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The Real Reason These '80s TV Characters Were Recast

It has happened to many of us: One minute you're settled into a job, and the next — you're out, and someone else is sitting at your desk. The same thing happens to actors in films and on television. Just ask Freddie Stroma (currently playing Vigilante on "Peacemaker"), who was replaced as Dickon Tarly on "Game of Thrones" by Tom Hooper; or Lecy Goransen, who was replaced as Becky Conner on "Roseanne" by Sarah Chalke — who was then replaced by Goransen on "The Conners." Recasting is an unavoidable fact for many working actors, and a sometimes confusing situation for audiences.

Recasting is also not a recent phenomenon: One of the most famous TV recasts took place in 1969, when Dick Sargent replaced Dick York as Darrin Stephens on "Bewitched." TV during the 1980s was similarly rife with recasting and replacements on popular shows, which traded actors over contract issues, availability, and even the death of a performer. Here's a list of '80s TV characters who were replaced on their series — and the reasons behind the swap.

One character, three actresses: the story behind Dallas's Jenna Wade

Three actresses inhabited the character Jenna Wade, who had a tumultuous on-and-off romance with Bobby Ewing on "Dallas." Morgan Fairchild, a go-to for vamps on primetime soaps and series from the '70s to the 2000s, played the character for exactly one episode in Season 2. That episode provided much of their background: Bobby and Jenna were childhood sweethearts and briefly engaged before she left him at the altar — and introduced him to her daughter, Charlotte, whom he believed to be his.

Fairchild did not return to the character after that single appearance — she had moved on to her Golden Globe-nominated run on "Flamingo Road" — so actress Francine Tacker played Jenna for two episodes in Season 3, in which Bobby is tempted to rekindle their relationship. Season 7 then saw Priscilla Presley begin her long run as Jenna, which encompassed another trip to the altar for Jenna and Bobby, her involvement in her ex-husband's murder, and Jenna carrying Bobby's baby — a problem, given that Bobby has returned to his ex-wife, Pam. Jenna eventually found something like happiness with Bobby's half-brother, Ray Krebbs, and left the Ewings' orbit for good in Season 11.

Fairchild and Presley remain TV regulars to this day, and netted two Emmy nominations (Fairchild) and a Soap Opera Digest Award (Presley) for their efforts. Tacker appears to have departed acting in the 1980s, though James Francis Ginty, her son with the late actor Robert Ginty, has appeared in several films ("Surrogates") and TV series.

Superboy fans got two teenage Men of Steel

The father-and-son team of Alexander and Ilya Salkind, who produced three of the four "Superman" features starring Christopher Reeve as well as "Supergirl," retained their hold on the DC property by producing "Superboy" for syndicated television between 1988 and 1992. Newcomer John Haymes Newton was cast as the teenage Man of Steel in its debut season, but when fans tuned it for Season 2, a different actor — Gerard Christopher — was wearing the cape.

Different theories abound as to why Newton was replaced after Season 1 of "Superboy," but what is evident is that Newton's departure was part of a larger series overhaul. Sherman Howard replaced Scott James Wells as Lex Luthor, while Jim Calvert's T.J. White (son of Perry White) was bundled off to the "Daily Planet" and Ilan Mitchell-Smith of "Weird Science" was brought in as a new friend named Andy, only to depart by Season 3. Classic "Superman" villains like Metallo and Brainiac were also introduced, while the series itself took on a darker tone that reflected Tim Burton's then-recent work with "Batman."

"Superboy" ran its course in its fourth season and left the airwaves in 1992. Both Newton and Christopher continue to act, primarily on television; Newton voiced Superman and Bizarro for a pair of fan-made shorts, "Superman Classic" and "Bizarro Classic," in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

Jack Coleman and Al Corley replaced each other as Dynasty's Steven Carrington

For two seasons on "Dynasty," actor Al Corley attracted a lot of attention from viewers and critics alike as Steven Carrington, heir to the colossal Carrington oil fortune. Noted by many critics as the first openly gay character in a primetime drama series, Corley's Steven romanced both men and women during his dual-season run on the show. But in 1982, he departed "Dynasty" — of his own volition or at the producers' behest, though "People" magazine noted that the departure happened after Corley's complaining to the press about Steven's fluid sexual preferences.

In 1983, Jack Coleman left his job on the daytime soap "Days of Our Lives" to take over the role of Steven Carrington. He remained with the series until its conclusion in 1988, but was unable to reprise Steven for the 1991 miniseries "Dynasty: The Reunion." Whom did the producers tap to play Steven? Al Corley, which left many old-school "Dynasty" fans with spinning heads.

Both Coleman and Corley remain active in front of and behind the camera. Coleman enjoyed recurring roles on "The Office," "Heroes" (as Noah Bennett) and "Castle," and currently appears on the series "Ordinary Joe." Corley landed a European Top 20 single with his 1984 hit "Square Rooms," and divides his time between acting in and producing features, including the Liam Neeson thriller "The Ice Road" (2021).

Catherine Oxenberg gave Karen Cellini her 15 minutes of TV fame on Dynasty

Though Catherine Oxenberg was, in real life, the daughter of European royalty (Princess Elizabeth of the former Yugoslavia) and a relative of various princes and dukes throughout Europe, her heritage couldn't save her star-making turn on "Dynasty." Cast as Amanda Carrington, long-lost daughter or Alexis Colby, in Season 5, Amanda made considerable trouble for everyone around her, including her mother's fiancé, Dex Dexter, who fell in love with her. She survived the terrorist attack that capped the season, but her relationship soon fell apart – much like Oxenberg's contract with the series.

According to various sources, Oxenberg either left or was fired from "Dynasty" at the end of Season Six after a salary dispute with producer Aaron Spelling. Enter Philadelphia actress Karen Cellini, a struggling performer with few credits who auditioned for a role on the "Dynasty" spin-off "The Colbys." She didn't land that part, but was asked to try her hand at the newly-vacated Amanda. Cellini aced the audition and joined the cast of "Dynasty" at the beginning of Season 8.

Unfortunately, Cellini's turn as Amanda never took. After 13 episodes, Amanda and Cellini were sent packing, and the character disappeared from the series until the CW reboot, which cast Eliza Bennett as the new Amanda. Oxenberg continued to act, and returned to headlines in 2017 due to her daughter India's involvement with the NXIVM organization. Cellini is active in theater as a producer, writer, and performance artist.

Pamela Sue Martin stepped aside for Emma Samms

Actress Pamela Sue Martin shed the good girl image she honed as the title role on "The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries" in 1977 by joining "Dynasty" as its resident vixen, Fallon Carrington Colby. Though the role extended her fame, Martin confessed to "New York" magazine that she found television limiting and amicably departed "Dynasty" at the end of Season 4. Stepping into Fallon's high-heeled shoes was British actress Emma Samms, who daytime viewers knew as Holly Scorpio on "General Hospital."

As Fallon, Samms was almost immediately shuttled over to the "Dynasty" spin-off "The Colbys" in 1985 and remained there until ABC canceled the series in 1986. She then returned to "Dynasty" and remained there until its conclusion in 1989; Samms later reprised Fallon for the 1991 miniseries "Dynasty: The Reunion."

Samms, who was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2016, remains active on US and UK television, including several returns to "General Hospital." Martin has retained a lower acting profile since leaving "Dynasty," but has in recent years made guest appearances on TV, most notably on the "Nancy Drew" reboot in 2019.

David Ackroyd's departure from Knots Landing made Ted Shackelford a star

The "Dallas" spin-off "Knots Landing" made Ted Shackelford a TV star in the '80s and early '90s, but he wasn't the first actor to play the role of Gary Ewing. The character, who fled Texas due to older brother J.R.'s machinations, was played in two episodes of "Dallas" by actor David Ackroyd. However, when Gary and wife Valerie (Joan Van Ark) became primary characters on "Knots Landing," Ackroyd was unavailable for the role, which required the producers to recast Gary.

Shackelford had already appeared opposite Van Ark before "Knots Landing" — the pair co-starred together on an episode of the "Wonder Woman" TV series. Shackelford played Gary through the entire network run of "Knots Landing" and on several episodes of "Dallas." He continues to act today, as a guest performer on network series and daytime soaps.

Ackroyd also worked steadily throughout the '80s and '90s, logging appearances on "Dynasty," "St. Elsewhere," and "Murder, She Wrote." He is also a prolific voice-over actor for numerous animated series, as well as documentaries for the History Channel.

Barbara Bel Geddes and Donna Reed traded places as Miss Ellie on Dallas

Among the actors from Hollywood's Golden Age who populated the cast of "Dallas" was Barbara Bel Geddes, who played Miss Ellie Ewing. Bel Geddes — a respected stage and screen actress who netted an Oscar nomination in 1949 for "I Remember Mama" and starred in Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" — played the matriarch of the scheming Ewing clan for nearly all of the series' episodes between 1978 and 1990. During that period, she earned three Emmy and Golden Globe Award nominations, winning one of each.

However, Bel Geddes was forced to step away from the role in 1983 after suffering heart troubles. An underlying heart condition required quadruple bypass surgery that year; Bel Geddes missed the first 11 episodes of Season 7 (1983-1984), and was replaced by Oscar-winning actress Donna Reed ("It's a Wonderful Life") for the entirely of Season 8 (1984-85).

After recovering from her health issues, Bel Geddes returned to the role in Season 9 and remained with the show until Season 13. She retired from acting in 1990, writing children's books and painting until her death at age 82 from lung cancer on August 8, 2005. The "Los Angeles Times" reported that Bel Geddes' return to "Dallas" did not sit well with Reed, who unsuccessfully sued the show's producers in 1985 for breach of contract. She died a year later on January 14, 1986 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 64.

Fred Dryer might have tended bar at Cheers if Ted Danson hadn't auditioned

Ted Danson might have never taken home two Emmys for his turn as baseball pitcher-turned-barkeep Sam Malone on "Cheers" if the show's producers kept their original vision for the character. As "Cheers" writer Ken Levine wrote on his blog, Sam Malone was first written as a former football player for the New England Patriots, and the producers envisioned real-life gridiron great Fred Dryer for the role. Dryer — a 13-year veteran of the National Football League, with a record of 104 career tackles and the sole player to claim two safeties in a single game — transitioned successfully to acting after retiring from football in 1981.

Levine wrote that "Cheers" producers/co-creators Glen and Les Charles wanted Dryer to play Sam, but also noted that Danson had charisma to spare, as well as tremendous chemistry with co-star Shelley Long. That combo won him the role of Sam Malone — whose past was changed from football to baseball to accommodate Danson's lankier build — but Dryer did drop in to the series on several occasions to play Dave Richards, a former teammate of Sam's turned sportscaster.

Dryer enjoyed even success himself on TV as the star of the cop series "Hunter" from 1984 to 1991, and continues to log guest turns on series like "Agents of "S.H.I.E.L.D." (as HYDRA leader Octavian Bloom) and "NCIS."

Louie Anderson wasn't a perfect match with Bronson Pinchot

Though the comic interplay between Mark Linn-Baker and Bronson Pinchot helped pave the way for eight seasons of "Perfect Strangers" on ABC between 1986 and 1993, the duo was not set in place when the series pilot was shot in 1985. Pinchot was on board as enthusiastic Greek immigrant Balki Bartokomous, but his straight man in this early iteration was comedian Louie Anderson as Lou Appleton.

TV vet Joel Zwick directed the unaired pilot, which revealed to producers that the chemistry between Anderson and Pinchot was underwhelming. Anderson was let go — and began a long run of TV appearances, culminating in his triumphant Emmy-winning role on "Baskets" before his 2022 death

Pinchot's fellow Yale grad, stage actor Mark Linn-Baker, who had earned critical praise opposite Peter O'Toole in "My Favorite Year," was brought on board as Larry Appleton. Judging by the positive viewer response, the new partnership was, well, perfect.

The original Full House included John Posey, not Bob Saget

For many TV viewers of a certain age, the late actor and comic Bob Saget will always be remembered as the kindly, housekeeping-obsessed Danny Tanner on "Full House." As Yahoo! Entertainment reported, Saget was the first choice to play the role by the show's producers — but he wasn't the first actor to play the role. "Full House" producer Tom Miller saw Saget in the 1987 Richard Pryor movie "Critical Condition" and wanted him to play Danny. But Saget had just taken a job with the CBS news magazine "The Morning Show," so he turned down the offer.

Enter actor John Posey, who played Danny in what was intended as the pilot for "Full House." After shooting the episode, Posey flew back to his home in Atlanta to pack up his belongings and drive to Los Angeles. While en route, he got a call from his agent: Saget had been fired by "The Morning Show" and announced his availability to the "Full House" producers. Saget was in, and Posey was out.

Saget would later pay a compliment to Posey in his 2014 autobiography, "Dirty Daddy," in which he wrote that his predecessor had "done a really good job with it." Posey took his replacement in stride and enjoyed a long and successful career in film and TV, including recurring rules on "How to Get Away with Murder" and "Teen Wolf," which starred his son, actor Tyler Posey.

Carolyn Jones's health forced soap producers to recast her role twice

Though best known to small screen audiences as the original Morticia Addams on "The Addams Family" TV series from 1964-66, Oscar-nominated actress Carolyn Jones also worked extensively on other television shows, though mainly as a guest performer on programs like "Batman" (as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds) and "Wonder Woman" (as Queen Hippolyta). In 1982, Jones returned to series regular work on the daytime soap opera "Capitol," for which she played scheming Myrna Clegg, who battled her former friend (Constance Towers of "General Hospital" fame) over long-standing grievances.

Jones was one of several classic Hollywood stars who appeared on "Capitol," including Western star Rory Calhoun and Julia Adams of "Creature from the Black Lagoon" fame. However, Jones's tenure on the show proved brief: diagnosed with colon cancer in 1981, Jones kept working on the series until 1982, though her illness required her to step away from the role on several occasions. For those episodes, she was temporarily replaced by actress Marla Adams.

Jones lapsed into a coma and died on August 3, 1983. At the time of her death, Adams was working on "The Young and the Restless," so the producers recast the role with Marj Dusay. A Daytime Emmy nominee for "Guiding Light" and "All My Children," Dusay continued to play Myrna until the series' 1987 conclusion.

When Tim Dunigan dropped out of The A-Team, Dirk Benedict gave good Face

The first actor to play Templeton "Face-Man" Peck on "The A-Team" wasn't "Battlestar Galactica" alum Dirk Benedict, but actor Tim Dunigan, who made his screen debut with the series' pilot, "Mexican Slayride," in January 1983. In a 1989 interview with the Associated Press (via the "Indiana Gazette"), Dunigan said that the network felt that he was "too young and too tall" to play the role of a Vietnam War veteran, and replaced him with Benedict. Though supported by series producer Stephen J. Cannell and star George Peppard, Dunigan took the dismissal hard: "I kept saying, 'What did I do wrong?'" he told AP.

Dunigan eventually recovered from the career blow and enjoyed steady work on television, most notably in the title role of "Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future," and as Davy Crockett on "The Magical World of Disney." After a long run of guest roles on programs like "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Diagnosis: Murder," Dunigan left the acting business to become a mortgage broker. However, he returned briefly to on-screen duties for the series "K-911" in 2011.

Diff'rent Strokes added two Mrs. Drummonds in its final seasons

The cast of "Diff'rent Strokes" added two new cast members in Season 6: Dixie Carter as TV aerobics host Maggie McKinney and Danny Cooksey as her son, Sam. Maggie added "Drummond" to her name that same season when she married Conrad Bain's Philip Drummond, but her actual tenure on the series would prove to be short-lived.

By Season 8, Carter — who admitted to the "Charlotte Observer" in 1986 that she had accepted the "Strokes" role for the paycheck — quit the series and was replaced as Maggie by former Miss America and Golden Globe winner Mary Ann Mobley. Ironically, Mobley was among the actresses initially considered to play Maggie by the producers, who ultimately passed due to the fact that Mobley appeared (and in actuality, was) much younger than Conrad Bain.

The casting change did little to arrest the downward slide of "Diff'rent Strokes," which moved from ABC to NBC in 1985. Its new parent network pulled the plug on the series the following year. After enjoying greater success on "Designing Women," Carter died of complications from endrometrial cancer on April 10, 2010, while Mobley died of breast cancer on December 9, 2014.

All hail the two Kings of Cartoons, Gilbert Lewis and William Marshall

Diehard fans of the television series "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" may recall that William Marshall, the appropriately regal actor who played the King of Cartoons, was not the first actor to wear the crown and tote the projector for that role. The original King of Cartoons was Gilbert Lewis, a character actor with numerous film and television credits, including the original "Candyman" and "Law & Order," from the 1970s to the 1990s. Lewis played the King for the series' first season, which was filmed in a converted loft in New York City.

"Pee-Wee" moved from New York to Los Angeles prior to the start of its second season. As Paul Reubens — Pee-Wee Herman himself — noted on his blog, "his part was recast because of expense when we moved the production to California." Marshall — a veteran stage actor best known for playing the title role in the 1972 blaxploitation flick "Blacula" — was tapped to play the King, and announced, "Let the cartoons begin!" in his stately voice from Season 2 in 1987 to the show's conclusion after Season 5 in 1990.

Lewis passed away at the age of 79 on May 7, 2015, while Marshall died at the age of 78 on June 11, 2003.