The Darrin Effect: 20 jarring cases of recast roles

The Darrin Effect: 20 jarring cases of recast roles

1. The two Darrins on Bewitched

An expressive character actor already semi-famous thanks to his part in Inherit The Wind and guest spots on series like The Twilight Zone, Dick York became an icon of '60s television as Darrin Stephens, a hapless ad exec married to witch Elizabeth Montgomery on Bewitched. But viewers didn't see the pain York suffered from a years-old back injury. That pain, and a dependence on prescription medication, sidelined York before the fifth season could be completed, necessitating a string of Darrin-free episodes. Dick Sargent took over the part as the sixth season began, and though Bewitched lasted three more years, the show never again saw the ratings it enjoyed during the York years. Whether the blame rests with Sargent (who didn't look, sound, or act much like York), the increasingly silly plots, or natural attrition remains a matter of debate. Whichever the case, the high-profile switch demanding viewers accept a different actor as the same pretend person within a given TV show or a contiguous movie series is the source of a unique sort of entertainment-related cognitive dissonance we're calling the Darrin Effect.

2. The two Rachel Dawes in Christopher Nolan's Batman movies

One of the few characters invented outright for Christopher Nolan's Batman reboot Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne's childhood friend Rachel Dawes helped humanize Batman by giving him a love interest, albeit one kept off-limits by his preoccupation with crime-fighting. Moviegoers and critics took to the movie while singling out Katie Holmes' performance as a weak point, and it surely didn't help that the film appeared in the midst of Holmes' overexposure as the love interest of a couch-jumping Tom Cruise. When it came time to make a sequel, Holmes opted instead for the quickly forgotten comedy Mad Money. Maggie Gyllenhaal took over the part for the film's sequel, The Dark Knight. Fan uproar was minimal.

3. The two Harvey Dents in the Burton/Schumacher Batman movies

Holmes wasn't the first Batman actor to get swapped out for another someone else within a series. The '60s TV show recast parts willy-nilly (see below) and the four-movie film franchise initiated by 1989's Tim Burton-directed Batman went through three actors in the lead role. Less conspicuous was the disappearance of Billy Dee Williams, who makes fleeting appearances in the first Burton film as D.A. Harvey Dent, setting up expectations for his future transformation into the disfigured, duality-obsessed villain Two-Face. Dent is conspicuously absent from Batman Returns, and when he reappears in Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever, he has morphed into Tommy Lee Jones, a great actor completely wrong for the camp performance Schumacher coaxes from him. (Aaron Eckhart takes over the role in The Dark Knight, but that's to be expected from a series reboot.)

4. The two Dumbledores in the Harry Potter films

After an early career of playing badasses (as a rebellious seaman in Mutiny On The Bounty and an aggressive rugby player in This Sporting Life) and a later career of being in badass films (including Patriot Games, Unforgiven, and Gladiator), Richard Harris looked like he was riding off into the sunset with the comparatively mild, yet unquestionably high-profile role of Professor Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter film series. Unsurprisingly, the aging twice-Best-Actor-nominee played the cheery/mysterious character to rave reviews in the first two films, before succumbing to Hodgkin's Disease at the age of 72. Taking over the role was Michael Gambon, who—in spite of critically acclaimed parts in The Insider and Open Range—didn't quite have Harris' pedigree. Of course, Harry Potter fans will bicker just to bicker, but conventional wisdom is that Harris, by playing to Dumbledore's darker side, was more effective. Considering the tone we all know the remaining Harry Potter installments will take, it's a shame Harris never got his chance to play the character at its most compelling.

5. The two Aunt Vivs on The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air

Played for the first three seasons by Janet Hubert-Whitten, Vivian Banks was originally a strict, aggressive, outspoken, highly educated career woman, as illustrated in the famous episode where she teaches a black history class at Will's high school. According to rumor, however, she didn't get along with Will Smith, and since his name was at the top of the credits, she was gone by 1994. Replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid, Aunt Viv became a stay-at-home mom, quieter and more easygoing, indulgent of her kids, and, not by coincidence, with far less screen time.

6. The two Martas on Arrested Development

Colombian soap-opera star Marta Estrella wasn't the only character in Mitchell Hurwitz's brilliant sitcom to be played by two different actresses; George Michael's girlfriend Ann was also played by a different actress in season one than in season two. But with the bland, unmemorable Ann, at least there was an internal logic to her replacement; with Marta, the change from Leonor Varela to Patricia Velasquez is as arbitrary as the casting changes in an actual Colombian soap opera. But it turns out to be no big deal; as Marta's paramour, the ever-sensitive Gob Bluth, puts it when she kicks him out, "If I can't find another horny immigrant, I don't deserve to stay here."

7. The two Lauries on That '70s Show

That '70s Show was always willing to take mild meta-humorous pokes at itself; when Topher Grace left the show, there was some talk of replacing him with a different actor, and saying he'd come back from Africa "a changed man." (There was also the case of Donna's disappearing little sister Tina, a weird echo of Richie's evaporated older brother Chuck Cunningham on Happy Days.) But Grace's onscreen sister Laurie, also known as the writers' excuse for slut jokes, underwent some curious changes: Played by the charismatic Lisa Robin Kelly, she vanished mysteriously after the second season, amid rumors of personal problems. She returned in the fifth with little explanation—and was then replaced in the sixth season by the bland Christina Moore.

8. The two Kristines on Red Dwarf

Kristine Kochanski, the love interest in the British cult science-fiction comedy Red Dwarf, underwent a curious arc, with a downgrade in personnel attending an upgrade in character. Originally portrayed by charming Scot Clare Grogan, Kochanski had been written as little more than a lust object for Lister. A few years into the show, however, the writers decided it was a tad unseemly for their hero to essentially engage in holographically aided masturbation fantasies with a woman who'd been dead for millennia, and decided to retcon Kochanski's character so that she'd once been Lister's actual girlfriend. This led to a welcome expansion of her personality and an improvement in her screen time (eventually, an alternate-universe version of Kochanski joined the Red Dwarf's crew), but unfortunately, she was replaced by Chloë Annett, an inferior actress whose supermodel looks didn't mesh well with the Everyman-ish Lister.

9. The three Catwomen on Batman

As if there weren't enough things conspiring to screw up the libidos of the young comic-book geek circa 1966, viewers of the wildly popular Batman TV series were forced to contend with not two, but three different actresses portraying Batso's femme fatale, Catwoman. The first to don the catsuit was former Miss America Lee Meriwether, who played the role in the Batman movie, which was released after the show's first season, but actually filmed first, as the pilot. Next up was the gorgeous Julie Newmar, who played Selina Kyle for the longest stretch, in more than a dozen episodes. Finally, as the show wound to a close, Catwoman not only got a racial transformation, but a massive infusion of camp, as Eartha Kitt stepped in to play the role. (To make things even more confusing, Meriwether returned to the show several times, but not as Catwoman.) Still, things could be worse; three actress changes is still about a dozen less character reboots than Catwoman has had in the comics.

10. The two Beckys on Roseanne

While most shows are content to sub in new actors in old roles with little acknowledgement or fanfare, Roseanne swapped and re-swapped one of its major roles, that of eldest daughter Becky, with gleeful meta-humor. When original Becky Lecy Goranson left the series in its fifth season to attend college, she was initially written out of the show, with her character eloping and moving away. Becky returned in the show's sixth season bearing the face of Sarah Chalke, but Goranson occasionally returned to the role as her schedule allowed. The alternation between the two Beckys became one of the show's running gags: When Goranson returns in the eighth season after a long stretch of Chalke-as-Becky, the rest of the cast keeps asking her "Where the hell have you been?"; A Patty Duke Show parody features Chalke and Goranson dancing as each other's reflections; and the show's eighth-season credits morph back and forth between the two actresses' faces.

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11. Rotating Marcias, Jans, and Cindys on The Brady Bunch

The Bradys were such a loving, accepting blended family that they were willing to embrace any Marcia, Jan, or Cindy who wandered through their door. After The Brady Bunch went off the air in 1974, ABC brought the cast back for the disastrous variety series The Brady Bunch Hour, but Eve Plumb chose not to return as middle-daughter Jan, and was replaced by Geri Reischl. Plumb returned for the 1981 NBC TV movie The Brady Girls Get Married and the short-lived midseason sitcom The Brady Brides, but when CBS got into the Brady business in 1988 with the TV movie A Very Brady Christmas, Susan Olsen no longer wanted to play Cindy, so Jennifer Runyon took over. And when CBS launched the 1990 drama The Bradys (another quick failure), Maureen McCormick was pregnant and bowed out, giving Leah Ayers a shot at playing oldest daughter Marcia. That's they way they all became The Brady Bunch. And then some.

12. The three Cagneys on Cagney & Lacey

Most people rightfully remember Sharon Gless as Christine Cagney on the hit TV cop show Cagney & Lacey, but she was actually the third actress to appear in the role. In the original TV movie, Loretta Swit (of M*A*S*H fame) was Cagney, and for its first six episodes, the TV show featured Meg Foster. Foster was ousted for an amazingly awful reason: An "unnamed CBS suit" told TV Guide, "These women on Cagney & Lacey seemed more intent on fighting the system than doing police work. We perceived them as dykes." So the people behind the show replaced the "too tough" Foster with the "softer" Gless. Which still didn't stop people from assuming that Cagney and Lacey were not just partners, but partners.

13. The many Marilyns on The Munsters

The "ugly" member of the Munster family has gone through several actors over the years. Beverly Owen first played the role but didn't want it, and she left after 13 episodes. Pat Priest did want the role and played it for the rest of the series' two seasons. But when it came time to make the movie Munster, Go Home! she was replaced by starlet Debbie Watson. The movie flopped, but when the cast reunited again for the 1981 TV movie The Munsters' Revenge, both Marilyn and Eddie Munster were played by different actors.

14. The two Miss Ellies on Dallas

Daytime soaps famously recast parts without much thought, sometimes dropping in actors who look nothing like their predecessors. (Accidents necessitating plastic surgery are always a good excuse.) A soap writ large, the prime-time sensation Dallas saw its share of cast changes as well, none more visible than those related to resident matriarch Miss Ellie. Originally played by Barbara Bel Geddes, Miss Ellie went missing from storylines when Bel Geddes developed heart problems in 1984. The following season found Donna Reed sitting in for Bel Geddes, who was well enough to later return and stay with the show through 1990.

15. The two Captain Marvels on Shazam!

A low-budget attempt to bring the comic-book hero Captain Marvel to kiddie television, Shazam! ran for 28 episodes between 1974 and 1976. The first 17 featured Jackson Bostwick, who was abruptly fired for failing to show up one day. Turns out he was getting an injury sustained on set looked at, and was able to successfully sue for the remainder of his salary. Whoops. But the show's problems didn't stop there. Rather than replacing the athletic Bostwick with an actor of a similarly superheroic build, they threw in journeyman actor John Davey, whose '70s physique could politely be described as "burly," giving the distinct impression that young Billy Batson's alter ego had suddenly developed a serious problem with carbohydrate intake.

16. The many Griswold children in various Vacation movies

When National Lampoon's Vacation proved to be a substantial hit in 1981, sequels were inevitable. But it's hard to keep the wacky-dad-annoys-the-shit-out-of-his-kids gags coming once the kids stop being, well, kids anymore. So with National Lampoon's European Vacation in 1985, out went Dana Barron and Anthony Michael Hall (who had already moved on to high-school comedies) and in came Dana Hill and Jason Lively. For 1989's Christmas Vacation, Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki filled the slots. And in 1997, the little-loved Vegas Vacation saw Marisol Nichols and Ethan Embry taking over the parts. But here's where it gets tricky: In the 2003 TV movie Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure, a grown-up Audrey Griswold was played by none other than the original Audrey, Dana Barron. Barron wins!

17. The two Lionel Jeffersons on All In The Family and The Jeffersons

Michael Evans originated the role of George and Weezy Jefferson's son Lionel on All In The Family, then left the part to work on Good Times, which he co-created. He returned to the role after Good Times; in the mean time, Damon "No Relation" Evans took over for him.

18. The three Kitty Prydes in the X-Men movies

From the start, the writers, directors, and producers of the X-Men movies have thrown in nods to comics fans by inserting some of the series' best-known characters in the backgrounds of shots, or giving them a line or two. In 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, a pre-Juno Ellen Page plays mutant superheroine Kitty Pryde, who can "phase" through solid walls. But Kitty actually appears in the first two X-Men movies too, in cameos. In 2000's X-Men, Sumela Kay plays her as a flustered student of Professor Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters, zipping through a wall when she realizes she's late for class. In 2003's X2: X-Men United, Katie Stuart plays her as a girl under siege, dropping through floors to escape William Stryker's mutant-gathering commandoes. And then in The Last Stand, Page takes over with a sensitive-but-sassy take on the character. (Typical Page, in other words.) Xavier better double-check the settings on Cerebro; apparently Pryde doesn't just phase, she shape-shifts.

19. The two Facemen on The A-Team

Studly Dirk Benedict had a couple of years after the original Battlestar Galactica TV series to hone his con-man and lady-wooing skills, which made him the perfect choice to play Templeton "Face" Peck (a.k.a. "Faceman") on the wildly popular A-Team. But dig up the original two-part pilot, "Mexican Slayride," and Benedict is nowhere to be found. Instead, the role is played by Tim Dunigan, who seems to have found work in bit parts (from Cheers to J.A.G.) since.

20. The two Clarice Starlings in The Silence Of The Lambs and Hannibal

Five years before The Silence Of The Lambs, Brian Cox sunk his teeth into the role of Hannibal Lecter in 1986's Manhunter, based on Red Dragon, the first of Thomas Harris' Lecter-related novels. But Anthony Hopkins' Oscar-winning performance as Lecter in Silence was so indelible that it prompted the producers to gloss over Manhunter and launch a new, Hopkins-centric franchise. Harris wrote a Silence sequel, Hannibal, and when it was adapted to film, some personnel carried over from the first film—but not its director, screenwriter, or co-star, Jodie Foster. Accounts varied as to why Foster in particular refused to return as FBI agent Clarice Starling in Hannibal; early on, she said the story was too grisly and betrayed the original character, while later, producer Dino De Laurentiis claimed he booted her because she wanted $20 million and 15 percent of the gross. Her official word was that she was busy producing and directing her own film, Flora Plum. (That project was never realized.) Either way, Julianne Moore stepped into Hannibal as a pale shadow of Foster's steely, pained Starling, not that the film's plot gave her much meaningful material to work with.