TV Show Switches: We Noticed

You’ve probably watched a show that’s gone through recasting and usually its with a character who had a small roll and less obvious to the audience. There are some shows that can get away with switching actors without the viewers noticing or really caring, but sometimes it’s hard to hide. 

The first show that comes to mind is Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Janet Louise Hubert played Vivian Banks, Will Smith’s maternal aunt, for the first three seasons of the show. She was even nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Banks.


Supposedly Will and Janet had personal issues and she signed out when it came to renegotiating her contract. You can read about the feud here. I also found this comment made by Alfonso Riberio, who plays Carlton Banks on the show, about Janet Hubert as Vivian Banks.

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 7.25.48 PM.png


“You know, legally I’m not allowed to talk about it,” Ribeiro continued. “But hey, why not? Basically, at the end of the day, the [he bleeped himself] was crazy. I did not curse…She went nuts! Long story short, and there were days when we were all on the set and she would literally go off on people and they got to a point by the time the second season came around where we’re like, ‘This is unacceptable.’ We felt like, when we were doing The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, that we were a family…She, at that point, ruined that, and she made it very difficult for us to work, and unfortunately she was then fired. They brought in Daphne Maxwell-Reid, who we absolutely loved, and we moved on. Oh well.”

tumblr_mvfe6cbs6g1r17qi5o1_250.gifYikes…What made the switch so obvious was that her replacement, Daphne Maxwell Reid, looks nothing like her and the switch happened three years into the show. Three years is enough time to get used to each character, so the switch is anything but subtle.


The next casting switch relates to our reading, Donna Reed replaced Barbara Bel Geddes for the role of Eleanor Southworth ‘Miss Ellie’ Ewing on Dallas. Dallas was a very popular primetime TV soap opera and Geddes left due to health issues. The funny thing is a year later Geddes came back to the show to fans’ satisfaction, so Donna Reed wasn’t playing Miss Ellie for very long as she was abruptly fired.


Another show that has to do with our past reading is The Honeymooners. Remember Audrey Meadows as Alice? Well, she was not the original Alice for the first seven episodes of the show. Pert Kelton played Alice but apparently left the role due to health issues, but there’s a theory that she was fired because of her husband was blacklisted during the McCarthy hearings (read more here). Here’s also a scene of Pert Kelton playing Alice. It must be hard to look back at such an iconic and popular 50s sitcom, knowing you could have been famous for the role.

Are there any immediate shows you can think of where the character switch was so obvious it distracted from the storyline?

– Ziba Klein


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2 Responses to TV Show Switches: We Noticed

  1. mediaphiles says:

    This is such a great point to think about how TV shows can get away with switching characters! Other story lines that have done this are Full House and Boy Meets World. Most people know Michelle Tanner was played by the Olsen twins, contemporaneously though, due to child labor laws. Interesting. Another one that came to mind was Boy Meets World character Morgan Matthews was played by Lily Nicksay and then Lindsay Ridgeway. Obviously there will be situations where an actor cannot continue the series but it makes me wonder: is it better to switch the character with another actor, or like in Grey’s Anatomy, create an alternate storyline for them where they physically leave or something happens to their character? Definitely up for debate.

    -Meg Murphy

  2. mediaphiles says:

    There are many shows that I have watched where characters are abruptly killed off or sent off in some other way never to be seen again on the show. I always wonder when this happens whether it was always part of the script or if they had some sort of personal conflict that made them unable to keep acting on the show. For instance, just recently in the show “Power”, one of the lead detectives in the show was murdered after playing a very large role in the series for 3 seasons. I wondered when this happened whether it could have been because he had to leave the show for some reason or if that was always the plan in the script. I guess the main thing that I wonder is “how much in ahead do they plan their storyline?

    -Max Lissette

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