Skip to main content

13 TV Actors Who Landed Different Roles Than They Auditioned For

Rachel M. Johnson is a lover of all things pop culture. She's been writing about music and entertainment online for years.

Many times in Hollywood, actors will go into an audition with a specific role in mind. However, sometimes either they, producers or creators can have a change of heart and end up nabbing a completely separate part. Here is a list of 13 TV actors who landed different roles than they auditioned for.

Sarah Michelle Gellar, "Cordelia Chase" (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Our favorite resident butt-kicking slayer almost had a completely different look! Sarah Michelle Gellar actually auditioned for the role of Queen B Cordelia Chase on the cult classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, after watching her audition, creator Joss Whedon felt she would be a better fit for the lead role, Buffy Summers. Interestingly, Charisma Carpenter had tried out for the character of Buffy before she was given the role of Cordelia. It sure is interesting thinking about these two beautiful ladies swapping characters!

Courteney Cox, "Rachel Green" (Friends)

Courteney Cox had originally been offered the role of Rachel Green on the beloved hit comedy Friends. She had declined in favor of playing the character's best friend Monica Geller because she was drawn to her strong personality. Jennifer Aniston was offered the role of Monica because producers felt she was "tough" enough to portray the character. Cox lobbied hard for Monica and was ultimately cast, while Rachel was of course portrayed by Aniston. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Sandra Oh, "Miranda Bailey" (Grey's Anatomy)

It's hard to imagine any other person portraying our favorite headstrong, driven doctor Christina Yang. However, Sandra Oh went into her Grey's Anatomy audition thinking she would try out for Dr. Miranda Bailey. Though she was initially invited to read for Miranda, Oh changed her mind and pushed to audition for Christina instead. Creator Shonda Rhimes once revealed of her audition, "She brought this energy that felt very fresh. From the beginning, I've been shaping Christina around Sandra a little bit." Chandra Wilson was then cast as Miranda.

Hank Azaria, "Joey Tribbiani" (Friends)

It's no surprise that Matt LeBlanc made Joey Tribbiani the beloved TV character he is today; his lovable, dim-witted approach to the soap star caused a lot of laughter and smiles. It's strange to think of anyone else in the role, yet that could have been the case. Hank Azaria was really interested in the part and auditioned for Joey, but he was instead cast as the scientist David, a love interest for Phoebe. Though he didn't nab the lead, Azaria's character David made multiple appearances throughout the show's run, with his last being in the ninth season.


Ed Westwick, "Nate Archibald" (Gossip Girl)

For six seasons, Ed Westwick portrayed the bad-boy gone good-guy Chuck Bass. However, the actor actually sent an audition tape in for the character of Nate Archibald. When Westwick came in to audition in person, creators felt he made a much better fit for Chuck Bass.

Of his audition, co-creator Josh Schwartz had said, "Ed Westwick came in and blew us away. He originally read for Nate, but Stephanie and I looked at each other and wrote, 'Chuck?' on a piece of paper. Once we cast him, he had to figure out his green card. We got several calls that he actually wasn't going to get it in time." Thankfully he did, and Westwick was able to deliver a great performance while Chase Crawford was cast as Nate.

Jensen Ackles, "Sam Winchester" (Supernatural)

Dynamic monster-hunting duo Sam and Dean Winchester have kicked some major demon butt since the debut of Supernatural in 2005. We all know and love the Winchester boys; Dean, the wise-cracking protective big brother and Sam, the level-headed younger one.

Jensen Ackles actually read the script and read for Sam, but had liked Dean more as a character and related to him more. After Jared Padalecki was cast as Sam Winchester, producers knew they wanted Ackles and cast him as Dean after he came and read for the character.

Paul Wesley, "Damon Salvatore" (The Vampire Diaries)

Another example of TV brothers almost swapping roles was Damon and Stefan Salvatore in the CW show The Vampire Diaries. Paul Wesley first auditioned for the role of resident bad boy Damon. However, when Ian Somerhalder nabbed the role, Wesley re-read and was then cast as good-guy vampire Stefan. Both actors did such a great job with their characters and it's hard to imagine them playing anyone else. They had a great dynamic and truly made the roles their own.

Rainn Wilson, "Michael Scott" (The Office)

For nine seasons, Rainn Wilson starred as the hilarious Dwight Schrute on the American version of The Office. Though he is famous for his portrayal of Dwight, Wilson actually went in first to audition for Michael Scott. The actor described the read as a "terrible Gervais impersonation;" although, the casting directors liked his audition for Dwight much more and he was hired for the role.

Wilson made the character his own and based Dwight's hairstyle on the style he had himself when he was 16. He once revealed that he went to a barber to get "the worst haircut possible." Steve Carell was of course then cast as Michael.


Isaiah Washington, "Derek Shepherd" (Grey's Anatomy)

For three seasons, Isaiah Washington appeared on Grey's Anatomy as Dr. Preston Burke, who went on to romance Christina Yang. Though Washington was originally considered for the role of Derek Shepherd, he received a callback from creator Shonda Rhimes to play Burke instead.

On his casting, Washington commented, "I knew I could never be wrong in my heart about something so good and so genuine. Her writing just seemed very complex, very honest. I said that I would only do it if I didn't have to be that guy on that other medical show who was always struggling with his anger."


Norman Reedus, "Merle Dixon" (The Walking Dead)

Norman Reedus is famous for playing crossbow-wielding zombie killer Daryl Dixon on the hit show The Walking Dead. The actor was so determined to be a part of the series and ended up reading the lines for Merle Dixon (though it was revealed Michael Rooker had already nabbed the part). Creators liked Reedus so much that they created the role of Daryl Dixon specifically for him, as he does not have a counterpart in the comics. The character has since become a fan favorite for the show and Daryl is now The Walking Dead's main protagonist.

Jon Favreau, "Chandler Bing" (Friends)

Another lead Friends character who could have looked quite different was Chandler Bing, portrayed by the sarcastic and endearing Matthew Perry. Director and actor Jon Favreau auditioned for the role of Chandler before Perry was cast.

Though he didn't get the part, he was asked to return to the show and appeared as Pete Becker, Monica's love interest who competes in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Favreau might have missed out on Chandler, but he has done very well for himself; he has directed hit films like Elf, Iron Man and Iron Man 2, The Jungle Book and most recently The Lion King.


Ashley Tisdale, "London Tipton" (The Suite Life of Zack & Cody)

Disney channel favorite The Suite Life of Zack & Cody was a hit show that helped launch the careers of its young leads, Cole and Dylan Sprouse, Ashley Tisdale and Brenda Song. Tisdale first achieved mainstream success as Maddie Fitzpatrick on the show, but she actually initially vied for the role of ditzy heiress London Tipton. Creators felt she was a better fit for the kind and hard-working Maddie. Brenda Song filled the role of London, and Tisdale would go on to nab another star-making role: Sharpay Evans in High School Musical.


Liza Weil, "Rory Gilmore" (Gilmore Girls)

Liza Weil is known for playing the feisty frenemy Paris Geller on the hit feel-good show Gilmore Girls. The character started out as a nemesis to Rory Gilmore, but eventually, the two became friends. Weil had a strong audition for Rory, but creators felt Alexis Bledel was perfect for the part. As a consolation for Weil, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino created the character of Paris Geller for a three-episode arc, but was so liked and well-received that she became a series regular. The dynamic between Rory and Paris was entertaining for fans to watch, so that was definitely a good call on their part to extend her role.

© 2019 Rachel M Johnson


Rachel M Johnson (author) on August 28, 2019:

Hi Jacqueline, I completely agree! Sarah Michelle Geller IS Buffy, and she is one of my favorite TV characters of all time. I also agree that absolutely no one could ever play Beetlejuice the way Michael Keaton did, he’s just too good!

Jacqueline G Rozell on August 28, 2019:

I cannot imagine anyone else other than Sarah Michelle Geller ever being Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. I've seen and imagined other actors in famous roles, and other than "Buffy," of all the roles I've thought of so far are: only the seven men who played the original roles in The Magnificent Seven could play them. If they want to remake the movie, use the concept and rename the movie with new actors. You just can't replace that cast. The other one is Beetlejuice... I can't see anyone else successfully pulling off the character of the slightly depraved BJ the way Michael Keaton did.