Prime Time Actor Switcheroos

How many prime time TV shows can you think of where an actor or actress was replaced, and we were supposed to pretend nothing had changed?

I can think of…

Dick York/Dick Sargent on “Bewitched”
Two different Marilyns on “The Munsters”
Two different drummers on “The Partridge Family”
Short, stacked, English Emma Samms replacing tall, skinny, American Pamela Sue Martin on “Dynasty.”
Donna Reed replacing Barbara Bel Geddes on “Dallas.”
Meg Foster/Sharon Gless on “Cagney & Lacey”

This is COMMON on daytime soaps, but what other rime time shows have kept a character while changing the actor?

Two different actors played Lionel on the Jeffersons
Two different actresses played Becky on Roseanne.
I think Cagney (or was it Lacey?) was also played by Loretta Swit at some point.

Jump the Shark has a list of these.

This happens a lot and this list could go on and on. Think about the theater. It happens there on a regular basis. Actors have contract disputes, they get tired of a role, producers don’t like the way the actor performs, etc.

The absolute worst case of this was a very early TV show called The Aldrich Family. It ran from 1949 to 1953. At that point, since switching actors didn’t seem to matter much in plays or on radio, TV producers thought they could get away with the same thing on TV. The lead character was played by five actors over those four years. Several other central characters had three actors playing them during the run of the series.

On “Seinfeld” the original actors who portrayed Morty Seinfeld and Frank Costanza were replaced by Barney Martin and Jerry Stiller respectively. You can still see the “original” Morty in some of the earlier episodes in syndication but the ones with the original Frank were either dumped or they reshot the scenes with Stiller.

Let’s not forget the two different pairs of Charlies Angels.

I think Babylon 5 pulled this on at least one character.

It’s actually one of the reasons why I stopped watching the show. I liked the first season, and then I tuned in for the second and was like: “Who are these people?”

Torgo made a good point that minor characters are sometimes played by different actors in different episodes. In addition to the examples he gave, I believed Ross’ first wife in Friends, Frank’s wife on Wiseguys, and Ray’s girlfriend in Stingray were all played by different actresses at different times.

The various Angels came in trios not pairs. The six from the original series were different characters in the show. The three from the recent movie were also different characters from the show. So technically no single character was ever played by two different actresses.

[dons geek hat]

AFAIK, the only character they really pulled this with was Na’Toth, G’Kar’s aide. The actress wanted out and JMS needed the character to remain for plot purposes. Not that noticible under all that make-up.

Maybe you’re referring to the cast overhaul between the pilot and the series. There was about a year (our time) lapse between the two (I think) and the characters weren’t recast so much as transferred off the station and replaced with the others. Even then, Lyta Alexander from the pilot came back to the show after Talia went off to pose nude and become a detective with Sipowicz. There were other cast rotations that went on, but I don’t believe they did other changes like in the OP.

[removes chapeau d’geek]

This wasn’t exactly the same characters but pretty darn close. On Dukes Of Hazzard, Bo and Luke were replaced with Vance and Coy one season. IIRC this was because John Schneider and Tom Wopat had arguments over merchandising. Vance and Coy were bad look alike to Bo and Luke, and they only lasted 6 monthes until Bo and Luke returned. Pretty stupid if you ask me.

Speaking of the two different actresses playing Becky in Roseanne, has anyone else seen the, um, “adult” photograph of the first actress?

In the very short run of Bette Midler’s series this season, Bette, the actor initially cast to play her husband was replaced by Robert Hays.

And Little Nemo is right; Loretta Swit played Cagney in the movie pilot for the series Cagney & Lacey.

How about Doctor Who? I think their up to six or seven different actors, all who played the same part. I didn’t realize that two different actresses had played Mrs. Kravitz on Bewitched until I was watching a show about it on E!.

Hey! I forgot about Dark Shadows! Three different actresses played Victoria Winters, and the actors who played Sherriff Patterson and Dr. Woodard were both replaced.

Babylon 5 did re-cast other characters and re-use actors. Here are ones I can think of.


The actor who played Byron had a couple of lines as a Minbari in a previous episode.

Theodore Bikel played Ivanova’s family rabbi, then in the later TV movie “In the Beginning” had a supporting role as a Minbari.

Ed Wasser played a minor technician in the pilot, then later played the major role of Morden.


The actor who played the Minbari who took over the Great Machine later showed up as (human) Brother Theo and another actor took over the Minbari role.


Sheridan’s sister Elizabeth gives him a copy of the last video message to her from his wife Anna before she disappeared and was presumed dead. Anna was played by Beth Toussaint in this message. In a later episode, Anna turns up alive, played by Melissa Gilbert (who is IRL the wife of Bruce Boxleitner who plays Sheridan).

Adding to zgystardst’s list, Wayne Alexander played Loren, then later played one of the Draak (sp?).

And speaking of Dark Shadows, it had lots of cast changes. John Karlen (and speaking of Cagney & Lacey…) played the Willy character for years, but was not the first actor to play the part. I forget the name of the original Willy. And since DS was made on a budget of $1.79 a day, they didn’t reschedule or rewrite when a cast member got sick, so if, say, Nancy Barrett (the actress who played Caroline) was ill, for one or two days someone else played the part, and then Barrett would come back. This happened a lot in the first year or so of the series. OTOH, the series also had the same actors playing many parts…

There have been seven Doctor Whos (or is it Doctors Who?). Eight if you count Paul McGann in the Fox TV movie. Nine if you count Peter Cushing in the two Dalek theatrical movies. Ten if you count Richard Hurndall, who replaced the late William Hartnell in “The Five Doctors.”

Somebody was saying something about a geek hat? :slight_smile:

Actually, Dr. Who is one of the few shows that can get away with this, precisely because it’s science fiction. When a new Doctor comes along, the other characters don’t just pretend that it’s the same guy. Quite the contrary, the fact that the Doctor is able to change his physical appearance is a feature of the program.

There were two different voices for Betty Rubble, and at least two voices for Velma on Scooby Doo. But perhaps that’s not quite the same thing.

what about the two different mothers in the fresh prince of belair