20 Memorable TV Roles That Were Almost Played by Other Actors

Samantha Sutton | Oct 12, 2018 TV
20 Memorable TV Roles That Were Almost Played by Other Actors

Friends cast

It’s a situation that many of us have been in: We apply for a dream job, and feel hopeful and confident -- only to see the role ultimately go to someone else. (Fun, right?) Maybe it was a mistake on the company's part. Maybe we just weren't qualified. Maybe another dream job is right around the corner, and this is a blessing in disguise. Whatever the reason (known or unknown), it's safe to say that we're not alone. Even major TV and movie stars have auditioned for parts they wanted to play, only to have someone else land the coveted gig. That has to be tough, at least for a few people. On the flip side, we can't even imagine how some of our favorite shows -- and characters -- would turn out if things went differently than they did.

Of course, actors and actresses aren't shy about speaking out about the jobs they didn't get. And a few will even openly admit that they, themselves, turned down career-making roles. Some end up living with that regret, while others are like us: They simply can't imagine anyone doing a better job than the person who ended up getting the part.

Need an example? Who else could play Scandal's Olivia Pope other than Kerry Washington? Well, according to network executives, a few people, actually.

Yes, even some of the most iconic TV shows could have been totally different. But the question is, would they have been more or less successful with just a single casting switch? It’s impossible to tell, but kind of fun to imagine. Read on for 20 TV roles that almost went to someone else. Just know these are the ones stars have spoken about. We're sure there are many, many more audition secrets out there, just waiting to be revealed.

(We're here for all of it.)

  • Tiffani Thiessen Auditioned for Rachel on 'Friends'

    Tiffani Thiessen and Jennifer Aniston
    Splash News; Splash News

    "I was just a little too young," Tiffani revealed during a episode of Nikki Glaser's podcast about why she couldn't land the role of Rachel on Friends. "I was a little too young to the pairing of the rest of them."

    Luckily, fame was still in this celeb mom's cards as she starred on two iconic '90s and '00s TV shows, Saved by the Bell, and Beverly Hills, 90210.
  • And Speaking of 'Friends,' Kathy Griffin Wanted to Play Phoebe

    Kathy Griffin and Lisa Kudrow
    Splash News; Splash News

    Randomly, she ran into Jane Lynch at the audition, who was also up for the role of Phoebe, and the two became ... friends! (Just not Friends friends.)

  • Adrian Grenier Was Almost on 'Dawson’s Creek'

    Adrian Grenier and James Van Der Beek
    FameFlynet.uk.com/Splash News; Splash News

    Of course, James Van Der Beek nabbed the lead instead, with Adrian moving on to star in Entourage. When asked about losing out to James years later, Adrian said, "I imagine that he would've swapped with me to play Vince."

    Hmm ...

  • Olivia Wilde Was Very Close to Being Marissa Cooper on the 'The O.C.'

    Olivia Wilde and Mischa Barton
    Splash News; Splash News
    Olivia Wilde was almost cast as a lead on the show, but didn't seem vulnerable enough to play Marissa (played by Mischa Barton), according to the show's creator Josh Schwartz. She later went on the play Marissa's (and Seth's) romantic interest, Alex Kelly.

  • Jim Carrey Auditioned for 'SNL'


    And he didn't get it?!

    To be fair, creator Lorne Michaels wasn't even at Jim's audition, and someone in attendance assumed that he wouldn't like him.

    They were clearly wrong.

  • ABC Wanted Connie Britton to Play Olivia Pope on 'Scandal'

    Connie Britton and Kerry Washington
    Splash News; Photo Image Press/Splash News

    "This would be the perfect show for Connie Britton," Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes once revealed about Connie Britton playing the star role on her show. "It would be, except Olivia Pope is black."

  • Gabrielle Union Also Tried Out for the Lead 'Scandal' Role

    Gabrielle Union and Kerry Washington
    Johns PKI/Splash News; Nancy Rivera/Splash News
    "Me and half of black Hollywood [were up for the role]," Gabrielle said on Access Hollywood Live, talking about her Scandal audition. "I didn't get it, but, you know, I was [in the top] five or six or so."
  • Our Favorite 'Game of Thrones' Villain Was Almost Jon Snow

    Iwan Rheon and Kit Harrington
    Splash News; Splash News

    Iwan Rheon made it close to the end of the audition process to land the role of Jon Snow in Game of Thrones, but the part ended up going to Kit Harrington. Since David Benioff and D. B. Weiss thought Iwan was so talented, they kept him in mind when it came time to cast the evil Ramsey Bolton

  • Rob Lowe Could Have Been 'Dr. McDreamy'

    Rob Lowe and Patrick Dempsey
    Splash News; Splash News

    Given Rob Lowe was offered the part of Dr. Derek Shepherd, it was almost true! Rob was forced to choose between Grey's Anatomy and another show he was cast in called Dr. Vegas, but ultimately went with the second option (it also starred Amy Adams). It was canceled after five episodes, which is sad -- but at least we got to see Patrick Dempsey for so many seasons on the ABC hit show.

  • Selma Blair Was Passed Up for Both 'Buffy' and 'Dawson's Creek'


    Selma Blair revealed she didn't land either role in a throwback photo with Katie Holmes and Sarah Michelle Gellar she shared on Instagram. "I have always admired these ladies. Even if I didn’t get the part of #joeypotter," the celeb revealed. "That role was all @katieholmes212 and I loved watching her from the start. I auditioned for #Buffy but didn’t even come close. But I have a friend for life."


  • Matt LeBlanc Almost Starred on 'Modern Family'

    Matt LeBlanc and Ty Burrell
    Splash News; Splash News

    Matt LeBlanc got an offer to play Phil Dunphy on Modern Family, but didn't think he was right for the part. "I remember reading it thinking, this is a really good script, [but] I’m not the guy for this," he told USA Today. "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."

    Well, we loved Matt as Joey on Friends, and adore Ty Burrell as Phil on Modern Family. (It all worked out!)

  • David Duchovny REALLY Wanted to Be on 'Full House'


    David Duchovny auditioned for all the male leads of Full House but wasn't right for any of them. "They could not figure out how to use me," he once revealed on Jimmy Kimmel Live. "All they could figure out was how they did not want to use me."


  • Lily Collins Wanted to Be Jenny on 'Gossip Girl'

    Lily Collins and Taylor Momsen
    Splash News; Splash News

    "Everything happens for a reason," Lily Collins once revealed about not getting the Taylor Momsen's role on Gossip Girl. On the plus side, the actress went on to score her breakout role in the movie The Blind Side.

  • Alicia Silverstone Was 'Too Pretty' for 'My So Called Life'

    Alicia Silverstone and Claire Danes
    Felipe Ramales/Splash News; Splash News

    Alicia did a great job reading for Angela Chase, which was ultimately played by Claire Danes. But when it was suggested that the Alicia should get the role, executive producer Marshall Herskovitz wasn't sold. "Alicia is so beautiful that that would have affected her experience of the world," he said. "People would have been telling her she was beautiful since she was 6 years old. You can’t put that face in what's been written for this girl ..."

  • Oliver Hudson Skipped His 'This Is Us' Audition


    He just wasn't meant to be Jack Pearson! Oliver made it to the next round for Milo Ventimiglia's role, but when it came time "do a chemistry read with Mandy Moore," he was scheduled to go on a fishing trip -- and did that instead.

  • A '13 Reasons Why' Star Was Spotted at the 'Riverdale' Audition


    Katherine Langford even went to get a falafel with Camila Mendes -- aka Veronica -- after auditioning for Betty.

  • Mr. Big on 'Sex and the City' Was Almost Played by Alec Baldwin

    Alec Baldwin and Chris Noth
    Splash News; Splash News

    Chris Noth eventually got the part, but Darren Star, who created Sex and the City, said "I was thinking of Alec Baldwin for Big, initially."

  • Halle Berry Was Originally Meant to Be on 'Homeland'

    Halle Berry and Claire Danes
    Splash News; Splash News

    Another part that Claire Danes almost lost out on? Carrie on Homeland, as the role was originally offered to Halle Berry.

  • 'The X-Files' Producers Wanted Pamela Anderson to Play Scully

    Pamela Anderson Gillian Anderson
    Splash News; Splash News

    "She was someone who was more familiar to them in terms of what was on TV at the time," Gillian Anderson once said about wanting to be on X-Files -- adding that her resume wasn't all that impressive before the show. "They were looking for someone bustier, taller, leggier than me."

  • We Can Kind of Picture John Lithgow on 'Frasier'

    John Lithgow Kelsey Grammar
    Splash News; Splash News

    ... mostly because the role of Dr. Frasier (played by Kelsey Grammar) was written for him. John Lithgow, however, once admitted that at the time, he thought TV was beneath him, but eventually went on to star in Third Rock From the Sun.


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