It’s common practice in Hollywood to consider multiple, talented actors for the same television role. Some actors drop out. Others lose out during the auditions process. Writers, directors, and producers make the final decisions, and the cameras eventually begin rolling.
Some of the most iconic roles in popular television series almost had another face attached to them. It’s impossible to imagine Walter White from Breaking Bad as anyone other than Bryan Cranston. It’s also impossible to think of actor Jason Alexander without automatically associating him with Seinfeld‘s George Costanza. Believe it or not, these roles almost went to other people.
Phoebe In Friends
Rumor has it Ellen DeGeneres was offered the role of Phoebe on Friends before Lisa Kudrow was ultimately chosen. In 2015, DeGeneres told radio host Howard Stern she did not turn down the role of Phoebe, but instead turned down a role in another series called These Friends of Mine.
Well-known actors who did audition for Phoebe include Jane Lynch, Kathy Griffin, and Megan Mullally. It was Kudrow’s role as waitress Ursula Buffay in Mad About You that ultimately tipped the scales in her favor.
Walter White In Breaking Bad
Before Bryan Cranston, AMC gave two actors the opportunity to play Walter White in Breaking Bad: Matthew Broderick and John Cusack. Both acclaimed film actors declined the offer – instead opting to remain focused on movies.
From the beginning, show developer Vince Gilligan had Bryan Cranston in mind after working with the actor on The X-Files. Gilligan eventually convinced AMC to cast Cranston, which turned out to be a very wise choice.
Olivia Pope In Scandal
ABC told Scandal creator Shonda Rimes they wanted Connie Britton to play the lead role, Olivia Pope. Rimes was shocked the network suggested Britton for a part clearly written for a black woman.
Fortunately, ABC paid attention to Rimes’s directives and eventually cast Kerry Washington as the political crisis interventionist. Jill Scott and Anika Noni Rose also auditioned.
Derek Shepherd In Grey’s Anatomy
McDreamy from ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy was written with another handsome actor in mind: Robe Lowe. Lowe loved the script when he read it, but he was already in talks to helm the CBS series Dr. Vegas. Lowe decided to stick with the CBS medical series.
Instead, Dr. Derek Shepherd will forever be associated with Patrick Dempsey. Lowe definitely missed out on a career-changing opportunity. Dr. Vegas turned out to be a disaster.
Michael Scott In The Office
Casting Dundler Mifflin’s boss Michael Scott was the most difficult part of developing The Office. Dozens of actors were considered, and even two were offered the role: Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Both actors declined the offer.
Ultimately, it came down to Steve Carell and fellow comedian Bob Odenkirk. Odenkirk’s take on Michael Scott, while equally funny, was darker than Carell’s. Carell was also a more recognizable actor at the time, leading producers to choose him. Odenkirk makes an appearance in the final season of The Office, playing an office manager in Philadelphia whose tactics remind Pam of her former boss.
George Costanza In Seinfeld
Guess who turned down the role of George Costanza in Seinfeld before Jason Alexander landed it? None other than Danny DeVito. DeVito was making big-budget comedies at the time, and he decided against playing a sitcom sidekick. These days, DeVito is the sitcom king, playing the despicable Frank Reynolds in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Chris Rock also auditioned for the role, but whether he declined the offer or didn’t make it that far is unknown.
Jon Snow In Game Of Thrones
Both Iwan Rheon and Alfie Allen auditioned to play the heroic Jon Snow in Game of Thrones. Kit Harrington rose to the top of the list thanks to his role in the theatrical production War Horse.
Fortunately, both Rheon and Allen were offered other roles in the epic fantasy series. Rheon is terrifying as Ramsay Bolton, and Allen gives a nuanced, engrossing performance as Theon Greyjoy.
Piper Chapman In Orange Is The New Black
Katie Holmes was originally in talks with Orange is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan to play Piper Chapman, the imprisoned protagonist of the series. Holmes was too busy at the time to try her luck with an unknown Netflix venture.
Taylor Schilling was eventually cast as Chapman. Little did Holmes know how successful the series would go on to become.
Donna Meagle From Parks And Recreation
Octavia Spencer auditioned for Donna Meagle in Parks and Recreation. Before winning an Oscar for The Help, Spencer was a character actor who appeared in series like Ugly Betty and The Wizards of Waverly Place.
The comedian Retta was selected to play Meagle. Spencer’s career clearly didn’t suffer from the loss.
Dana Scully In The X-Files
In an insane casting decision, Pamela Anderson was originally considered to play FBI agent Dana Scully in The X-Files. 20th Century Fox wanted a busty, blond woman for the role, one with a recognizable face. Baywatch star Anderson seemed like the ideal choice.
Of course, the role ended up going to Gillian Anderson, who makes the now famous Scully equal parts sultry and smart.