15 Iconic TV Roles Almost Played By Other Actors

When following one of our favorite shows over a few seasons, we become so accustomed and fond of the cast that it almost seems impossible to think of a reality in which things could be different than they are. By different, we mean a reality in which the lead stars of our favorite shows were played by completely different actors.

This is strange to think about because, in a way, it would basically change the entire dynamic and vibe of the show. In fact, the show as we have come to know and love, would likely be completely different.Would anyone still watch the show? Would the show even be successful? Would some of our favorite actors have ever gotten their big break if it wasn't for this particular part? And in what other show would it have been? The questions are endless. This is a very interesting list that will certainly make you consider all these things. Prepare to be surprised as you read …

15 Cobie Smulders As Kate Austen On Lost

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Lost was an amazing ABC drama that first hit our screens in 2004. Many will be surprised to hear, though, that one of the show's leading characters, Kate, was a part that almost went to Cobie Smulders, who you will be acquainted with from her portrayal of Robin on How I Met Your Mother. Interestingly, Evangeline Lily, who eventually secured the part in the end became friends with Smulders when the two Canadian actresses met on a flight out to the Lost audition. Smulders once joked about the audition, stating, “She owes a lot to me because I went in and I bombed the audition. And she was like, ‘Thank you!’” It’s clear there were no hard feelings between the pair of actresses.

14 Helen Hunt/Ashley Judd As Alicia Florrick On The Good Wife

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Julianna Margulies does an excellent job of portraying Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife, so much so that it’s hard to imagine any other actress ever playing the role. Nevertheless, Margulies once revealed to reporters which two actresses turned down the leading role before her. “When The Good Wife came to me, it came in such a backhanded compliment. Ashley Judd was offered this script, but she’s turning it down. Now, I’m going to give it to you, but first, we’re going to Helen Hunt. And if Helen Hunt passes, it’s all yours,” said Margulies. The actress admitted that she did feel quite insulted at the time and wondered if she should pass on the project for this reason. In the end, she didn’t, and this was a wise decision as she has since won two Emmys and a Golden Globe for her performance.

13 Dana Delany As Carrie Bradshaw On Sex And The City

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During her career, Dana Delany has made some questionable decisions. The actress once revealed in an interview that she was offered two huge career-changing roles which she turned down. One of the roles Delany is referring to is the iconic part of Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City. “I didn’t want to be in a show about s*x. The part went to Sarah Jessica Parker and it made her into a worldwide star, but I’ve got no regrets,” stated Delany. This is not the only big role that Delany turned down in her career. The actress was also offered the part of Bree Van de Kamp on Desperate Housewives. The actress turned this one down because she thought it was too similar to her 2001 role on Pasadena. Eventually, Delany did play a different role on Desperate Housewives as Katherine Mayfair on a latter season of the hit show.

12 Taraji P. Henson As Olivia Pope On Scandal

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Taraji P. Henson, who now stars in Empire recently revealed how she once read for the part of Olivia Pope on Scandal. “When I went in to read for Shonda Rhimes, in my mind, I was like, ‘This is Kerry Washington. Why am I even in here?’…It was hers. It was her job, and she’s great in it,” said Henson. The actress wasn’t wrong as Washington did go on to secure the role and has been doing a terrific job in the part ever since. Henson, on the other hand, got a good part of her own that she felt she was more suited to. That part was as Cookie Lyon on Empire. It appears that things worked out for everyone in the end.

11 Gillian Anderson As Lady Cora On Downtown Abbey

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Gillian Anderson is a fantastic actress, which she has proven from her starring roles in The X Files and The Fall. It’s no surprise then that Anderson was offered the role of Downtown Abbey’s Lady Cora. However, this was a part that the actress revealed she turned down but failed to specify as to why. It’s clear that this is just something the actress was not interested in at the time. Anderson went on to play the part of detective Stella Gibson in The Fall opposite Jamie Dornan, a serial killer who Stella is trying to catch.

10 John Posey As Danny Tanner On Full House

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Did you know that John Posey was originally chosen as the actor that would portray Danny Tanner on Full House? Unlike other cases on this list, Posey actually went as far as to film the pilot episode of the show. ABC went on to pick up the show with Posey in the role. But after a month into filming, things changed for the actor. Posey found out they’d recast his character with Bob Saget. Posey later found out that Bob Saget and Paul Reiser were the first picks for the role, but they were both unavailable at the time the pilot was filmed. Unfortunately for Posey, things changed in Saget’s filming schedule, and he suddenly became available to take on the role. Saget had been filming a CBS morning show called The Morning Program, but when the filming schedule of this show changed, Posey was rather abruptly and unfairly dismissed.

9 Courteney Cox As Rachel Green On Friends

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A few of you out there may already be familiar with the next case on our list as it is one of the more well-known ones. When Courteney Cox showed up for the Friends’ audition, she read for the role of Rachel. Interestingly, Cox was offered the part but turned it down because she felt more connected to Monica. The actress once discussed her connection to the character of Monica in an interview. She said, “For some reason, I thought I related more to Monica, which, maybe, it’s because I do. I’m not as clean as Monica, but I am neat.” She also talked about how her boyfriend, Johnny McDaid, believes she shares the same competitive streak as her Friends character.

8 Nancy McKeon As Monica Gellar On Friends


As we just learned, when Courteney Cox first auditioned for Friends, she initially read for Rachel Green. However, when Cox was realizing that she would rather play the part of Rachel, someone else was already reading for the role of Monica. This someone was actress Nancy McKeon, who you may recognize from The Facts of Life. Nancy McKeon and who also happened to read for Courteney’s part. “She gave a terrific performance,” said Lori Openden, head of casting for NBC at the time. “Warren [Littlefield, the then NBC president] let Marta [Kauffman] and David [Crane] make the call. They went off for a walk and came back and said Courteney.” It’s clear Friends as we know it may have been very different if Cox had stuck to the part of Rachel and McKeon had, in turn, secured the part of Monica.

7 Katie Holmes As Piper Chapman On Orange Is The New Black

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This is one of the more surprising cases on our list and one we have a hard time envisioning. But, it is true. Jenji Kohan, the creator of Orange is the new Black, revealed back in 2014 that she is a big fan of Dawson’s Creek actress Katie Holmes and thought she would be a good candidate for the role of Piper. Kohan went on to offer the role to Holmes, but the actress decided to turn it down. Kohan stated, “She had other things to do. And in the beginning, no one knew what this was.” The role ended up going to Taylor Schilling and it’s now hard to imagine it having been any other way. We wonder if Holmes regrets her decision to turn down the part as now, Orange is the New Black is one of the most popular TV shows around.

6 Katie Holmes As Buffy Summers On Buffy The Vampire Slayer

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Yes, Katie Holmes is making a second appearance on this list. According to reports, not only did Holmes turn down the part of Piper on Orange is the New Black, but years earlier in the ‘90s, she also said no to the iconic role of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in Joss Whedon’s classic cult show. It is said that Holmes turned down the part because she wanted to go to high school. The part later went to Sarah Michelle Gellar who certainly did the role justice. Along with this, Ryan Reynolds was also offered a part as Buffy’s sidekick, Xander. He turned it down because he’d just gotten out of high school, so he didn’t want to go back and play a high school kid. Imagine the show if these two stars had said yes to the parts. It would have been very different, but would it have been as successful? We’ll never know.

5 Matt LeBlanc As Phil Dunphy On Modern Family

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You could argue that Phil Dunphy isn’t one of the most hilarious and lovable TV show characters of all time, but you would be wrong. Did you know, however, that Phil, as we have come to know and love, could have been very different. In fact, Matt LeBlanc who you will all be familiar with as playing the iconic role of Joey on Friends, very nearly played the part of Phil Dunphy on Modern Family also. Back in 2009, LeBlanc was offered the role of Phil but decided to turn down the role, saying, “I remember reading it thinking, this is a really good script, (but) I’m not the guy for this. I’d be doing the project an injustice to take this. I know what I can do, I know what I can’t do. Plus, I’m having too much fun laying on the couch.” As we all know, Ty Burrell went on to win the part and really does a fantastic job at it.

4 Connie Britton As Olivia Pope On Scandal

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When a new Shonda Rhimes show was announced back in 2012, it got everybody excited. At this point, Shonda was considered a Queen of TV show production, with the huge success of Grey’s Anatomy under her belt. So, when Scandal was announced, casting directors were very eager to find a leading role that could help the show be as successful as Grey’s Anatomy. Did you know, however, that before the endlessly-fabulous Kerry Washington was cast, Connie Britton was set to secure the leading part? You will recognize Britton from her own successful TV shows Friday Night Lights, American Horror Story, and Nashville, but not everyone was happy with the actress taking the part of Olivia Pope. “The network was reading us their top choices, and it was Connie [Britton] and all white women,” said casting director Linda Lowy. “I panicked. Somebody finally piped up, ‘We’re going to have to redo this list.” These issues were arising due to the fact that Shonda Rhimes always envisioned a woman of color to play the part of Olivia Pope. In the end, Washington got the role making her the first black woman to star in a top drama series in 37 years.

3 Rumer Willis As Serena Van Der Woodsen On Gossip Girl

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Gossip Girl was the show responsible for catapulting Blake Lively into the spotlight back in 2007, but the leading role of Serena was very almost played by Rumer Willis. This may be surprising to some, as Serena in the Gossip Girl books was always described as being a blonde and Rumer is, of course, a brunette. Nevertheless, the CW’s casting director, David Rapaport, says that the network initially pitched Rumer Willis as Serena van der Woodsen on the show. Not only this. David Rapaport also revealed that the role of Blair Waldorf was almost played by Ashley Olsen instead of Leighton Meester. He stated, “I think the network initially pitched us Ashley Olsen and Rumer Willis for Blair and Serena. I love Rumer, she’s grown into quite an amazing actress and person, but that, to me, was based on protecting the investment of a television show where creatively, these lesser-known girls really captured the essence of the show and carried it for six years.”

2 Rob Lowe As Derek Shepherd On Grey’s Anatomy

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We know it’s hard to imagine anyone else but Patrick Dempsey playing the iconic role of Dr. McDreamy, also known as Dr. Derek Shepherd on Grey’s Anatomy, but it almost happened. According to Rob Lowe, he was the first actor considered for the part. In Lowe’s 2011 memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, he said he turned down the part to star in the CBS’ series, Dr. Vegas. “I agreed to meet with the people making Grey’s Anatomy. I had read it and loved it — the writing was crisp, real, and very entertaining,” he wrote. Lowe revealed that he was offered both parts but decided to go with CBS rather than ABC as they had a better track record of successful shows at the time.

1 Lisa Whelchel As Rachel Green On Friends

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All the cases on this list are quite surprising but it’s almost downright inconceivable to picture anyone else but Jennifer Aniston playing the part of Rachel Green on Friends. Despite this, during an episode of Oprah: Where Are They Now?, Lisa Whelchel revealed that she read for the part of Rachel on Friends. But when she was offered the part, she turned it down. “There were many opportunities I maybe could have pursued, but I didn’t feel comfortable. I remember reading the pilot episode and I said to my husband, ‘This is the funniest script I have ever read and this is going to be a huge hit.’” Whelchel’s reasons for feeling uncomfortable with the script and why she ultimately turned down the part is that the actress is a devout Christian and could tell that this was a show that would conflict with her beliefs. Despite this, Whelchel could still appreciate the script and could tell the show was going to be big. She certainly wasn’t mistaken.

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