BY Bob Erlenback
Part of great television is great characters played by great actors, but fate can sometimes step in and change the faces of the roles we love. Filming schedules can be tough, actors can butt heads, or sometimes better gigs come along. But the show must go on! Now that you have listened to our episode devoted to the Worst TV Finales, we present you with the Top 10 TV Character Recasts. Some may be the best, and some the worst, but all of them have a story to tell.
10. Reggie Mantle (Riverdale)
The CW series Riverdale kept us thirsty with its endless parade of shirtless men, and Reggie was no exception to that. Ross Butler portrayed the character in Season 1, but a scheduling conflict kept him from continuing with the series. Rightfully worried, we wondered who would replace Butler — and more importantly, would their abs be suitable? Well, they were, and Charles Melton slipped into the role for Season 2.
9. Batwoman (Batwoman)
This story is about as bonkers as the actual comic-book industry, so stay with me. CW’s Batwoman was the first on-screen portrayal of LGBTQ+ comic-book character Kate Kane, initially played by Ruby Rose. After the first season, Rose decided to leave the show due to the rigorous nighttime shooting schedule and allegations of unsafe filming conditions, and producers decided to recast with Javicia Leslie, in the process shelving Kate and creating a new Batwoman, Ryan Wilder. But oops, they forgot to resolve Kate’s character arc, and actually recast the character again, bringing her back with actress Wallis Day. Then, after resolving Kate’s story, they got rid of the character again. GOT THAT!?
8. Catwoman (Batman 1966 series)
The casting of this character lived through three of its nine lives, having three iconic actresses don the tight black leather. You can thank Julie Newmar for the original portrayal of Selina Kyle in the campy series, later followed by Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt. We think they are all purrr-fect and each bring something special to the role.
7. Steven Carrington (Dynasty 1981 series)
Al Corley played Steven, the black-sheep son of Blake Carrington, on the first two seasons of the original Dynasty series. Frustrated by the constantly fluctuating romantic preferences of the character, Corley eventually became disenchanted with the role and left. Since Steven was one of the first openly LGBTQ+ characters on television, studio pressures constantly forced the showrunners to never go gay all the way. He was later recast by Jack Coleman, with an appearance change explained away in true soap style: plastic surgery after an oil-rig explosion. Why can’t I write shit like that?
6. The Mountain (Game of Thrones)
How do you pick which GoT character recasting to talk about when there were SO many? Well we picked The Mountain because not only was he played by three actors, but they got progressively more “Wreck me, daddy!”. If you catch our meaning. Just enjoy the photos to illustrate this point.
5. Katherine Janeway (Star Trek: Voyager)
Okay, maybe we are cheating here, but this recasting has become legend even though the original actress never appeared on screen. For Star Trek’s first female captain to lead a series, the Voyager casting team looked to French Canadian actress Geneviève Bujold. Wildly different in appearance and acting style to what we ended up with, it is widely agreed the show would have been quite different if Bujold continued in the role (and not for the better). However, after only one rough day of shooting, and an inability to connect with the cast, Bujold approached producers and withdrew from the show. *sigh of relief*
4. Christine Cagney (Cagney & Lacey)
Christine Cagney was originally intended to be played by Loretta Swit, but when her M*A*S*H commitments got in the way, the role was filled by Meg Foster (YES! Evil-Lyn from 1987’s Masters of the Universe film!). Anyway, Foster’s appearance was too similar for audiences to that of her co-star, Tyne Daly, and she was unfortunately (for her) replaced by Sharon Gless. Another rumor claims the network thought audiences would believe the titular duo were lesbians, and Gless was brought in as a “softer” alternative. The 80’s were wild, man.
3. Becky Conner (Roseanne)
This is one of the more comical recastings on this list. Becky Conner, originally played by Lecy Goranson until Season 5, was eventually recast with Sarah Chalke when Goranson left to attend Vassar. This is where it gets fun! Goranson eventually reprised the role for the show’s final seasons Chalke would fill in when Becky 1 had college scheduling conflicts! It kept our heads spinning week to week, but so did the final seasons of Roseanne.
2. Aunt Viv (Fresh Prince of Bel Air)
This may be the most controversial recast on our list. Janet Hubert played Aunt Viv on Fresh Prince for three seasons before being replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid for the remainder of the series. At the time, it was a shock to viewers with many rumors surfacing about what happened. Several of these rumors (fueled by co-stars) alleged off-camera drama where Hubert wanted to be a more central focus of the show. During the 2020 Fresh Prince Reunion, Hubert returned to set with her costars who greeted her with open arms. Will Smith included.
1. Darrin Stephens (Bewitched)
Wait, two actors played Darrin? For six seasons, Dick York played the non-magical husband of Samantha Stephens on Bewitched. When health concerns began affecting the actor, he was replaced quickly and quietly by Dick Sargent. There was no on-screen explanation given, but it’s also barely noticeable to the casual viewer. Dick York. Dick Sargent. Sergeant York. Wow, that’s weird.
Did we miss your favorite TV recasting? Drop it in the comments! Then check out our other Top 10 lists by clicking here.