Some of your favorite TV characters once looked very different — as in they were actually played, in an unseen pilot, by a completely different person!
Before Alyson Hannigan cast a spell as Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Willow and before Melissa McCarthy gave life to Sookie on Gilmore Girls, both roles were portrayed by someone else in their series’ original (but unaired) pilots. Such is simply the nature of the business. An actor is sometimes cast in a part and even shoots a pilot episode, but then is replaced ahead of the actual premiere because of a lack of chemistry, scheduling or other reasons. (Pilot scenes featuring the original portrayer are typically reshot with the new actor, ahead of the show’s launch.)
Below, TVLine has highlighted 20+ beloved small-screen characters who were first played by someone else in a filmed pilot, but then recast before the series actually saw the light of day. (If you dig around on YouTube, you might be able to find some clips, though.)
Among other popular roles featured in our roundup: One Tree Hill‘s Haley James, Full House‘s Danny Tanner and The Big Bang Theory‘s Penny. We also reveal which Titanic star was almost Tim Taylor’s wife on Home Improvement, which future S.W.A.T. officer nearly landed in Hell, and who was set to board Firefly before Morena Baccarin.
Review our list of roles that were recast after an actual pilot was filmed, then hit the comments to tell us which pre-premiere castings surprised you most. (For TV roles that were recast after the show hit the airwaves, check out this gallery.)