10 times a TV character was recast

Sometimes, a person's face changes right before our eyes!

Nothing is perfect, and TV is no exception. Stuff happens. People leave. Roles need to be filled. 

Whether it was an acrimonious split or one of mutual respect, there are plenty of examples when a TV character needed to be recast. It's one of the weirdest things we go through as television fans. You get used to someone having a certain face, and then suddenly, they've got a different face?! Sometimes it's done seamlessly, but it's usually very jarring.

Whether you noticed them or not, here are 10 examples of actors who were replaced while the show was still in progress. Be sure to follow up in the comments section below and share your favorites that didn't make the list!

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1. "Batman" - Catwoman

This one's a rare hat-trick where three different actresses portrayed Adam West's Batman's ferocious feline foe. The role was played by Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt and, in the movie, Lee Meriwether. Nine lives, three actors. 

2. "The Andy Griffith Show" - Ben Weaver

You remember Ben Weaver, the miserly department store owner in Mayberry. The role was originated by Will Wright, who played Weaver for three episodes before passing away in 1962. He was replaced first by Tol Avery before the role was eventually given to Jason Johnson. 

3. "The Andy Griffith Show" - Wally

No, not Tony Dow. This is the Wally on The Andy Griffith Show. A few different friendly faces greeted Mayberry drivers at the filling station that employed Gomer and Goober. Wally was portrayed by Norman Leavitt, Trevor Bardette and Cliff Norton over the course of four episodes.

4. "The Dick Van Dyke Show" - Fiona "Pickles" Conway Sorrell

If you know anything about Buddy Sorrell, you can probably picture the kind of woman that would be a good partner for him, which is to say Pickles is a bit... nutty. Barbara Perry originated the role but was later replaced on The Dick Van Dyke Show by Joan Shawlee.

5. "The Flintstones" - Barney Rubble

Animation fanatics will be quick to point out how Barney was voiced by cartoon legend Mel Blanc. However, during The Flintstones' second season, Blanc was involved in a horrible car accident that left him unable to fulfill his duties. As such, Daws Butler gamely stepped up to the slate—er, plate.

6. "The Flintstones" - Betty Rubble

Barney wasn't the only character to go through a change on The Flintstones. Heck, he wasn't even the only Rubble! His wife, Betty, was originally voiced by Bea Benaderet. You'll recognize Bea as Kate Bradley in Petticoat Junction, which she filmed concurrently with her voiceover duties. Eventually, the schedule proved too much, and the role was given to Gerry Johnson.

7. "The Fugitive" - Leonard Taft

There are so many things that happen in The Fugitive at such a breakneck pace that you'd be forgiven if you've forgotten Leonard Taft. He's Dr. Kimble's brother-in-law, and over the course of the series is played by James B. Sikking in season one, Lin McCarthy in season three, and Richard Anderson in the season-four finale.

8. "Green Acres" - Doris Ziffel

When you're sharing the screen with a pig named Arnold, people might overlook your contribution to the show. Maybe that's how the Green Acres producers were able to get away with recasting Doris Ziffel, who was portrayed by Barbara Pepper from 1965–1968, and then by Fran Ryan between 1969 and 1971.

9. "Batman" - The Riddler

Holy recurring issues with keeping the cast happy and consistent, Batman! For a show that only had three seasons, Batman sure had a revolving range of rogues. While initially portrayed by Frank Gorshin, The Riddler would later be played by John Astin, of The Addams Family. Apparently, the money issues were resolved, as Gorshin ended up reprising the role in the third season!

10. "Petticoat Junction" - Billie Jo

Here's a bit of trivia for you: Billie Jo on Petticoat Junction was originally going to be played by Sharon Tate. The good news is, there were plenty of other actresses, as Billie Joe was first played by Jeannine Riley for two seasons before she left for a movie career. In season 3, Billie Jo was played by Gunilla Hutton, before finally settling into Meredith MacRae for the rest of the show's run!

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25 Comments

Jaxter14 2 months ago
2 actors played Chuck Cunningham on Happy Days. The actress who played Ben Matlock’s daughter and law partner, Charlene, In the 2 part pilot episode of MATLOCK was replaced by another actress for the series.
CaroleThorpe 2 months ago
I cannot believe that including the article and 22 comments up to my writing this, I am the FIRST ONE to mention the re-casting of the role of John-Boy Walton!
Nawrocki1953 3 months ago
You forgot the 2 Darren's on Bewitched.
Lillyrose 3 months ago
You forgot "Mash" and "The Love Boat" and "Newhart." Kirk Devane was replaced by the 3 woodsmen: Larry, Darryl, and Darryl.
LibraBaby0921 3 months ago
As far as Batman goes, there were also three actors playing Mr. Freeze. I forget the sequence, but there were George Sanders, Eli Wallach, and Otto Preminger. Rumor has it that Preminger was a royal P.I.T.A. to work with as befits his reputation in Hollywood.
justjeff 3 months ago
Phyllis Coates was Lois Lane in Season One of "The Adventures of Superman". When other commitments prevented her from doing Season Two, Noel Neill stepped in. However, it was Neill who'd played Lois in the 1948 and 1950 movie serials...

Dick York's recurring back problems forced him to quit Bewitched, and that's when Dick Sargent took over as Darrin.

When Joseph Kearns died, "Mr. Wilson" was replaced by his brother - played by Gale Gordon.

One of the granddaddies of cast changes (I'd mentioned this in another post) is the FOUR "Harry Mortons" on "The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show". Bea Benadaret played Blanche Morton during the entire run of the show...

As Wikipedia noted:

"Her husband Harry Morton was first portrayed by Hal March (October–December 1950), and then by John Brown (January–June 1951), and after that, Fred Clark, until 1953 when the role was assumed by Larry Keating."

Another immense casting shift was the number of actors (six) who'd played Doc Burrage on "The Riflemen". MeTV did a story on this:

https://www.metv.com/lists/6-different-actors-played-the-same-doctor-on-the-rifleman



I'll finish this post here, but the list of recastings for the same character could go on for quite a while...

Then there's the mutitude of character replacements as in "Dennis the Menace", "Mr. Ed", "Dobie Gillis", etc. when a performer had either passed away or left the series...
CoreyC 3 months ago
Bewitched had the most with Darrin, Gladys Kravitz, Darrin's father and Louise Tate.
The Waltons with John Boy
The Brady Bunch spinoffs had Jan, Cindy and Marcia.
daDoctah CoreyC 3 months ago
That's just the beginning when it comes to Bewitched. I once looked through the list on IMDb and came up with at least eight secretaries, all named Betty, at McMann & Tate. Either that one secretary was a shapeshifter of the first order, or the company had some weird policy that they'd either only hire women with that name, or that any secretary who worked for them had to agree to answer to "Betty" (I used to take dance classes at a studio where the receptionist would always claim to be "Miss Jill" when someone called in answer to their small long-running classified ad; kept them from having to change the ad when someone new came on board).

One of M&T's "Betty"s was Marcia Wallace.
CoreyC daDoctah 3 months ago
The secretaries was extras.
Rob 3 months ago
How many Lassies were there?
Runeshaper 3 months ago
Lots of greats actors and actresses here!
Pacificsun 3 months ago

Will Kuluva


Extra points because this one is so obscure.
But valued for flushing true Fans out of the woodwork!!
Bapa1 3 months ago
Please, there are so many others, off the top of my head, Superman, Lone Ranger, Boy Meets Girl, Fresh Prince, Family Matters, Roseanne, etc.
Bapa1 Bapa1 3 months ago
and lest we forget, Bewitched!
Mike 3 months ago
In between the '68 and '69 seasons, Barbara Pepper passed away, thereby necessitating her replacement in the role by Fran Ryan.
daDoctah 3 months ago
How about a list of characters who were re-cast, then cast *back* to the original? I can think of three right off the top of my head:

(1) Lionel Jefferson. Originally played by Mike Evans from before the series was spun off from All in the Family, he left the show and Lionel was played by unrelated actor Damon Evans until Mike returned to reclaim the role in season six.

(2) "Miss Ellie" Ewing - the mother of the family on "Dallas" was originally played by Barbara Bel Geddes until she had to take time off for heart surgery, and was replaced by Donna Reed. A year later Bel Geddes returned to the role after having sufficiently recuperated from her medical issues as well as negotiated a better contract.

Becky Conner - Roseanne's younger daughter on her self-named sitcom, she left the show and was replaced by Sarah Chalke, but later returned. For the last couple of seasons, the writers would have both actresses play Becky at various times, as well as showing up as other characters.
retired2019 daDoctah 3 months ago
Becky was the oldest
Pacificsun daDoctah 3 months ago
Good Work!! You should write a full story (and can). Extra points to Readers who identify the reason why this happened, just as you've begun to do! Sometimes the temporary changes are due to other casting opportunities (which don't pan out). But mainly health and death. Bonus points for which Series had two or more changes (and Batman doesn't count). Wild, Wild West tried a fill-in for Ross Martin (but substitute lacked chemistry).
Pacificsun daDoctah 3 months ago
One wanted to attend college, didn't they? And they "borrowed" Chalke for a while?
Stoney 3 months ago
John Astin would have been great as his "own" villain. Making him follow Frank Gorshin just wasn't fair.
Snickers 3 months ago
Julie Newmar was a great catwoman but I think Eartha Kitt did the role well to. Lee Meriwether not so well.
Bapa1 3 months ago
Didn't Batman have like three different Mr. Freezes?
LibraBaby0921 Bapa1 3 months ago
Yes, there were George Sanders, Eli Wallach, and Otto Preminger. I don't remember the sequence but I heard that Preminger was a royal P.I.T.A. to everyone.
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