The TV world can be a tricky one to navigate. Viewers become so attached to their favourite characters that actors can get boxed in, suddenly becoming intrinsically associated to that one specific role. What might be even more difficult is to imagine someone else in their place. Sometimes this can be problematic, leaving actors no choice but to reprise the role in reunion shows, or finding themselves out of work due to typecasting.
Getting the role they want may be a dream come true, but not getting the role can sometimes work out just as well, as we can learn form these 5 stars who have gone on to do fabulous work despite missing out on some of the top roles of the 1990’s and 2000’s. We’ve all wondered while watching our favourite characters on their weekly adventures, “Who else could play this role?” Well, let’s see who apparently couldn’t.
5. Patricia Heaton as Elaine Benes on Seinfeld
When the Seinfeld pilot premiered in 1989 under the title The Seinfeld Chronicles, the role of Elaine had yet to come into being. The episode featured a character by the name Claire who seemed to play a similar role, but by the time the show finally premiered a year later, Claire was gone – replaced by the character we all came to love, Elaine. The role was of course portrayed by SNL star Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Julia got the role by beating out Patricia Heaton, who went on to become Debra Barone, a few short years later on another successful TV show: Everybody Loves Raymond. Heaton has since picked up the starring role of Frankie Heck in the continuing series, The Middle. Since Heaton has become so well known for her role as the responsible, yet frustrated wife and mother, it’s difficult to imagine what could have been if she had won the role of Elaine. Surely her sarcasm and charm would have been blended in well with the other characters, possibly even levelling out some of the crazy, but it may have been a missed opportunity to showcase Louis-Dreyfus’s ability to be wonderfully absurd.
4. Megan Mullally as Carrie Heffernan on King of Queens
Best known for her high pitched screeching and vulgar comedy on the hit series Will & Grace, it seems Megan Mullally would have made King of Queens an entirely different show. Turning down the role of Carrie Heffernan at the last minute to pursue her role as Karen, Mullally left the producers in a lurch. Fortunately, Leah Remini’s show, Fired Up had just been cancelled and the role was immediately offered to her. Although Remini brought her own brand of vulgar comedy to the show, thanks in large part to her signature loud brooklyn attitude, it’s interesting to imagine Mullally in the role. Perhaps that evil cackle of hers would have formed a comedic foundation as stable as Carrie’s yelling and eye rolling. With Will & Grace all wrapped up, Mullally has been keeping busy with – what else? – voice work on the Sunday night cartoon Bob’s Burgers, as well as guest appearances on Trophy Wife where she portrays the mother of Malin Akerman’s character, Kate Harrison.
3. Patrick Dempsey as Dr. Gregory House on House
That’s right, folks. Dr. McDreamy could have been Dr… Unorthodox… Dempsey auditioned for the role of Gregory House before landing his very successful gig on Grey’s Anatomy. The role eventually went to Hugh Laurie, who auditioned for the role from a hotel bathroom in Nambia while filming Flight of the Phoenix. The producers were impressed with the English actors grasp of the quintessentially American character, and apparently so was the audience. The show had an 8 season run, and by season 5 Laurie was making an estimated $400, 000 per episode, making him one of the highest paid actors on TV. But hey, Dempsey did perfectly fine for himself. Now on season 10, Grey’s Anatomy continues to be one of the most critically acclaimed prime-time dramas and has been nominated for 25 Emmys. Dempsey’s Grey’s Anatomy popularity has even won him a #1 rank for TV’s Sexiest Man in 2011, and he is said to earn $350,000 per episode.
2. Jane Lynch as Pheobe Buffay on Friends
Although Lynch guest starred as Ellen in “The One Where Estelle Dies” (Season 10), at one time she could have been an essential part of the main Friends cast. She had auditioned for the role of Phoebe but it was eventually handed to Lisa Kudrow because producers liked the idea of linking her character to the role of Ursula who was portrayed by Kudrow in another sitcom Mad About You. The link was established by making Phoebe and Ursula estranged twins with a complicated, yet humorous, relationship. Of course, Friends is a role of a lifetime and it’s difficult to imagine any of the memorable characters not playing those roles, but Lynch’s outrageous sense of humor certainly could have been well suited to Phoebe’s bizarre character traits. Since the show ended in 2004, Kudrow has varied her resume from voice-work (Father of the Pride, American Dad) to dramatic film roles (Happy Endings, The Other Woman). Lynch on the other hand, has been hard at work with various small, yet memorable roles, eventually scooping up a leading role in the musical-comedy series Glee (2009-2014).
1. Ryan Reynolds as Xander Harris on Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Although Reynolds auditioned to be Xander Harris on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the role went to Nicholas Brendon, who reportedly had little experience at the time. In fact, at one pre-production point, the line-up for Buffy looked entirely different from how we have all come to know it. Sarah Michelle Gellar was cast as snob-antagonist, Cordelia Chase and Nathan Fillion even auditioned for the role of Angel, which went to David Boreanaz quite early into the show’s development. The line-up all came together nicely by the time the show premiered in 1997, with many actors who had auditioned for major roles cast as secondary or minor characters. While Buffy was on its way up the ladder of success, Reynolds settled into the role of Berg in Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place. The sitcom aired for four seasons and definitely got Reynolds noticed. In no time he became Van Wilder and his fame only grew from there. Even without the beloved character of Xander on his resume, Reynolds has managed to become one of Hollywood’s big stars.