14 TV Stars Who Got Their Part After The Pilot Was Filmed

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Vote up the pilot re-castings that made a major difference.

There are a plethora of different reasons these 14 actors were replaced after the pilot. Perhaps there was an issue with cast chemistry. Or, maybe an actor’s personal situation caused an abrupt change of plans.

It’s nearly impossible to think about any other actress besides Emilia Clarke playing Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones. However, the British actress wasn’t in the original pilot episode. In fact, The Gilmore Girls, Full House, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer all featured pilot episodes with different actors.

What other TV stars were cast after the pilot? Be sure to vote up the pilot re-castings that made a major difference. 


  • Johnny Depp Replaced Jeff Yagher On '21 Jump Street' 
    Photo: Fox / Fox

    V actor Jeff Yagher originally played undercover police officer Tom Hanson on the 1980s Fox series 21 Jump Street. However, the production decided to replace Yagher with up-and-coming star Johnny Depp for the lead role. All of Yagher's scenes from the original pilot were later reshot with Depp. 

    The teen-centered police drama turned Depp into a reluctant teen idol. The actor left the series after four seasons. 21 Jump Street remained on the air for just one more season after Depp's departure. 

  • Bob Saget Replaced John Posey On 'Full House'
    Photo: ABC / ABC

    Actor and screenwriter John Posey played widowed patriarch Danny Tanner in the original pilot for the ABC sitcom Full House. Posey later learned producers originally wanted either Bob Saget or Paul Reiser for the role. However, they were both unavailable. 

    When Saget's schedule suddenly opened up, Posey got the phone call that the show would be going in a different direction. 

    ABC hired Saget and refilmed the pilot. "Exact same pilot, with [Saget wearing] the exact same outfit, which is weird," said Posey. "I'm this stocky ex-football player, ex-wrestler, who's like 5' 9", 180 pounds, and Saget's like 6' 3", 110 soaking wet. He's an urban Jewish guy, and I'm this Irish guy from Florida and Georgia. And somehow we've got the same exact outfit on, playing the same role."

    Full House ran for eight successful family-friendly seasons from 1987-1995. In 2016, Netflix aired a sequel series called Fuller House, which lasted for five seasons. Saget also appeared in the sequel series.

  • Home Improvement ruled 1990s TV over the course of eight seasons. The original cast featured Titanic actress Frances Fisher in the role of Tim Taylor's (Tim Allen) tolerant yet tough wife Jill.

    Test audiences didn't respond well to Fisher. The prolific dramatic character actress did not quite have the necessary comedy skills. Executives decided they needed to recast the role. 

    ABC hired Patricia Richardson to play the Taylor matriarch. Producers were already familiar with her work, and she did not even have to audition. 

    It was the right move. The chemistry between Allen and Richardson was immediate. 

    "Tim was so hilarious, and we just clicked right away. It was a really fast five or six days, we did the pilot," said Richardson. 

    Richardson received four Emmy nominations for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series.

  • Mark Linn-Baker Took Over For Louie Anderson On 'Perfect Strangers'
    Photo: ABC / ABC

    The fish-out-of-water buddy comedy Perfect Strangers reigned on ABC for eight seasons. The sitcom starred Bronson Pinchot as Balki Bartokomous, who travels all the way from the fictional Mediterranean country of Mypos to Chicago in order to meet his distant cousin Larry Appleton, played by Mark Linn-Baker. 

    The series could have featured two different actors in the lead roles. Pinchot originally turned down the part because he was already committed to another series called Sara. However, the actor signed on after Sara got canceled. 

    Additionally, rising stand-up comic Louie Anderson initially landed the role of Cousin Larry. They filmed the pilot episode with Anderson and Pinchot.

    ABC picked up the pilot. However, Linn-Baker replaced Anderson after producers felt there was a lack of chemistry between the original leads. 

  • Alyson Hannigan Replaced Riff Regan On 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'
    Photo: The WB / The WB

    In 1996, Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon filmed a 25-minute pilot called "Welcome to the Hellmouth." The executive producer and showrunner reportedly wasn't happy with the pilot. He made several changes before the supernatural series aired its premiere episode in 1997 on the WB. 

    One major change was in the casting of Buffy's (Sarah Michelle Gellar) best friend Willow Rosenberg. Actress Riff Regan played the role in the unaired pilot. However, Whedon later recast the pivotal part with Alyson Hannigan reportedly because Regan simply didn't fit with the rest of the cast. 

    "We actually had cast someone else in the pilot, and it just didn’t work," said casting director Marcia Shulman in a DVD special features interview. "So when we got picked up, we always felt that we were going to start again and look for another Willow. The qualities that Willow had to have are the exact opposite qualities of what actresses have to have."

    "Sort of insecure, shy, self-effacing. Every line that somebody else would play like they were sad, Alyson was joyful about. That made her the only one for the role," added Shulman. 

    Hannigan became one of the most popular cast members and remained on the teen drama series for its full seven-season run. The entire 25-minute original pilot is available to watch on YouTube

  • CBS originally hired famous Bond villain Richard Kiel to play the Hulk for the television series The Incredible Hulk. Kiel played Dr. David Bruce Banner's angry side for two movies of the week, which would function as the television show's pilot episode. 

    Director Kenneth Johnson explained why they originally chose Kiel over Lou Ferrigno. "I wanted somebody that I felt could be an actor, and Richard had done very good acting jobs, whereas Lou Ferrigno - although he looked mighty - had not really done any acting," said Johnson. "I was concerned about him being able to perform the necessary drama that we needed."

    However, Johnson later changed his mind. "After a week of filming with Dick, we all felt that Lou was going to look better for what we were trying to do," said Johnson.

    Kiel was glad the producers wanted someone with more muscles for the role. He explained: 

    I said to my wife that everyone was hoping this was going to be a TV series and I didn’t know whether I could do this continuously. So I asked them if they could have somebody drive me home because it wasn’t really safe and also to scrub me down with a brush or something to get this makeup off. I didn’t work for a couple of days and then the producer called me and said, “Richard, I hired you because you were a good actor, but the Marvel Comics people really wanted to have a body builder muscle man. How would you feel if we paid you for the two movies of the week and substituted somebody else?” Of course, I was delighted!

    Ferrigno reshot most of Kiel's pilot scenes. However, one scene featuring Kiel's Hulk saving a little girl from drowning made it to air. The Incredible Hulk ran on CBS for five seasons from 1978-1982.