That '70s Show

TV’s Best and Worst Re-Cast Characters

Television's rich history has seen several characters appear while being portrayed as by a different actor.

Throughout television history, many shows have had to bid farewell to longtime cast members, transforming episodes into events for fans to flock to as a character moves on. It leaves room for a new character to arrive and grow alongside the established characters, keeping the show moving. It isn’t always successful, but it happens. Sometimes it is so jarring, the entire series falters.

The real rarity in the world of TV is how some actors and actresses move on to other roles or the show replaces them with another person as the same character. Notable shows like The HoneymoonersCagney and LaceyThree’s Company and The O.C. have successfully managed to have characters replaced by new actors. Sometimes these replacements go on to be more successful than the originals. Other times it blows up in a show’s face, forcing more changes or cancellation.

The history of television is littered with examples, be it the Golden Age of TV, the Peak era, or just the general network hold that existed through the ’70s and ’80s. Scroll down to see and read about some of the best and worst examples of TV character replacements.

Last Man Standing

(Photo: Tony Rivetti, Getty)

The Tim Allen hit faced some changes after ABC canceled the series and it ended up being revived on Fox after fan outcry. Mandy Baxter is likely the most significant change the series has seen between its network move was the role of Mandy Baxter. Original actress Molly Ephraim left the series after it was canceled in 2017. She took on other projects, so once the show was revived, the blonde Molly McCook stepped into the role. Fans noticed and there was a quick backlash that has seemed to calm down as the show grows roots on Fox. But there was a time where Ephraim was forced to shut down her social media due to fan criticism.


(Photo: ABC, Getty)

Possibly the modern classic example of one role with two actresses that both went on to memorable careers and then returned, Becky Conner’s story is fresh thanks to the reboot of Roseanne and its sequel The Conners. Lecy Goranson played the role through the first five seasons of the hit sitcom but opted to focus on school and leave the show. Sarah Chalke stepped in to play Becky in seasons six and seven before Goranson returned in season eight for some fun that saw her share the role with Chalke. The latter would be the final Becky, go on to star in Scrubs, and then returned with Goranson in the Roseanne revival. Goranson ended up as Becky once again, while Chalke played a new character. Best of all, the switches became part of the show’s humor.


The change on Friends actually could be the most normal of the bunch. Seinfeld, the series’ Thursday night neighbor, did similar after its earlier seasons with Seinfeld’s father. Here Ross is surprised by his girlfriend Carol Willicks, played in the pilot by Anita Barone, when she admits to him that she’s pregnant and a lesbian. Barone reportedly didn’t feel the role was a good fit for her, so she didn’t make it last. Jane Sibbett took on the part after that and remained for the rest of the series. Not too bad.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

(Photo: NBC, Getty)

A contentious choice due to the animosity behind the decision, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air switching up Aunt Viv still represents a success in bringing in a new actress to play an established role. There is no denying Janet Hubert was superb as Vivian Banks in the first three seasons of the series. Sadly, she had a falling out with star Will Smith and it ended up being replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid who ended up taking over for the remainder of the series. Both brought different aspects to the character, with Reid representing a softer and more sympathetic character over Hubert’s strong and sturdy version.

Game of Thrones

(Photo: HBO)

HBO’s hit fantasy series dropped Ed Skrein of Deadpool fame after his important debut in season three. He had landed a role in The Transporter: Refueled and couldn’t stay with the fantasy epic. So Treme actor Michael Huisman stepped into the role, looking like a completely different person. The change was very odd, particularly for a series that could’ve easily turned out another character to take Daario’s place. Still, we got a new Daario, and he helped conquer alongside Daenerys, then by the end of the show disappeared. At least he had some great moments.


(Photo: ABC, Getty)

The dreaded two Darrins is an example of a show recasting itself into oblivion. Bewitched featured Dick York as Darrin Stephens from the pilot through season five of the popular sitcom. Then he injured his back and another Dick was brought in to play Darrin. The problem is Dick Sargent looked nothing like York and didn’t have the chemistry the original carried with TV wife Elizabeth Montgomery. The show continued in decline for three more seasons until it was canceled.

That ’70s Show

The original core of That ’70s Show lasted through 7 seasons and became a surprise hit on Fox during a period where the show became known for its cancellations. Family Guy lampooned it when it was revived in the early 2000s. But in its final seasons, changes happened that didn’t sit well with fans. First was the introduction of Josh Meyers as Randy Pearson, a new love interest for Donna and originally as Eric Forman himself after Topher Grace left. They nixed that idea, but didn’t in the case of Laurie Forman. Lisa Robin Kelly filled the role through season three before leaving and returning in season five. Then due to outside issues, she was recast with Christina Moore taking the role in season six. Kelly died in 2013 at the age of 43.

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