15 iconic TV characters who were almost played by someone else

Mike Coppola/Getty Images/NBCIt’s hard to imagine a different Jack Pearson.
  • Some different actors nearly played some iconic TV roles.
  • Alex Borstein originally got cast as Sookie St. James on “Gilmore Girls.”
  • Katie Holmes was considered for the role of Piper Chapman on “Orange is the New Black.”
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Can you imagine anyone other than Jason Alexander as George Costanza or Jon Hamm as Don Draper? As hard as it may be to picture other actors in these roles, it almost happened. Both of those parts were offered to different stars before ultimately ending up in the hands of the actors who made them iconic.

And that’s hardly the first time a beloved TV character was almost played by someone else. You won’t believe how close these actors came to starring in some of your favourite TV shows.


Katie Holmes was considered for the role of Piper Chapman on “Orange is the New Black.”

Jason Merritt/Getty Images /NetflixHolmes was too busy to take the role.

Before Taylor Schilling donned an orange jumpsuit to play Piper Chapman on the Netflix prison dramedy, Katie Holmes came close to nabbing the part. In 2014, series creator Jenji Kohan told E! that she spoke to Holmes about the role, but that the actress was committed to other projects at the time.


The role of Phil Dunphy on “Modern Family” almost went to Matt LeBlanc.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/ABCLeBlanc turned it down.

In 2017, Matt LeBlanc revealed that he was offered the lead role of Phil Dunphy on “Modern Family,” but turned it down because he felt he wasn’t quite right for the part. “I remember reading it thinking, this is a really good script, (but) I’m not the guy for this,” the actor told USA Today. “I’d be doing the project an injustice to take this. I know what I can do, I know what I can’t do.”

After he declined, the role went to Ty Burrell, who has since won two Emmys for the role.


“Mad Men” directors apparently wanted Thomas Jane to play Don Draper instead of Jon Hamm.

Robyn Beck/Getty Images/AMCJane passed on the role.

“Mad Men” fans may find it nearly impossible to picture anyone but Jon Hamm playing Don Draper, but it turns out he wasn’t even a frontrunner for the role.

The casting directors didn’t know who I was. I wasn’t on anybody’s lists,” the actor revealed on the WTF With Marc Maron podcast. “The funny thing was, I think they went to Thomas Jane for it, and they were told that Thomas Jane does not do television. “

Hamm racked up seven consecutive Emmy nominations (including one win) for his performance on the AMC drama.


Connie Britton was apparently in consideration to be Olivia Pope on “Scandal.”

When Shonda Rhimes was working to cast the ABC drama after it got picked up to pilot, network executives reportedly told her it would be “the perfect show for Connie Britton.”

“I said, ‘It would be, except Olivia Pope is black,'” Rhimes recalled to The Hollywood Reporter.

Kerry Washington eventually secured the role, making her the first African-American female lead in a network drama in almost 40 years.


Walter White could have been played by Matthew Broderick instead of Bryan Cranston.

Bryan Cranston won overwhelming critical acclaim – and four Emmys – for his masterful portrayal of Walter White in AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” but believe it or not, he almost didn’t get the part.

Though series creator Vince Gilligan pushed for Cranston from the start, network executives and producers reportedly had trouble envisioning the “Malcolm in the Middle” actor in the role and wanted big-name movie stars, like Matthew Broderick or John Cusack, instead.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, both of those actors passed, and the network eventually came around to the idea of Cranston as the lead. The rest is award-winning TV history.


Courteney Cox nearly played Rachel instead of Monica on “Friends.”

The casting of “Friends” was tricky, as the show’s success was entirely dependent on getting the right combination of actors to play the six core roles. In order to get it right, producers did a lot of auditioning and even shuffled certain actors between different roles, as was the case with star Courteney Cox.

“We originally offered Rachel to Courteney Cox,” co-creator Marta Kauffman told Vanity Fair in 2012. “But she said she wanted to do Monica, not Rachel.” Jennifer Aniston was later cast in her breakout role as Rachel Green.


The part of Joey Potter on “Dawson’s Creek” almost went to Selma Blair.

Earl Gibson III/Getty Images and Sony Pictures TelevisionSelma was originally the first choice.

Selma Blair was creator Kevin Williamson’s first choice to play Joey Potter on “Dawson’s Creek” – until Katie Holmes sent in a last-minute 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 told Entertainment Weekly. “And when that video showed up, it changed my whole life.”


Iwan Rheon wanted to play Jon Snow before getting cast in a different “Game of Thrones” role.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images/HBOIwan Rheon plays Ramsay Bolton.

Westeros could have looked very different if another “Game of Thrones” actor nabbed the role of Jon Snow over Kit Harington – and it almost happened. Iwan Rheon, who plays the sadistic Ramsay Bolton on the show, originally auditioned to play the Bastard of Winterfell, as he told The New York Times.

Though he didn’t get the part, his audition made an impression, and producers later called the actor to join the show as Ramsay in season three.


The role of Jack Pearson on “This Is Us” could have gone to Oliver Hudson.

Mike Coppola/Getty Images/NBCHudson chose a fishing trip over the series.

Oliver Hudson told the LadyGang podcast that he chose a fishing trip over the possibility of playing the Pearson family patriarch on “This is Us.” After the actor’s reading for the part went “very well,” Hudson said he was asked to come in for a chemistry test with Mandy Moore, but didn’t want to skip out on his planned vacation to do so.

“This will tell you how much I love to fish. I had a 10-day fishing trip planned … And my agent says, ‘We have to test, and they really like you, and this, this, and that.’ And I said, ‘Oh, I’m supposed to go on a fishing trip’… And he’s like, ‘OK, yeah, so? I mean, this is a big thing,'” the actor said. “And I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to do my fishing trip.'”


Steve Carell’s role as Michael Scott on “The Office” could have been filled by Paul Giamatti.

Jason Merritt/Getty/NBCCarrell made the role iconic.

NBC’s Emmy-winning series wouldn’t have been the same without Steve Carell, but the network came close to giving the part to someone else. As Deadline revealed in 2013, then-NBC boss Kevin Reilly’s top choice for the role of Michael Scott was reportedly Paul Giamatti, but the actor passed on the offer to join the show.


Dr. Derek Shepherd was almost played by Rob Lowe on “Grey’s Anatomy.”

JB Lacroix/ Getty Images/ABCIt’s hard to imagine a new McDreamy.

Can you imagine anyone other than Patrick Dempsey as McDreamy? Casting directors apparently did, as they originally offered the role to Rob Lowe. Though the actor liked the script, he ultimately turned down the role in order to star on the CBS series, “Dr. Vegas.”

Year after year after year, all of ABC’s new dramas flopped. CBS was on a hot streak that continues to this day,” he wrote in his book, “Love Life,” of the decision. “Although ‘Grey’s’ was a much better script, I chose ‘Dr. Vegas.’ The odds were just too stacked.”


The part of George Costanza on “Seinfeld” was offered to Chris Rock and Danny DeVito.

Jason Merrit/Roberto Rodriguez/GettyImages/HBOOther actors turned it down.

During a 2015 interview with Howard Stern, Jason Alexander revealed his iconic role on “Seinfeld” almost went to a number of other high-profile actors, including Chris Rock. Apparently, Rock, Paul Shaffer, and Danny DeVito were each offered the part at some point in the casting process, but all turned it down.


Gillian Anderson said she almost filled the role of Cora Crawley on “Downton Abbey.”

Angela Weiss/Getty Images/BBCElizabeth McGovern earned an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination.

Before Elizabeth McGovern earned an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Cora on “Downton Abbey,” Gillian Anderson came close to playing the part. The “X-Files” star said she was offered the role of the Countess of Grantham but ultimately turned it down.


Jennifer Love Hewitt apparently turned down the role of Robin on “How I Met Your Mother.”

Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images/CBSHewitt did ‘The Ghost Whisperer’ instead.

Cobie Smulders came very close to missing out on playing former Canadian teen pop star-turned-New York journalist, Robin Scherbatsky. In a Reddit Ask Me Anything in 2014, series creators Craig Thomas and Carter Bays revealed that Jennifer Love Hewitt received an offer to play the character, but turned it down for another project.

“Jennifer Love Hewitt did ‘The Ghost Whisperer’ instead of ‘HIMYM!'” they wrote online.


Alex Borstein originally got cast as Sookie St. James on “Gilmore Girls.”

Lucy Nicholson/Getty Images/WBAlex Borstein left the role.

Actress Alex Borstein played the character of Lorelai Gilmore’s best friend and chef extraordinaire, Sookie St. James, in the original unaired pilot of “Gilmore Girls.” She later left the role due to contractual obligations with “MadTV,” and Melissa McCarthy replaced her as Sookie in the revised pilot, reported Vanity Fair.

Borstein did eventually appear on the show as Drella the rude harp play in seasons one and eight and Emily Gilmore’s eccentric stylist, Miss Celine, in seasons three and five.

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