Recast: 11 TV characters who were played by multiple actors

Sometimes after a show takes off, an actor is unable (or unwilling) to continue in a role for various reasons. So what’s a showrunner to do? Recast the character, of course! The decision to recast a role can get complicated when it’s a popular character, and it’s such a gamble that some series don’t even bother trying to recast, opting to write off a character entirely and add a new one. In others, it’s a conscious device used to switch things up.

Whatever the reason, many shows have managed to successfully pull off the recasting trick — a move that’s become known as “The Darrin Effect” or “The Darrin Syndrome” after Bewitched pulled off the trick with Samantha’s husband. Below are some of the most notable character roles that were actually played by two (or more) people.

Becky Conner – Roseanne

Becky Conner

Sarah Chalke took over the role of the eldest Conner daughter in the sixth season of the ABC sitcom when Lecy Goranson left to pursue higher education. However, when Goranson decided she had time to fit acting back into her schedule by season 8, the show surprisingly switched the actors once again. Scheduling conflicts meant Chalke had to step in for a few episodes when Goranson wasn’t available, and the “new Becky” took on the role full time once again for the show’s ninth and final season.

In the revival Roseanne series (now the Roseanne-less spinoff The Conners), Goranson was cast as Becky, while Chalke made a cameo as a rich woman wanting to hire Becky as her surrogate, marking the first time the two Beckys appeared on screen in the series together. Naturally, jokes were made to address the past. “I can see why you picked me,” said Goranson when her character met Chalke’s for the first time. “I mean look at us, we could be the same person!”

Vivian Banks – The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

Vivian Banks

Janet Hubert-Whitten controversially left the show after its third season, reportedly due to a contract dispute. Though the jury is still out on what really happened behind the scenes, Daphne Maxwell Reid stepped in to play Aunt Viv for the show’s remaining three seasons on NBC. In Maxwell Reid’s first appearance, she was introduced casually, with Will’s best friend Jazz telling her that since she’s had a baby, “there’s something different about you.” Pan to Will staring into the camera, as he often did during the series.

Darrin Stephens – Bewitched

Darrin Stephens – Bewitched

As mentioned in our intro, Dick York was originally cast in this role, but by the third season of the ABC series, he was experiencing terrible back pain and his health was deteriorating. By season six, producers had no choice but to recast the role, and Dick Sargent took over the role until the show ended in 1972. The change in actors was one of the most prominent casting change-ups in television up to that point, and proved that recasting a featured role was indeed possible.

Laurie Forman – That ‘70s Show

recast tv characters different actors laurie forman

Lisa Robin Kelly originated the role of Eric’s promiscuous and freeloading older sister. But when she left the Fox sitcom after the third season, it was written into the script that the blonde bombshell went off to beauty school. In season 5, the character came back for a special appearance, but Kelly was replaced in season six by Christina Moore as a recurring character. Laurie was never seen again after that, supposedly having moved to Canada. Sadly, Kelly passed away in 2013 at the age of 43 due to an accidental drug overdose.

Reggie Mantle – Riverdale


Reggie Mantle – Riverdale

Imagine being cast in two shows at the same time, both of which are a massive success. This is the fortuitous problem actor Ross Butler found himself in when he was cast as Reggie in The CW’s Riverdale and Zach in Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why. He stayed with 13 Reasons Why, and his supporting character on Riverdale — Archie’s best friend and sometimes rival — was recast, with Charles Melton taking over the role. It worked well, since Reggie’s character arc really didn’t pick up until the second season, and Melton was later promoted to series regular for the third season.

The Doctor – Doctor Who

recast tv characters different actors dr who

In one of television’s most frequently recast roles, 13 actors (or 14, depending on your interpretation of the character’s intentionally convoluted timeline) have played The Doctor in this British sci-fi series and its reboot, starting with William Hartnell in 1963. The shuffling has been possible thanks to the fact that The Doctor is a Time Lord, an extraterrestrial being that can — when near death — regenerate its body to take on different forms. Each iteration of The Doctor has a unique personality, but retains the memories of previous lives, leading to one of the most popular questions among fans: Who’s your favorite Doctor? Peter Capaldi played the role of the 12th Doctor, with Jodie Whittaker taking over as the 13th Doctor for the current season, becoming the first female actor to do so.

Harriette Winslow – Family Matters

Harriette Winslow – Family Matters

JoMarie Payton was the original Hariette, the sassy character that inspired the series’ creation as a spinoff from Perfect Strangers. The series about a middle-class African-American family ended up becoming popular for its introduction of Steve Urkel (Jaleel White), the family’s nerdy neighbor, but Payton played the role for almost the entire ABC/CBS sitcom’s run. She eventually left during the ninth and final season to pursue other projects. Judyann Elder briefly became the new Harriette for the series’ final episodes.

Carol Willick (Geller) – Friends

Carol Willick (Geller) – Friends

She wasn’t a main character on the series, so you might have missed that the role of Ross’ ex-wife was actually played by two women. Anita Barone was initially cast in the role, appearing in the second episode to tell Ross she was pregnant. When we saw Carol next, however, she was portrayed by Jane Sibbett. Barone reportedly left to pursue a more full-time role. Sibbett continued to pop up occasionally throughout the series.

Queen Elizabeth – The Crown

Queen Elizabeth – The Crown

Claire Foy brilliantly played a young Queen Elizabeth for the first two seasons of the highly praised Netflix drama about the Royal Family, earning a long list of awards for her performance. With the timeline jumping ahead for the upcoming third and fourth seasons, veteran actress Olivia Colman was cast to take over the role. She’ll have big shoes to fill, with Foy having won both a Golden Globe and Emmy Award for her work, but we can’t think of a more qualified actor to take on such a prestigious role.

Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane – Game of Thrones

Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane – Game of Thrones

Through this HBO series’ seven-season run thus far, three actors have played the role of the towering and cruel knight and retainer to House Lannister. He first appeared in the inaugural season, played by Australian actor Conan Stevens. When Stevens went on to pursue a role in The Hobbit films, Welsh actor and stuntman Ian Whyte took over in season 2. Since season 4, the role has been played by professional strongman Hafpor Julius Bjornsson from Iceland, who stands a towering 6-feet, 9-inches tall.

Capheus “Van Damme” Onyango – Sense8

Capheus “Van Damme” Onyango – Sense8

As one of the main characters in this Netflix sci-fi series that acquired a cult following despite having been canceled after two seasons, British actor Aml Ameen initially played the young Kenyan bus driver. The role was recast for the Christmas special and second season, with Toby Onwumere, a recent acting graduate, taking over. The abrupt recasting was reportedly due to “creative differences.”  Due to the show’s immense popularity, the second season included not only a two-hour Christmas special, but also a two and-a-half hour series finale to wrap up the story, with Onwumere closing out his portrayal of the character.

Movies & TV

CBS recruits Michelle Yeoh for ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ spinoff

Yet another Star Trek show is on the way. CBS confirms that Michelle Yeoh will return to play her Star Trek: Discovery character, Philippa Georgiou, in a spinoff centered on Starfleet's clandestine Section 31.
Movies & TV

Here's everything we know about 'John Wick: Chapter 3 -- Parabellum'

John Wick: Chapter 3 -- Parabellum, the third installment of the wildly successful action series that stars Keanu Reeves as a deadly assassin forced out of retirement, hits theaters in May 2019. Here's everything we know about it so far.
Movies & TV

From premiere date to footage: Here's all we have on 'Game of Thrones' season 8

With the eighth and final season looming, Game of Thrones fever has officially become a pandemic. Our list of all the relevant news and rumors will help make the wait more bearable, if you don't mind spoilers.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Home Theater

Not chill: Netflix is hiking prices across all its tiers

Netflix has to get the billions of dollars it's spending on new content from somewhere. The streaming giant announced price hikes across the board, raising its monthly rates between $1 and $2 per tier in the next few months.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Movies & TV

NBCUniversal will launch its own streaming service in 2020

NBCU is prepping a streaming service filled with its original content for a debut sometime next year, meaning that Michael, Dwight, and the rest of the Scranton crew might be moving to a new home.
Home Theater

Sling TV offers free shows, a la carte subscription channels to Roku users

If you are among a select group of Roku users, Sling TV has added free TV shows and the option to subscribe to individual channels without having to subscribe to the company's base level of channels.
Gaming

Break out the Wii: ‘Just Dance’ movie reportedly in the works

Sony's Screen Gems has reportedly acquired the film rights to the Just Dance video game series from Ubisoft, which previously helped bring the game Assassin's Creed to the big screen in 2016.
Movies & TV

Apple’s first original feature film reunites Bill Murray, Sofia Coppola

The Lost in Translation team of Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray will reunite with their A Very Murray Christmas collaborator Rashida Jones for On the Rocks, Apple and studio A24's first official feature together.
Movies & TV

You can get a screaming deal on LG OLED TVs just in time for the Super Bowl

LG is offering steep discounts on its critically acclaimed OLED TV models just in time for the Super Bowl, letting discerning viewers watch their favorite athletes with higher picture quality than ever.
Movies & TV

Jason Reitman’s ‘Ghostbusters’ sequel already has a creepy teaser trailer

Jason Reitman, son of Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, has secretly co-written a follow-up to the 1984 supernatural comedy. Filming begins this summer, but it's not clear if the original Ghostbusters will reprise their roles.
Movies & TV

Netflix recruits Steve Carell for the Trump-inspired comedy ‘Space Force’

Steve Carell, Netflix, and The Office showrunner Greg Daniels are teaming up for Space Force, a workplace comedy poking fun at the Trump White House's plans to establish a sixth branch of the U.S. military.
Home Theater

Cutting the cord? Let us help you find the best service for live TV streaming

There's a long list of live TV streaming services available to help you cut the cord and replace your traditional TV subscription. Each is different in important ways, and this guide will help you find the best one for you.