23 actors who wanted to be cast in popular TV roles but didn’t get them

Some beloved TV shows could have had surprisingly different casts. MARIO ANZUONI/Reuters; HBO

Rejection is a big part of being an actor, and pretty much everyone working in Hollywood knows what it’s like to be turned down for a role.

Though many A-listers get to a point in their careers where projects come to them, there aren’t many actors out there who haven’t been on an unsuccessful audition.

Here are some famous actors who wanted to be cast in popular TV roles, but didn’t get them.

According to the show’s creator, Jennifer Lawrence auditioned to play Serena van der Woodsen on “Gossip Girl.”

Jennifer Lawrence auditioned for ‘Gossip Girl’ before Blake Lively was cast in the role. Getty/ The CW

Ahead of the 10th anniversary of The CW’s “Gossip Girl” in 2017, show creator Josh Schwartz told Vulture that Jennifer Lawrence auditioned for the role of Serena van der Woodsen, which ultimately went to Blake Lively.

“We did not realise this at the time, but Jennifer Lawrence really wanted to play Serena and auditioned,” Schwartz said. “This story came to us secondhand, but we were told she definitely auditioned and was bummed to not get it.”

Rumer Willis was surprised to learn that execs at The CW originally recommended her to play Serena on “Gossip Girl.”

Rumer Willis was also in the running for Serena on ‘Gossip Girl.’ Getty Images/ The CW

David Rapaport, a casting director for The CW, told BuzzFeed in 2015 that the network initially pitched Ashley Olsen and Rumer Willis for the respective leading roles of Blair and Serena, which went to Leighton Meester and Lively.

“That’s so crazy – it’s pretty cool,” Willis told People in 2016 when asked to respond to Rapaport’s comments. “You know, it was actually totally news to me.”

She continued, “I felt like I did an awful audition back then. I was so young and it was, like, one of the first things I’d ever auditioned for.”

Lily Collins said she auditioned to play Jenny Humphrey on “Gossip Girl.”

Lily Collins auditioned for the ‘Gossip Girl’ role that went to Taylor Momsen. Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images; The CW

Lily Collins is another actress who vied for a role on the teen drama.

“I remember the screen test for ‘Gossip Girl’ was on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank. I was about 17 or 18 at the time. I remember driving onto the lot and going, ‘Oh my God. This is surreal,'” Collins told Glamour in 2016.

“I wanted it so badly,” she said of the role of Jenny Humphrey, which eventually went to Taylor Momsen.

Tiffani Thiessen said she was “too young” to play Rachel Green on “Friends.”

Tiffani Thiessen auditioned for Rachel on ‘Friends.’ Getty/ NBC

During a 2018 appearance on Nikki Glaser’s SiriusXM radio show, Tiffani Thiessen revealed she auditioned and was tested for the role of Rachel Green on NBC’s “Friends.”

“I was just a little too young,” she said. “I was a little too young to the pairing of the rest of them.”

Thiessen would have been 20 in 1994 when the show premiered on NBC. The role went to Jennifer Aniston, who was 25 at the time and the youngest of the six main cast members.

Hank Azaria said he auditioned twice for the role of Joey Tribbiani on “Friends.”

Hank Azaria auditioned for the role of Joey, which went to Matt LeBlanc. Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP; NBC

“Friends” fans know Hank Azaria had a recurring role as David the Scientist Guy, but the actor originally read for Joey.

“That’s the only job I ever auditioned for twice,” Azaria told HuffPost Live in 2014. “I thought it was so good – they had rejected me once – I said, ‘I’m going back, I’m gonna do it again, I’m gonna try it again.'”

Azaria went on to say that even after being rejected twice for the role, he initially thought he would have done a better job than Matt LeBlanc.

“At first, in my opinion, in the first few episodes of ‘Friends’ [LeBlanc] hadn’t really found it,” Azaria said. “And all that first season I was like, ‘I could’ve been funnier than him!’ And then to me, he got hilarious. He really grew into that, he really found himself in that role.”

Eric McCormack said he auditioned to play Ross Geller on “Friends.”

Eric McCormack auditioned for Ross on ‘Friends,’ which went to David Schwimmer. Getty Images/ NBC

Eric McCormack was working in theatre when he set his sights on sitcom stardom. The actor told HuffPost Live in 2013 that he audition for the role of Ross on “Friends,” which eventually went to David Schwimmer.

“I was so kind of done with that previous phase. I needed to start pulling at this other sort of funnier, lighter side,” he said. “I auditioned for ‘Friends’ even. I auditioned for [David] Schwimmer’s part.”

McCormack said that years later when he told Jimmy Burrows – who directed multiple episodes of “Friends” – that he was up for Ross, Burrows told him he was kidding himself.

“He said, ‘Oh, honey, you’re wasting your time. They wrote the part for him,'” McCormack recalled.

Selma Blair came close to playing Joey Potter on The WB’s “Dawson’s Creek,” according to the show’s creator.

Selma Blair was considered for Katie Holmes’ role on ‘Dawson’s Creek.’ Earl Gibson III/Getty Images and Sony Pictures Television

“Dawson’s Creek” creator Kevin Williamson told Entertainment Weekly in 2018 that Selma Blair was his first choice for Joey Potter until he came across Katie Holmes’ audition tape.

“I really loved Selma until, of course, I got the infamous videotape from the basement of the Holmes family in Toledo, Ohio,” Williamson said. “And when that video showed up, it changed my whole life.”

In April 2018, Blair shared an old photo of herself on Instagram with Holmes and Sarah Michelle Gellar, who starred on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” – another role Blair auditioned for.

” … I have always admired these ladies. Even if I didn’t get the part of #joeypotter. That role was all @katieholmes212 and I loved watching her from the start,” she captioned the photo. “I auditioned for #Buffy but didn’t even come close. But I have a friend for life ????love you @sarahmgellar … “

Producers of the show said Katherine Heigl gave a great audition to play Jen Lindley on “Dawson’s Creek.”

The role Katherine Heigl auditioned for ended up going to Michelle Williams. Cindy Ord/Getty Images; The WB

Katherine Heigl auditioned for the role on “Dawson’s Creek” that ultimately went to Michelle Williams.

Creator Williamson told Entertainment Weekly in the same interview that Heigl was brought in to audition because she had previously worked with the pilot’s director, Steven Miner.

“She looked slightly older at that time. Even though she was younger, I just think she was more mature,” Williamson said. “She gave a great audition, I remember we were all sort of like, ‘Wow, she’s good.'”

Adrian Grenier said he was considered for the titular role on “Dawson’s Creek.”

Adrian Grenier auditioned for Dawson, which went to James Van Der Beek. Getty Images; The WB

According to a 2014 Digital Spy interview with James Van Der Beek, Adrian Grenier auditioned for the teen drama and actually ended up sitting next to Van Der Beek on the flight to LA to read for the part.

“I remember we were both testing for Dawson and I think he was just a little bit more disciplined,” Grenier told E! News in 2014. “I was very young and I was living in New York and it was my first time in LA, so I was a little bit more green. And I think [Van Der Beek] was a little bit more seasoned at the time and so he came in and swept it.”

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” producers kept Iwan Rheon in mind for other roles after he auditioned to play Jon Snow.

Iwan Rheon auditioned for Jon Snow, which eventually went to Kit Harington. Getty Images/ HBO

“Game of Thrones” creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss were impressed with Iwan Rheon when he auditioned for the role of Jon Snow, which eventually went to Kit Harington.

According to The New York Times, the producers of the show kept Rheon “on [their] radar” for future roles and cast him as Ramsay Bolton on season three.

While speaking to Interview magazine in 2016, Rheon said that he first read for the role of Viserys and was asked to come back in to read for Jon Snow.

“At the time I didn’t know much about it. So I auditioned for Jon Snow, but so did a lot of other people probably,” he said.

He continued, “I think it was between me and Kit [Harington], which is quite crazy. It could’ve been so different … I think they made the right choice; it would have been a very different Jon Snow if I’d played him.”

Mahershala Ali said he totally blew his “Game of Thrones” audition.

Mahershala Ali reportedly auditioned for Nonso Anozie’s part on ‘Game of Thrones.’ Getty Images/ HBO

Mahershala Ali told Jimmy Kimmel in 2017 that his audition for “Game of Thrones” was “one of the worst auditions of [his] life.”

Ali said he felt “really prepared” to read for the role of a merchant who got locked in a safe on season three (likely Xaro Xhoan Daxos, who was played by Nonso Anozie), but was thrown off by the high, backless stools provided in the audition room.

The actor went on to tell Kimmel that the casting director said he looked too stiff when he sat down at the audition and needed to loosen up.

Nathan Fillion said he didn’t make it very far when he auditioned to play Angel on The WB’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Nathan Fillion auditioned for the role of Angel, which went to David Boreanaz Getty Images/ The CW

Nathan Fillion said he didn’t even make it through early casting rounds when he auditioned for Angel on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

You understand your job as an actor is to audition,” Fillion told Reuters in 2011. “Your job is to go out there and look for work … When [creator] Joss [Whedon] found out that I auditioned for Angel – he didn’t know – he felt bad. He said, ‘I don’t remember you.’ I told him not to worry, I never made the first cut.”

David Boreanaz was cast as Angel, and Fillion was eventually cast as Caleb on the final season of the show after working with Whedon on Fox’s “Firefly.”

Peter Hermann was almost cast as Don Draper on “Mad Men,” according to the show’s creator.

Peter Hermann auditioned for the role on ‘Mad Men’ that went to Jon Hamm. Getty Images/ AMC

The creator of AMC’s “Mad Men,” Matthew Weiner, was impressed by both Peter Hermann and Jon Hamm during the audition for Don Draper.

“Matt originally sent us tapes on Jon Hamm and Mariska Hargitay’s husband [Peter Hermann],” Christina Wayne, a former senior executive at AMC, told TV Guide in 2017. “Those were his two choices and he said he was leaning more towards Jon. We were like, ‘Really? This is the guy you want?’ It was not a particularly great audition.”

Hamm ended up beating out Hermann for the iconic role.

“The OC” producers said Olivia Wilde was too “tough” to play Marissa Cooper.

Olivia Wilde auditioned for Marissa Cooper, who was played by Mischa Barton. Getty Images/ The CW

Series creator Schwartz said that he came close to casting Olivia Wilde as Marissa Cooper on Fox’s “The OC” but ultimately went with actress Mischa Barton.

“Marissa was obviously a character who Ryan needs to save, and Olivia Wilde needs no saving. She’s pretty tough,” Schwartz said on a panel at the 2016 ATX TV Festival, according to Deadline.

Wilde was later cast as a teenage bartender named Alex, who dated both Seth and Marissa on the show’s second season.

Alicia Silverstone was deemed too “beautiful” to play Angela Chase on ABC’s “My So-Called Life,” per the show’s executive producer.

Alicia Silverstone auditioned for the role that went to Claire Danes. Getty Images/ ABC

When it came time to cast the show’s lead, the producers decided to go with Claire Danes over Alicia Silverstone for ABC’s “My So-Called Life.”

Executive producer Ed Zwick told The New Yorker in 2013 that he immediately wanted to cast Silverstone, but fellow exec Marshall Herskovitz thought Silverstone was too pretty to play Angela Chase.

“Alicia is so beautiful that that would have affected her experience of the world,” Herskovitz said. “People would have been telling her she was beautiful since she was 6 years old. You can’t put that face in what’s been written for this girl.”

Emma Stone said she didn’t land one of the coveted spots on “All That” when she auditioned as a preteen.

Emma Stone auditioned for Nickelodeon’s sketch-comedy show. Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

“I went to an open call for ‘All That.’ We drove out from Arizona and I auditioned for ‘All That’ when I was 12 years old,” Emma Stone told Jimmy Fallon on an episode of his late-night show in 2016.

“All That” was a popular, teen sketch-comedy show on Nickelodeon with a limited starring cast.

“I didn’t know that you had to [come prepared] with characters,” she added. “I thought they were going to give us sketches, and then five minutes before I went in the room they said, ‘You need to have three characters when you come in the room.’ So I was like, ‘OK,’ and then I made up a couple of characters.'”

Stone wasn’t cast on the show, but she told Fallon she remembered one of the characters she whipped up on the spot was a cheerleader who couldn’t spell and another was a babysitter who was possessed.

David Tennant said he met with producers about playing Hannibal Lecter on NBC’s “Hannibal.”

David Tennant auditioned for the lead role that went to Mads Mikkelsen. Getty Images/ NBC

The infamous TV villain was played by Mads Mikkelsen, but he wasn’t the only actor considered for the role.

“I met [‘Hannibal’ executive producer] Bryan Fuller a couple of times, and we talked about it,” David Tennant told Entertainment Weekly in 2018. “But I think they quite wisely chose Mads Mikkelsen, I think he was a perfect choice for it, and I think he did things with that character that I wouldn’t have managed, so I think the right man got the job.”

Taylor Momsen later said she was actually happy she wasn’t cast as the titular role on “Hannah Montana.”

Taylor Momsen auditioned for ‘Hannah Montana’ before Miley Cyrus was cast. Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Chris Cornell Estate; Disney Channel

Miley Cyrus was eventually cast as the star of the Disney Channel’s “Hannah Montana.”

And “Gossip Girl” star Momsen later said she was grateful that her own audition didn’t work out.

“Honestly, if I’d have ended up as Hannah Montana, I don’t know if the show would have gone as well. I probably would have told them all to go f— themselves by the time I hit 11,” Momsen told Express in 2010. “And I don’t know how that would have gone down. It’s great for Miley, but I really like where I am right now and I feel really fortunate to be able to really be myself.”

According to the show’s producer, Teri Hatcher was almost cast as Jamie Buchman on “Mad About You.”

Teri Hatcher auditioned for the role of Jamie Buchman, which went to Helen Hunt. Steve Granitz via Getty Images; NBC

Helen Hunt and Teri Hatcher were the final two actresses considered for the role of Jamie on NBC’s “Mad About You.”

Producer Danny Jacobson told The New York Times in 1994 that Hunt was ultimately cast after she was asked to perform the scene in the show’s pilot where she imitated Paul Reiser eating.

“She did that so brilliantly. It was as clear as a tap on the shoulder from the coach saying, ‘Go into the game.'” Jacobson said.

Kaley Cuoco said she got passed over for a role on NBC’s “Freaks and Geeks.”

Kaley Cuoco auditioned for ‘Freaks and Geeks.’ Rich Fury/Getty Images

According to Vulture, CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” star told Vegas magazine that she auditioned for a role on “Freaks and Geeks” when she was 12 years old.

It’s unclear which role she was vying for, but Kaley Cuoco didn’t end up snagging a spot in the small, main cast of the cult-classic series.

Even though she didn’t get the job, after the audition the show’s executive producer Judd Apatow called her agent and said, “She’s going to work in this business.”

Sandra Oh said Shonda Rhimes turned her down for Olivia Pope on “Scandal” because of her role on “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Sandra Oh said she wanted to play the role of Olivia Pope, which went to Kerry Washington. Kevin Mazur/Getty Images; ABC

Sandra Oh was starring on Shonda Rhimes’ hit ABC medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” when the showrunner started developing “Scandal,” another popular ABC show.

On a recent episode of Variety’s Actors on Actors, Oh told Kerry Washington, who was ultimately cast as Olivia Pope, that she immediately wanted to play the role after reading the pilot script.

“I’ve got to tell you, I remember exactly where I was when I read that damn pilot,” Oh said. “I was on ‘Grey’s.’ We were on stage five. Someone snuck it to me, I don’t know who it was, but I got my hands on that pilot and I read it and I was just like, ‘How could I play Olivia Pope?'”

However, when Oh expressed interest in the role to Rhimes, she said Rhimes shot her down.

“She goes, ‘No, you’ve got to play Cristina Yang!'” Oh recalled.

Liza Weil originally auditioned for Rory on “Gilmore Girls.”

The part of Paris Geller was then written specifically for her based on her audition. Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP; The WB

According to BuzzFeed News, Liza Weil originally auditioned for the part of Rory Gilmore on The WB’s “Gilmore Girls.” The part ultimately went to Alexis Bledel.

However, after the auditioned, she got a phone call from showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino because the creator was impressed with her audition and wanted to write a new character, which became Paris Geller, specifically for her.

“My fully formed self now sees it as a huge compliment that that’s what they came up with from me reading originally for Rory,” she said.

Millie Bobby Brown said she almost gave up on acting after a failed audition for “Game of Thrones.”

Millie Bobby Brown auditioned for the role that went to Bella Ramsey. MARIO ANZUONI/Reuters; HBO

Millie Bobby Brown previously told Preview that she’d auditioned for Lyanna Mormont on “Game of Thrones.” The role went to Bella Ramsey.

During a recent interview on “The Tonight Show,” she told Jimmy Fallon that she actually considered quitting acting after not getting the part.

“I think I was just very disheartened by the rejection,” she said. “… I guess I really wanted that role.”

But luckily, she went on one more audition.

“So one of my last kind of goes at this all was this Netflix show called ‘Montauk,'” she continued. “… And the rest is history of course. We then named the show ‘Stranger Things’ … But, you know, ‘Montauk’ was definitely the one that kind of gave me that hope of doing it all again.”

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