Jaleel White as Rudy on “The Cosby Show”
Originally, the role of Rudy was written for a boy. White was their first choice before they opened up auditions to girls. It’s hard to imagine the role of Rudy as a boy. Keshia Knight Pulliam was great as Bill Cosby’s mini-me on the show. The show also had greater dimension because Cosby was an OBGYN in a family of mostly women. If he had two male children it may have just felt like too many kids. Plus, White might not have been able to take his career defining role as Steve Urkel if he was still on “The Cosby Show.”
Lisa Kudrow as Roz Doyle on “Fraiser”
Kudrow officially beat out Peri Gilpin for the role of Roz on the popular Kelsey Grammer sitcom. However, the quirkiness that she brought to her roles on “Friends” and “Mad About You” did not fit into the strong-willed character of Roz. Sadly, during rehearsals the chemistry between her and Grammer wasn’t a good fit so Gilpin replaced her. It’s for the best, she landed “Friends” and both she and Gilpin had long runs on their respective shows.
Louie Anderson as Cousin Larry on “Perfect Strangers”
This is by far one of the more startling pieces of TV trivia. Anderson was originally cast as Cousin Larry on “Perfect Strangers.” Let’s be honest, his slightly dark demeanor and depressive personality came out in his cartoon, “Life with Louie.” It makes sense he wasn’t a match with Bronson Pinchot’s blindly positive demeanor as Balki Bartokomous. Anderson was replaced by Mark Linn-Baker after the pilot. “Perfect Strangers” went on to produce the popular spin-off “Family Matters” but it might not have lasted long enough with Anderson. Sorry, Louie!
Rachel Dratch as Jenna on "30 Rock"
It’s hard to imagine Jenna from “30 Rock” being a real SNL cast member. Originally, Dratch was to play Jenna DeCarlo, Liz’s friend on the show. It was an upgrade to have Krakowski play the obsessively self-absorbed star of “The Rurual Juror.” However, it’s sad that Dratch was given the consolation prize of playing a different character in every episode of the first season. Why not have her be Liz Lemon’s best friend Norma McGirl, and have them both secretly hate Jenna Maroney? It was weird that the fictional Girlie Show only had three actors on it and let’s face it that Josh guy disappeared.
Thomas Jane as Don Draper on “Mad Men”
Jon Hamm is Don Draper. It’s hard to imagine that the show’s creators were trying to recruit the “Hung” star. Hamm, virtually unknown before the popular AMC series, was at the bottom of the list. The creators were trying to recruit Jane and didn’t believe Hamm was sexy enough. Little did they know. It’s better they chose Hamm anyway because he feels more 1950s and he’s got his own buzz now. Vive la Hammaconda!
Jeff Yagher as Tom Hanson on “21 Jump Street”
Yagher is best known for his time on “V.” It’s hard to believe he was ever cast as Detective Tom Hanson on the popular Fox cop drama. He doesn’t have the same magnetic quality as Johnny Depp and sadly he did not impress in the pilot and was fired. Depp was reluctant to sign a television contract so it wasn’t until he was approached again that he chose to join the cast. It’s hard to imagine the series surviving on the fledgling network without Depp’s star power.
Riff Regan as Willow on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
Alyson Hannigan is Willow Rosenberg. She went from meek flower to evil super witch. She even took a one-way flight to lady town. Originally, Willow was meant to be played by sweet more normal looking Regan. In the unaired pilot, Regan played sweet and perky Willow. It is a little disappointing that the show didn’t take a more progressive stance on casting actors with real bodies. However, Hannigan did bring geek street cred that helped add more layers to her character. Sadly, Regan was never seen again. She must have fallen into the Hellmouth.
Kate Micucci as Cousin Chance on "Raising Hope"
Micucci is great as awkward babysitter Shelley. However, she was the original choice for the Chance cousin. Remember, when there was a cousin that lived with them? Instead, she was replaced by Skyler Stone and she became the owner of the local day-care center. It served Micucci because Stone inevitably left the show and her character still pops by from time to time.
Sandra Bernhard as Miranda Hobbes on "Sex and the City"
Bernhard was the original choice for persnickety lawyer, Miranda. It makes sense and honestly Bernhard’s intelligence and acerbic wit would have made Miranda less irritating in those first few seasons. However, Bernhard turned down the role because she didn’t like the script or the check. The fledgling HBO network was not paying her enough to consider a move to NYC. On the Howard Stern Show the comedian shared her reservations about playing second or third fiddle to Sarah Jessica Parker. That tension could have caused an easy cancellation.
Dana Delany as Carrie Bradshaw on "Sex and The City"
Bernhard was not the only original casting choice for “Sex and the City.” Delany’s friend Darren Star approached her to play Carrie Bradshaw in the popular HBO comedy. However, she turned it down because she had starred in the unsuccessful sex-charged films “Live Nude Girls” and “Exit to Eden.” Coincidentally, “Live Nude Girls” starred Kim Cattrall and was very similar in tone to the series. Was she right in avoiding a huge pay day to not get typecast? Or would the show have failed?
Dana Delany as Bree on "Desperate Housewives"
Delany also turned down the role of Bree on the primetime soap. This move does seem to be for the best. She was coming off of a role on the cancelled soap “Pasadena.” Marcia Cross took the role to new heights and made the show a huge success. Luckily, Delany was able to play Catherine Mayfair a role with vastly different layers worthy of the Emmy-winning actress.
ABC Television Network
Calista Flockhart as Susan Meyer on "Desperate Housewives"
It’s slightly traumatic to imagine Flockhart as the plucky, clumsy single mom on the Marc Cherry sitcom. It would feel too much like Suburb-y McBeal. She went on to star in “Brothers and Sisters” as an outspoken conservative. It’s for the best of the show as well because the countless comparisons to her role as the plucky single lawyer would have overshadowed the genius of the series.
ABC Television Network
Rob Lowe as Dr. Derek Shepherd on "Grey’s Anatomy"
Lowe turned down the chance to play McDreamy to star in the short-lived “Dr. Vegas.” It is probably for the best because he is honestly too-attractive to be believable as a hot-shot neurosurgeon. Patrick Dempsey manages to bring a level of authenticity that is part of the believable love story between him and Meredith. Lowe is a great actor but he is just too dreamy to play McDreamy.
ABC Television Network