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Iconic Roles Almost Played By Another Actor



When we remember our favorite TV shows, it’s hard to imagine them with anyone else but the popular actors who made it a hit in the first place. We all have our favorite characters, and feel like those roles are played perfectly by those who’ve adopted the character, but would you believe many times it was almost someone else?
That’s right, Hollywood’s casting process is a tough and unforgiving one, and lots of times big names go head to head for the chance at a prime role. However, only one can play the character, and although the shows are finished, we always wonder “what if” these huge actors actually played these parts.

Seth Rogen – Rainn Wilson

Known for his hit comedies, Superbad, Knocked Up, and Pineapple Express, Seth Rogen originally had his sights set on the role of Dwight Schrute in The Office. While many stars competed for the role, Rainn Wilson won out in the end and charmed us all with his endless rants about beets.

Michael Keaton – Matthew Fox

Michael Keaton really lucked out when he dropped out of the hit drama Lost. He was cast to play the part of Jack Shepard but called it quits when the writers of the show told him that Shepard would only be seen in the pilot episode. They brought Matthew Fox in to replace Keaton and ended up expanding his role through the entirety of the show. While Keaton went on to star in massive blockbusters and receive Oscar nominations, Fox’s public DUI and assault allegations essentially ended his career in 2012.

Rob Lowe – Patrick Dempsey

While hunky Patrick Dempsey may have been every teenage girl’s crush in the ‘80s, he later struggled with being typecast. He was about to quit Hollywood altogether when he landed one of the biggest roles in TV playing Dr. Derek Shepherd in Grey’s Anatomy. Rob Lowe was another seasoned actor who was being considered for the role, but found his own fame in the TV comedy Parks & Recreation.

David Cross – Hugh Laurie

For those who didn’t already love him, the world fell in love with Hugh Laurie when he played the role of Dr. House for eight seasons. The show just wouldn’t have been the same if David Cross had been cast in the part. Cross is most known for his part as Dr. Tobias Funke on Arrested Development.

Jim Parsons – Neil Patrick Harris

Jim Parsons has made quite the name for himself both in television and films, having won four Emmys for playing Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory. Before he found fame as Sheldon Cooper, he auditioned for the role of womanizer playboy Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother. Although the role went to Neil Patrick Harris, both actors have done extremely well in their respective shows.

Lindsay Lohan – Hilary Duff

For fans of those classic Disney Channel shows that ran through the ‘90s and early 2000s, Lizzie McGuire could have been a completely different show if Lindsay Lohan secured the role as she intended. It ended up going to Hilary Duff, but Lohan went on to land a few major movie roles in The Parent Trap, Mean Girls, Freaky Friday, and Disney’s Herbie: Fully Loaded.

Ethan Embry – Andrew Lincoln

Most famous for his roles in Sweet Home Alabama with Reese Witherspoon and the musical drama That Thing You Do, Ethan Embry tried his hand at landing the role of Rick Grimes in the zombie-centered TV series The Walking Dead. Ultimately, Andrew Lincoln scored the part in what is considered to be his sensational breakout role.

Paul Shaffer – Jason Alexander

Jerry Seinfeld originally offered the role of George Costanza to Paul Shaffer, the bandleader for Late Night With David Letterman. Shaffer took too long to respond, however, and the role was passed along to Jason Alexander whose portrayal of the character earned him seven Emmy nominations.

Matt LeBlanc – Ty Burrell

Originally, Matt Leblanc was the actor being considered for the role of Phil Dunphy in Modern Family. When reminiscing about the opportunity Leblanc said, “I remember reading it thinking, ‘this is a really good script, (but) I’m not the guy for this.’” The role was then offered to Ty Burrell who recently said he’s considering quitting acting after the show ends to focus on producing.

David Duchovny – The cast of Full House

How embarrassing to be passed up for not one, not two, but all three roles you auditioned for. While they tried to make him work, the producers just felt he wasn’t a great fit for any of the roles and decided to go with Bob Saget as Danny Tanner, John Stamos as Uncle Jesse, and Dave Coulier as Uncle Joey. Duchovny went on to star in the X-Files, so it worked out well for everyone.

Rainn Wilson – Will Arnett

Before making it big in The Office, Rainn Wilson was competing with Will Arnett for the role of Gob Bluth in Arrested Development. Thankfully, it went to Arnett so Wilson was able to accept the role of Dwight Schrute. In addition to his voice work in films like Ratatouille and Despicable Me, Arnett is also known for his guest roles in shows like Will & Grace, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and The Sopranos.

Leah Remini – Courtney Cox

Courtney Cox was born to play Monica Geller, so it’s difficult to think of any other person in the role. Apparently, Leah Remini was being strongly considered for the part and even made it to the final round of auditions. Despite Cox having originally auditioned for the role of Rachel Green, the producers eventually offered the role of Monica Geller to her.

Sam Claflin – Kit Harington

Jon Snow undoubtedly plays a big role in Game of Thrones being HBO’s most watched show ever. His charm and dashing heroics, as portrayed by the London-born actor Kit Harington, has women swooning over him. However, Sam Claflin originally tried out for the part, but soon realized that he wasn’t right for it. Since then, he’s moved on from television to pursue more parts in films.

Matthew Broderick – Bryan Cranston

Both Matthew Broderick and John Cusack threw their hat in the ring for the role of Walter White on Breaking Bad. Ultimately, the part was offered to Bryan Cranston who went on to receive his first Academy Award nomination for his performance in Trumbo.

Jennifer Lawrence – Blake Lively

Can you imagine if Jennifer Lawrence was roaming the Upper East Side as Serena van der Woodsen instead of Blake Lively? John Schwartz, the creator of Gossip Girl, said that he remembers Lawrence’s audition and was sad she didn’t get the part. However, Blake Lively’s performance as Serena was nothing less than perfect.

Taraji P. Henson – Kerry Washington

The hilarious and extremely talented Taraji P. Henson originally auditioned for the role of Olivia Pope in Scandal but lost it to Kerry Washington. There are no hard feelings there as Henson has admitted that Washington is perfect for the role. Henson currently stars as Cookie Lyon in the hit musical drama Empire.

Katie Holmes – Sarah Michelle Gellar

Buffy The Vampire Slayer is just as beloved today as it was in 2003 when the show ended. While everyone knows Sarah Michelle Gellar as the lead in the show, Katie Holmes was also being seriously considered for the part. After it went to Gellar, Holmes was cast as Joey Potter on another hit series Dawson’s Creek.

Octavia Spencer – Retta

Retta was originally brought in as an extra for the pilot of Parks & Recreation, but when she improvised a hilarious line, they immediately cast her as Donna Meagle. At the time, Oscar winner Octavia Spencer was being considered for the role, but was immediately dropped after Retta’s stroke of comedic genius.

Nicollette Sheridan – Debra Messing

With Debra Messing currently reprising her role of Grace Adler in the revival of Will & Grace, it’s hard to think of anyone else playing the part of Grace. It turns out Nicollette Sheridan who was a star in Desperate Housewives had auditioned for the role. Sheridan is currently playing Alexis Carrington on the revival of Dynasty.

Thomas Jane – Jon Hamm

Thomas Jane was originally slated to play the dashing Don Draper on Mad Men. After he turned it down, Jon Hamm was chosen out of 80 potential actors. At the time, Hamm was considered an unknown in Hollywood and, after so many dead ends, was close to quitting his acting career.

Sandra Bernhard – Cynthia Nixon

While comedian Sandra Bernhard auditioned and was being strongly considered for the role of Miranda Hobbes on HBO’s Sex and the City, she turned down the part after being offered less money than she wanted. Cynthia Nixon was offered the part instead and her performance went on to win her an Emmy and be nominated for four Golden Globes.

Gillian Anderson – Elizabeth McGovern

Downton Abbey could have had a completely different lady of the house if X-Files star Gillian Anderson had landed the part instead of Elizabeth McGovern. Both actresses are familiar with period pieces, but McGovern’s performances in Ragtime and Once Upon a Time in America prove that she was meant to play Lady Cora Crawley.

Whitney Houston – Sabrina LeBeauf

Can you imagine The Cosby Show with Whitney Houston as Sondra? Unfortunately, that never came to be because of scheduling conflicts with Houston’s music career, but Sabrina LeBeauf stepped in and played the part wonderfully. Houston went on to create some of the most iconic music, including the soundtrack for her film The Bodyguard which still remains one of the best selling albums.

Michael Richards – Tony Shalhoub

Tony Shalhoub’s portrayal as quirky Adrian Monk is OCD perfection. Seinfeld’s Michael Richards was also being considered for the role, but seeing how Shalhoub took home three Emmys for his performance, producers made the right casting decision.

Micky Dolenz – Henry Winkler

There was a time when Micky Dolenz, the lead singer of the Monkees, tried his hand at acting. He came close to being cast as Fonzie on Happy Days which would have surely launched his acting career. However, producers felt that Dolenz was too tall for the role so it was offered to Henry Winkler.

Tamzin Merchant – Emilia Clarke

The original, unaired pilot for HBO’s Game of Thrones had a completely different feel, direction, and cast than the show fans know today. When they realized it wasn’t working, production essentially started over with the show. They had to recast multiple roles, including Tamzin Merchant as Daenerys “Khaleesi” Targaryen. Emilia Clarke’s audition won producers over almost immediately, and she was given the part.

Lisa Kudrow – Peri Gilpin

We all know and love Lisa Kudrow from her role as Phoebe on Friends which undoubtedly launched her career. Before she made it big, though, she was cast as Roz Doyle on Frasier, but during rehearsals the network didn’t think her chemistry was right for the show and replaced her with Peri Gilpin. Since Friends, she’s expanded her career to films and recently starred in The Girl on the Train with Emily Blunt.

Megan Mullally – Julia Louis-Dreyfus

In an interview with Howard Stern, Jerry Seinfeld said that Megan Mullally’s audition almost landed her the role of Elaine Benes on Seinfeld. Sadly, in the competitive world of entertainment, a stellar audition may not be enough to secure you a role. Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ audition was reportedly marginally better than Mullally’s and subsequently knocked her out of the running. Fortunately, Mullally’s performance as Karen Walker in Will & Grace won her two Emmys and four Golden Globe nominations, so everyone won in the end.

Halle Berry – Claire Danes

Claire Danes is superb as the high-strung, bipolar Carrie Mathison in Homeland. Producers for the show originally wanted Halle Berry to play the part, but she turned it down due to the intensity of the role and long-term dedication required to be part of a television series. Her most recent role was co-starring with Colin Firth in Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

Jane Krakowski – Jennifer Aniston

Before Jennifer Aniston stole her way into everyone’s hearts as the lovable Rachel Green on Friends, there was talk that her part would be played by Jane Krakowski. Aniston was destined to play the part though, winning both an Emmy and Golden Globe for her performance as Rachel. Krakowski went on to find major success in TV, film, and even on Broadway in more than one hit musical.

Amanda Walsh – Kaley Cuoco

It turns out Amanda Walsh’s interpretation of Penny in The Big Bang Theory’s original pilot wasn’t exactly what the producers were looking for. When Kaley Cuoco was brought in to audition, the immediate charm and energy that she brought to the role won the producers over.

Lacey Chabert – Mila Kunis

Lacey Chabert, who is best known for her starring role in Mean Girls, voiced Meg Griffin for the entire first season of Family Guy. Unfortunately, her voice just wasn’t cutting it for the show’s creator Seth MacFarlane. He turned to the raspy, sultry voice of Mila Kunis, who had previously starred in That ‘70s Show, and instantly knew that was what he was looking for.

Alex Borstein – Melissa McCarthy

Alex Borstein had a long-running partnership and contract with MADtv when she originated the part of Sookie St. James in the pilot for Gilmore Girls. Unfortunately, MADtv refused to allow Borstein from taking on any additional projects so she was forced to drop out of the show. Thankfully, they were able to get an equally talented and hilarious actress to fill her shoes, Melissa McCarthy.

Kathy Griffin – Lisa Kudrow

It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Phoebe Buffay on Friends, but apparently Kathy Griffin made it to the final rounds of auditions before losing out to Lisa Kudrow. Despite not landing the role, Griffin went on to become a successful comedian and author.

Liam Neeson – Sam Heughan

Before the charming and handsome Sam Heughan was chosen to play the lead role of Jamie Fraser in Outlander, Hollywood veteran Liam Neeson was in the running for the part. With more than 100 acting credits in film, TV, and theater to his name, Neeson is starring in Steve McQueen’s upcoming film Widows, which is set to be released in November of this year.

Janeane Garofalo – Courtney Cox

The writers of Friends created the character of Monica with Janeane Garofalo specifically in mind. Originally, Monica was written to be the intense, edgy character, but as the show developed they went a different direction with her. This resulted in replacing Garofalo with Courtney Cox.

Jon Cryer – Matthew Perry

Jon Cryer, who would later on star in Two and a Half Men, came extremely close to being cast as Chandler. His audition went well and the producers loved him, but he was starring in a play in London at the time which tied up his schedule to the point where he wasn’t able to accept the job. Luckily for Matthew Perry, that gave him the opportunity to shine in his role as Chandler.

Riff Regan – Alyson Hannigan

Known for her roles in American Pie and How I Met Your Mother, Alyson Hannigan’s first claim to fame was as Willow Rosenberg in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, the original pilot featured Riff Regan as Willow Rosenberg, but the creator, Joss Whedon, felt replacing her with a different actress was vital to the show. Hannigan is currently a mother of two and hosts the British reality show Penn & Teller: Fool Us.

Candice Azzara – Sally Struthers

The ‘70s show All in the Family required a lot of work before the final version was approved. After many recasts and pilot reshoots, Sally Struthers became famous for playing Gloria Stivic. In previous versions though, the role of Gloria was played by Candice Azzara.

Arnold Schwarzenegger – Lou Ferrigno

After Richard Kiel was fired for undisclosed reasons, Arnold Schwarzenegger came so close to playing the part of the Hulk in the Incredible Hulk series. Ultimately, the part went to Lou Ferrigno, but it’s safe to say that Schwarzenegger went on to a pretty fantastic and multi-faceted career.