10 Iconic TV Roles Who Were Almost Played By Other People


There are certain TV shows that you keep watching because of certain characters. It's as though there was no one else in the world made to play that person, and you can't imagine anyone else taking that role.

But frankly, the entire run of a show could have been changed thanks to a different choice made by the casting directors.

These TV series may not have been the same if they had gone with one of their other choices!

1. Phil Dunphy, "Modern Family"

We all know that Ty Burrell is a perfect Phil, he's even won an Emmy for it!


But Matt Leblanc, who was Joey on Friends, was actually offered the role before Burrell was, but turned it down.

“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,” he joked.

2. Rachel Green, "Friends"

Do I even need to tell you that Jennifer Aniston played the role of the iconic Rachel Green? The thing is, there were two other front-runners for the part...including one of her co-stars!


Lisa Welchel was originally considered for the role, but turned the role down when she realized the show would be focusing a lot on sex. As a devout Christian, she didn't feel comfortable taking the role. That being said, she loved the script.

Columbia Pictures

“There were many opportunities I maybe could have pursued, but I didn’t feel comfortable,” she said. “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.'”

Courteney Cox, who ended up playing Monica, was also considered for the role.

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“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.”

3. Monica Geller, "Friends"

Speaking of Monica, Cox almost didn't get the role!


“Nancy McKeon, from The Facts of Life, also 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.”

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4. Olivia Pope, "Scandal"

If you watch the show, you know that no one could ever compare to Kerry Washington's performance, but there were two other leading ladies in the running to play D.C.'s most powerful person.


Shonda Rimes admitted that when she brought the script to ABC, they strayed from her vision of a strong, black woman.

“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.'”

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Taraji P. Henson also wound up on the list for the role, but she knew it would never be hers.


“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.

5. Piper Chapman, "Orange Is The New Black"

She may be the most annoying character on television, but Taylor Schilling plays Piper really well.


But we almost saw Katie Holmes as Litchfield's annoying inmate! Holmes was offered the role but turned it down.

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“She had other things to do. And also in the beginning, no one knew what this was,” said creator Jenji Kohan.

6. Kate Austen, "Lost"

Evangeline Lilly made getting abandoned on an island look good, but she almost lost the role to fellow Canadian actress Cobie Smulders.


“[Evangeline and I] were both testing for Lost. She owes a lot to me because I went in and I bombed the audition. And she was like, ‘Thank you!'” joked Smulders.

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It's okay, though! Because the two became very good friends while on the plane ride to the audition.

7. Alicia Florrick, "The Good Wife"

Julianna Marguiles made us all want to become a lawyer with her work on The Good Wife, but she only got the part thanks to other people saying no!


“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," she said.

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"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,” continued Margulies.

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It all worked out, though. Margulies has won two Emmys and a Golden Globe award for her performance.

8. Buffy & Xander, "Buffy The Vampire Slayer"

Okay, so I know this is two in one...but it would have changed the ENTIRE series. Sarah Michelle Gellar may seem like the natural choice for Buffy, but that wasn't always the case. The role was originally offered to Katie Holmes, but she passed on it and landed Dawson's Creek.

The WB
The WB

The role of Xander, played by Nicholas Brendon, was also supposed to go to someone else. It had been offered to Ryan Reynolds, who had just finished high school, but he didn't want to play the role of a high school kid since he had just graduated.

The WB
Associated Press

9. Pam Beesly, "The Office"

Pam Beesly, one half of TV's cutest couple, was played perfectly by Jenna Fischer.


But it was Mary Lynn Rajskub who gave Fischer a run for her money.

Associated Press

Ultimately the role went to Fischer, who says her chemistry with on-screen love interest John Krasinski was immediate, and that he was always "her Jim." AWWW.

10. Derek Shepherd, "Grey's Anatomy"

TV's dreamiest dreamboat was played by Patrick Dempsey, and was accurately nicknamed McDreamy.


But Dempsey only got the role after Rob Lowe turned it down.

“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,” Lowe said.

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Lowe chose to go with CBS instead of ABC, because at the time they had a better track record for keeping shows on the air.

Do you think any of these alternative actors would have been a better choice?