/Kyle Chandler
When Peter Berg was commissioned to adapt his film Friday Night Lights into a TV series, he originally wanted country singer Dwight Yoakam to play Coach Taylor. Berg said it was impossible to offer him the role after the musician made too many demands. He had requested too many days off and he demanded more money than the show’s budget. They offered the role to Kyle Chandler although Berg was reluctant to hire someone “too pretty” to play the coach.
Ed O’Neill/Ian McShane
When he was casting the TV western Deadwood, creator Alan Sepinwall originally wanted Ed O’Neill to play the the tough Al Swearengen. Producers passed because they didn’t think audiences would be able to see O’Neill as anyone other than his character on Married With Children, Al Bundy. Ian McShane eventually filled the role. Ed O’Neill is currently starring in the hit sitcom Modern Family. He has been nominated for three Emmys for playing the patriarch Jay Pritchett.
Arnold Schwarzenegger/Lou Ferrigno
For the ‘70s Incredible Hulk series, newcomer Arnold Schwarzenegger almost played the green superhero. Richard Kiel originally was cast but was fired for undisclosed reasons during production. Producers narrowed casting down to Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno who ended up landing the role. Schwarzenegger went on to build an impressive career for himself. He starred in massive hits including the Terminator series and was Governor of California for two terms. He recently made the move back to acting and will star opposite Jackie Chan in the upcoming film Viy 2.
Emma Stone/Hayden Panettiere
Before making her Hollywood debut in Superbad, Emma Stone had almost starred as Claire, the cheerleader, in NBC’s superhero drama Heroes. Producers loved her audition but felt that Stone was a little too green to lead a series. She became a bonafide movie star in her own right and won an Oscar for last year’s musical La La Land. She most recently starred as Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes. She will get her chance at TV in the upcoming Netflix comedy series Maniac.
Alexandra Daddario/Krysten Ritter
Known mostly for playing sweet women such as Rachel on Parenthood, Alexandra Daddario almost had the chance to play the dark central character in Netflix’s Marvel drama, Jessica Jones. Krysten Ritter currently plays the disturbed and twisted Jessica but Alexandra will get the chance to play dark in the upcoming thriller film We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Daddario has appeared in a number of hit series including The Last Man on Earth, New Girl, and White Collar.
Liam Neeson/Sam Heughan
Before the Outlander producers decided to go with a younger and hunkier Sam Heughan to play Jamie Fraser on the hit series, they also considered bonafide action star Liam Neeson for the central role. Neeson has starred in more than 100 projects in film, TV, and theater. The Irish actor starred as action hero Bryan Mills in the hit Taken trilogy. The Oscar-nominated actor will next star in Steve McQueen’s highly anticipated upcoming film Widows.
Rachel Dratch/Jane Krakowski
Tina Fey cast her BFF, Rachel Dratch, in her first project after leaving her head writer position at Saturday Night Live. Dratch originally played the role of the narcissistic and irreverent Jenna Maroney on the workplace sitcom 30 Rock. She was later replaced by Jane Krakowski but wrote in her memoir that there is no bad blood between her and her pal. “The direction of the character had changed and pilots are recast all the time,” she said. “I thought it would be a non-story, but suddenly it blew up.”
Stephen Tobolowsky/Richard Karn
Character actor Stephen Tobolowsky was brought in to play Tim Allen’s best friend on the hit sitcom Home Improvement. Unable to commit to the hectic TV schedule, he dropped out and Richard Karn was hired to play Al Borland. Tobolowsky has held guest roles on probably all of your favorite shows including The Goldbergs, Silicon Valley, The Mindy Project, and Glee. He has appeared in more than 250 film and TV projects and is showing no sign of quitting Hollywood anytime soon.
Kathy Griffin/Lisa Kudrow
Before Lisa Kudrow filled the role of Phoebe Buffay on hit sitcom Friends, another comedian auditioned for the opportunity. Stand up comic Kathy Griffin made it to the final rounds of auditions but lost out to her good friend Kudrow. She managed all right in the end and is one of the most successful touring comedians. She co-starred on the hit Brooke Shields-led sitcom Suddenly Susan. She is also a New York Times bestselling author.
Jon Cryer/Matthew Perry
Considering what a massive hit Friends was at the time (and still is today), it’s difficult to imagine any actor or actress filling the roles we know and love so much. Matthew Perry’s Chandler is so idiosyncratic and hilarious – how could anyone else play him? Future Two and a Half Men star Jon Cryer came close. He auditioned to play the charming Chandler Bing when the network was casting the show but was starring in a play in London and couldn’t commit to the job.
Janeane Garofalo/Courtney Cox
Joining the running list of actors who tried out for Friends is Janeane Garofalo. The show’s creators originally had the stand-up comedian known for her roles in Ratatouille and Wet Hot American Summer in the back of their minds. As they wrote each episode they had Garofalo’s voice in their heads. Monica was originally written as the edgier and darker member of the group. They inevitably changed directions and Courteney Cox landed the role of Monica.
Timothy Olyphant/Jeffrey Dean Morgan
The role of the wickedly funny yet brutal Negan on The Walking Dead is portrayed brilliantly by the charismatic Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Things almost went a different direction initially as Timothy Olyphant was close to nabbing the part. The Justified star was flown back and forth between Los Angeles and Atlanta where the show is filmed. He may not have received the job but he now stars in another hit series: the vampire comedy Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix.
Jenna Fischer/Liz Snyder
The Office star Jenna Fischer was first hired to play Matt LeBlanc’s wife in the 2016 comedy series, Man with a Plan. After she shot the pilot with LeBlanc the producers felt the chemistry between the two actors was missing. Production paused while they recast Fischer’s role of Andi and Liz Snyder stepped in. Things worked out OK for Fischer. Next up for the actress is a starring role in Clint Eastwood’s next flick, The 15:17 to Paris, as well as the upcoming comedy series, Splitting Up Together.
Jennifer Ehle/Michelle Fairley
In 2009 HBO commissioned a Game of Thrones pilot. After it tested negatively with audiences the network went back to the drawing boards. They recast and rewrote most of the episode. Pride and Prejudice actress Jennifer Ehle starred as the original Catelyn Stark but was replaced with Irish actress Michelle Fairley. Ehle has four movies slated for a 2018 release. She will next been seen in the thriller The Wolf Hour with Naomi Watts, and with Jennifer Hudson in the crime drama Monster.
Alex Borstein/Melissa McCarthy
Before Gilmore Girls made Melissa McCarthy a bonafide star, another funny lady almost starred as the loyal and passionate Sookie St. James. Alex Borstein, known for voicing Lois in Family Guy and for her many characters on MADtv, originated Sookie in the pilot. After her producers at MADtv rejected Borstein from taking on any new projects she was forced to drop out. McCarthy stepped in and the rest is history. Borstein is currently starring in the Golden Globe Award-winning Amazon series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Riff Regan/Alyson Hannigan
Before Buffy the Vampire Slayer became the show that we all know and love, the original pilot featured a few differences. Most notably, witch-to-be Willow Rosenberg was played by newcomer Riff Regan. Creator Joss Whedon made some changes and Regan was replaced with future American Pie and How I Met Your Mother star Alyson Hannigan. She is currently the host of the British reality show Penn & Teller: Fool Us, and recently starred in the indie drama Do You Take This Man.
Lacey Chabert/Mila Kunis
Mean Girls star Lacey Chabert voiced the role of the perpetually bullied Meg Griffin for the entirety of Family Guy’s first season. After feeling her voice was just not quite right, creator Seth MacFarlane brought in That ‘70s Show star Mila Kunis to lend her tone to the part. The change was an instant success. Chabert went on to voice characters in a number of TV series including the animated Justice League Action, Robot Chicken, and Nickelodeon’s Shimmer and Shine.
Candice Azzara/Sally Struthers
The ‘70s hit sitcom All in the Family went through a number of changes before it premiered on TV screen in 1971. A number of roles were cast and recast as the show went through a number of pilot reshoots. Before Sally Struthers became a household name for playing the Bunkers’ daughter, Gloria Stivic, Candice Azzara played her in one of the pilots. Azzara continued to work after her departure in hit films including Catch Me If You Can and In Her Shoes.
Florencia Lozano/Margaret Colin
In the original Gossip Girl pilot, actress Florencia Lozano played Blair Waldorf’s highly-critical, aristocratic mother Eleanor. The show’s producers determined that Lozano looked too young to be playing a mother and her role was cut. Margaret Colin was hired to play Blair’s mother instead and she made her first appearance in episode four. Lozano most recently appeared in the hit Netflix thriller series, Narcos, and will next be seen in the horror thriller Amy Makes Three.
Jane Krakowski/Jennifer Aniston
Before Jennifer Aniston secured the role of lovable princess Rachel Green in the hit sitcom Friends, another TV darling nearly nabbed the part. 30 Rock and Ally McBeal’s Jane Krakowski was this close to playing Rachel. Aniston went on to win an Emmy and Golden Globe for the role, while Krakowski thankfully continued to a successful career on TV and stage, as the talented singer has also starred on Broadway. She currently co-stars in the Netflix original comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.