Ken Ishii/Getty Images/James Devaney/WireImage
Alden Ehrenreich as Dan on Gossip Girl
Casting director David Rapaport told EW, “Before Penn was involved, I desperately wanted Alden Ehrenreich to play Dan,” but producers thought he was too short to play the role of Blake Lively’s love interest. So the role went to Penn Badgley, who is just about the same height as Ehrenreich, according to the internet.
Randy Holmes/ABC; Todd Williamson/Getty Images
Rob Lowe as Derek Shepherd on Grey’s Anatomy
Lowe revealed that he turned down the role of McDreamy in his 2014 memoir, and it came back up in an episode of Marc Maron’s podcast. “That’s probably cost me $ 70 million,” he joked. “Eh, it’s just money.” Lowe says he watched the pilot when it came out, “and when they started calling the handsome doctor ‘McDreamy,’ I was like, ‘yeah, that’s not for me.'”
Roy Rochlin/Getty Images, HBO
Benedict Cumberbatch as Bill Compton on True Blood
Sherlock and Doctor Strange star Benedict Cumberbatch auditioned for the role of vampire Bill Compton back in the day. Stephen Moyer went on to land the part.
Gary Gershoff/WireImage, HBO
Jessica Chastain as Sookie Stackhouse on True Blood
Before she was an Oscar nominee, Jessica Chastain read for the role of Sookie Stackhouse. The part eventually went to Anna Paquin.
VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images, HBO
Jennifer Lawrence as Crystal Norris on True Blood
A 17-year-old Jennifer Lawrence read for the part of werepanther Crystal Norris, and almost got the part, but her age played a factor in the part going to another actress. Lindsay Pulsipher landed the gig.
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic, Warner Bros. Television
Tiffani Thiessen as Rachel on Friends
Saved By the Bell and Beverly Hills, 90210 veteran Tiffani Thiessen said she auditioned for the part of Rachel on Friends, but she was too young for the role.
Monica Schipper/Getty Images
Katherine Langford as Betty Cooper on Riverdale
Katherine Langford on Riverdale? It almost happened. The Golden Globe-nominated star of 13 Reasons Why auditioned for the role of Betty Cooper, according to Riverdale star Camila Mendes. “I remember we went out and we got falafel with a guy who was auditioning for Archie,” Mendes told EW.
Katherine Heigl as Jen Lindley on Dawson’s Creek
It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Capeside’s resident NYC transplant, but as creator Kevin Williamson revealed to Entertainment Weekly, the role of Jen almost went to future Grey’s Anatomy star Katherine Heigl, thanks to pilot director Steve Miner, who brought the star of his 1994 film My Father the Hero to Williamson’s attention. “She looked slightly older at that time. Even though she was younger, I just think she was more mature,” Williamson recalled. “She gave a great audition, I remember we were all sort of like, ‘Wow, she’s good.'”
Selma Blair as Joey Potter on Dawson’s Creek
The role of Dawson Leery’s lovesick BFF Joey Potter turned Katie Holmes into a star, but the role almost wasn’t hers. As creator Kevin Williamson admitted to Entertainment Weekly, the role was Selma Blair‘s to eventually lose. “I really loved Selma until, of course, I got the infamous videotape from the basement of the Holmes family in Toledo, Ohio,”he said of Holmes’ last-minute audition. “And when that video showed up, it changed my whole life.”
Lisa Edelstein as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City
The House and Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce actress was so close to taking on the iconic role of Carrie Bradshaw that she even had a completed contract. In the end, however, she was just the back-up to the producers’ first choice, Sarah Jessica Parker. “I was either going to do it or not. It all depended on whether she said yes,” Edelstein said. “My contract was complete. I was waiting.” While we struggle to imagine a world in which SJP is not Carrie Bradshaw, Edelstein actually makes a lot of sense.
Ashley Olsen as Serena van der Woodsen on Gossip Girl
Initially, The CW wanted Ashley Olsen as our favorite beautiful blonde Upper East Sider, casting director David Rapaport told Buzzfeed, but he only had eyes for Blake Lively. “I was terrified we wouldn’t get her or they wouldn’t like her because, honestly, the show lived and died on her and I had absolutely no other ideas,” he said.
Rumer Willis as Blair Waldorf on Gossip Girl
The CW wanted future Dancing With the Stars champion Rumer Willis as the bitchy Gossip Girl lead, but casting director David Rapaport knew she wasn’t right for the role (and would eventually cast her on 90210). “I love Rumer,” he told Buzzfeed. “She’s grown into quite an amazing actress and person, but that, to me, was based on protecting the investment of a television show where creatively, these lesser-known girls really captured the essence of the show and carried it for six years.”
Getty Images; The CW
Keke Palmer as Iris West on The Flash
Before Keke Palmer was cast on Fox’s hilarious horror comedy Scream Queens, she was in the running to play Iris West on The Flash, a role that eventually went to Candice Patton. “We had seen Candice initially, but I think we were too early on in the process to cast her so we ended up testing Keke Palmer and this other girl, but they felt a little too young next to Grant [Gustin],” casting director David Rapaport told Buzzfeed. When he brought Candice back, “it was magic.”
Iwan Rheon as Jon Snow on Game of Thrones
Iwan Rheon told The Telegraph that when the Game of Thrones pilot was being cast, he made it to the final two for the role of Jon Snow. Of course, Rheon went on to play Ramsay Snow, aka season 5’s most hated character, while Kit Harington cemented a place in our hearts as Jon. We can’t even bear to imagine it any differently, so we just won’t.
NBC, Getty Images
Chris Pratt as Chuck on Chuck
After working with the Guardians of the Galaxy star on the final season of The O.C., Josh Schwartz revealed Pratt was his first choice for the role that eventually went to Zachary Levi. “He was the first guy I wanted to play ‘Chuck’. But as fate would have it, he was destined to guard the galaxy, not the Buy More,” Schwartz revealed. “And might I add, couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.”
Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images, Netflix
Katie Holmes as Piper on Orange Is the New Black
The Dawson’s Creek veteran met with Orange Is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan early in the show’s development, Kohan revealed. Holmes, who is an admitted fan of the series, had “other things to do,” Kohan told E! News. “And also in the beginning no one knew what this was.”
Cobie Smulders as Kate on Lost
Yep, Robin Scherbatsky could have been Kate Austen, and two of our favorite shows were almost very different, according to Cobie Smulders.
“[Evangeline Lily and I] were both testing for Lost. She owes a lot to me because I went in and I bombed the audition. [laughs] And she was like, ‘Thank you!'”
Helen Hunt, Ashley Judd as Alicia on The Good Wife
Everybody knows The Good Wife is Julianna Margulies’ show, but that almost wasn’t the case. The Emmy winner revealed the studio wanted Ashley Judd and Helen Hunt before she got the gig.
NBC; Larry Busacca/Getty Images; Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic
Nancy McKeon as Monica on Friends
Back when Friends was still being cast, Courteney Cox read for the role of Rachel, but wanted the role of Monica. However, NBC was looking at The Facts of Life star Nancy McKeon to fill the role.
“Nancy McKeon, from The Facts of Life, also read for Courteney’s part. She gave a terrific performance,” Lori Openden, head of casting for NBC at the time, said. “Warren [Littlefield, the then NBC president] let Marta [Kauffman] and David [Crane] make the call. They went off for a walk and came back and said Courteney.”
NBC; Larry Busacca/Getty Images; Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic
Lisa Whelchel as Rachel on Friends
The former Facts of Life star revealed she read for the role of Rachael Green when Friends was still in its pilot stage. “I remember reading the pilot episode and I said to my husband, ‘This is the funniest script I have ever read and this is going to be a huge hit,'” Lisa Whelchel said on an episode of Oprah: Where Are They Now? But she didn’t pursue it because she knew the show would find a lot of its comedy in sex, she said.
WB; Christopher Polk/Getty Images
Katie Holmes as Buffy on Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Hard to imagine anyone else hunting down vampires in Sunnydale, but the ex-Mrs. Cruise almost had the title role in the WB series. Katie Holmes turned it down to go to high school, and Sarah Michelle Gellar was cast.
HBO, Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
Lorraine Bracco as Carmela Soprano on The Sopranos
The role that eventually went to Edie Falco was originally offered to Lorraine Bracco, but the Oscar nominee said she had already done the role in Goodfellas and wanted to try her hand at something new.
Taraji P. Henson as Olivia Pope on Scandal
Before she was breaking records on Fox’s Empire, Taraji P. Henson revealed she auditioned to be Scandal’s ultimate fixer, Olivia Pope. “When I went in to read for Shonda Rhimes, in my mind I was like, ‘This is Kerry Washington. Why am I even in here?’…It was hers,” she said.
Ian Gavan/Getty Images
Gillian Anderson as Lady Cora on Downton Abbey
Can you imagine Agent Scully residing in Downton Abbey? It almost happened, but the X Files star turned down the role that eventually went to Elizabeth McGovern.
Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Variety, Sony Pictures Television, AP Photo/John Stillwell, Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Danny DeVito, Chris Rock and More as George on Seinfeld
Jason Alexander revealed Chris Rock, Danny DeVito, Larry Miller, Nathan Lane and more famous faces were all up for his role on Seinfeld before he got it.
NBC;Valerie Macon/Getty Images
Courtney Cox as Rachel on Friends
Most die-hard Friends fans know this, but for the uninitiated, Courteney Cox auditioned for Rachel before being cast as her best friend Monica. Jennifer Aniston won the role of Rachel and the rest is history.
CW; Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images
Ashlee Simpson as Elena on The Vampire Diaries
It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Elena Gilbert on the CW hit series, but Jessica Simpson‘s sister was the network’s first choice. It wasn’t until the producers took a second look at Nina Dobrev‘s audition tape that they decided to go with the Bulgarian beauty.
NBC, Getty Images
Mary Lynn Rajskub as Pam on The Office
Damnit, Chloe! As much as we love you, you were never meant to play Pam. The 24 star auditioned for the role that eventually was won by Jenna Fisher, and the rest is paper company love history.
HBO, Getty Images
Ray Liotta as Tony on The Sopranos
The late James Gandolfini was brilliant as Tony Soprano on the HBO drama, but Ray Liotta was the first choice to play the mob boss. In a Today Show interview, he said he turned it down because he wanted to focus on movies, and he didn’t want to make the two-year commitment.
NBC; Ron Galella/WireImage
Whitney Houston as Sondra on The Cosby Show
The legendary singer was offered the lead role in Bill Cosby-led series, but passed to pursue her music career.
Dana Delany as Carrie on Sex and the City
To Sex and the City fans, Sarah Jessica Parker is Carrie Bradshaw, but once upon a time, Dana Delany was offered the role of the New York columnist. The Emmy-winner passed because she had already done mulitple projects involving sex (Nude Girls, Exit to Eden) and didn’t want to be involved with a project that had “sex” in the title.
FX, Getty Images
Eric Stoltz as Vic on The Shield
Creator Shawn Ryan tweeted in 2012 that FX wanted Eric Stoltz to play the corrupt LA officer before the part eventually went to Michael Chiklis.
ABC, Getty Images
Craig T. Nelson as Jay on Modern Family
Ed O’Neill almost didn’t get the part on the ABC hit comedy, but after the Parenthood star asked for too much money, he was offered the role.
NBC; Jim Spellman/WireImage
Paul Schaffer as George on Seinfeld
David Letterman‘s bandleader was offered the role by Jerry Seinfeld without an audition, but Shaffer never called him back.
AMC; Ferdaus Shamim/WireImage; Ray Tamarra/Getty Images
Matthew Broderick & John Cusack as Walter on Breaking Bad
Bryan Cranston won multiple Emmys for his portrayal of Walter White, but AMC execs initially offered the role to John Cusack and Matthew Broderick.
HBO; Robin Marchant/Getty Images
Sandra Bernhard as Miranda on Sex and the City
Bernhard told Howard Stern she passed on the HBO series and the character that eventually went to Cynthia Nixon because she felt the script wasn’t very good.
NBC, Getty Images
Tom Selleck as Mitch on Baywatch
Baywatch without the Hoff? Yep, that was almost a reality. Tom Selleck was offered the role as Mitch Buchannon, but he turned it down because he didn’t want to be seen as a sex symbol. Jokes on him, because that’s pretty much how everyone views him now anyway.
Jaimie Trueblood/AMC; Charley Gallay/Getty Images
Thomas Jane as Don on Mad Men
AMC wanted Jane as Don Draper, but Jon Hamm said during a podcast that Jane passed because he didn’t want to be on a television show. Of course, he would go on to star in HBO’s Hung.
WB, Getty Images
Ryan Reynolds as Xander on Buffy the Vampire Slayer
2010’s Sexiest Man Alive could have been part of the Joss Whedon crew, but he passed on the role of Xander. “I love that show and I loved Joss Whedon,” he told The Toronto Star in 2008. “But my biggest concern was that I didn’t want to play a guy in high school.”
NBC, Getty Images
Rosie O’Donnell & Megan Mullally as Elaine on Seinfeld
Both Rosie and Megan auditioned for the part of Jerry’s pal Elaine on the NBC comedy series, but were passed over for Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who won an Emmy for her performance.
CBS; Frank Micelotta/FOX
Scott Foley as Ted on How I Met Your Mother
Haaave you met Scott? The Scandal star reportedly auditioned for the main character in the CBS hit comedy. Maybe he’ll land a role in the spinoff?
AMC, Getty Images
John Hawkes as The Governor on The Walking Dead
We love David Morrisey as the dreaded Governor on AMC’s hit zombie series, but he wasn’t the first pick. John Hawkes was originally courted for the part. “They offered me the role, and I just felt there would be someone else who could do it better,” he told MovieWeb in 2010. “I was flattered, and I took a look at the series. It held interest for me, but I just didn’t feel like I was the guy for it.”
NBC, Getty Images
Nicollette Sheridan as Grace on Will & Grace
The Desperate Housewives star auditioned for Grace on the NBC comedy series, but lost out to Debra Messing. She did go on to guest star in a future episode of Will & Grace, though.
ABC; Paul Morigi/WireImage
Isaiah Washington as Derek on Grey’s Anatomy
Ellen Pompeo revealed to the New York Post that creator Shonda Rhimes wanted Isaiah Washington to play McDreamy. “Shonda really wanted to put a black man in the mix. I didn’t think they were really going to put an interracial couple on the show and I didn’t want him. It was too close to home,” she said, referencing her own interracial marriage. “I said I wanted that Dempsey kid. I think that once Isaiah did not get the role it backfired.” Washington was fired off the show in season three for using a derogatory slur.
NBC; Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Maura Tierney as Sarah on Parenthood
The ER star was originally cast as Sarah Braverman on the NBC drama, but had to drop out after being diagnosed with breast cancer. The role then went to Lauren Graham.
ABC; Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images
Michael Keaton as Jack on Lost
The character of Jack on Lost was originally meant to be killed off in the pilot, and Michael Keaton was attached to play him. When the writers decided to make Jack the protagonist, the Batman star had to withdraw due to the commitment the role would come with, and Matthew Fox slid on in.
NBC, Getty Images
Adam Scott as Jim on The Office
Though both adorable, we all know that John Krasinski always belonged at Dunder Mifflin, just like Adam Scott belongs in Pawnee with Leslie (Amy Poehler). But as Rainn Wilson revealed with an audition list photo, Scott came in to read for the part of Jim.
NBC; Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images
Jon Cryer as Chandler on Friends
Could this alternate casting BE any more wrong? Matthew Perry was born to play Chandler Bing, but the Two and a Half Men star was in the running for the part. Unfortunately (fortunately?), one of his audition tapes never got to the network execs in time.
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