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TV actors getting replaced between seasons is a fairly common occurrence. Sometimes, the show ignores it and pretends they’re still the same person, but other times, they write it into the show, whether it’s a tongue-in-cheek joke or a dramatic twist.
Here are 15 wild and funny ways TV shows acknowledges the fact they recast a key character:
THE SWITCH: On Season 1 of The O.C., Shailene Woodley played Kaitlin Cooper. However, for Season 3, she was replaced by Willa Holland because she “hadn’t gone through puberty yet” and “they needed a girl who had a body…that was different than [Shailene’s].”
THE EXPLANATION: On Season 3, Episode 12, Kaitlin returned home from boarding school after a growth spurt.
THE SWITCH: On Ugly Betty Season 1, Jowharah Jones had a recurring role as Nico Slater, Wilhelmina’s daughter, who went back to boarding school in Paris. When Nico made a surprise reappearance in Season 4, she was played by Yaya DaCosta.
THE EXPLANATION: After Marc, Wilhelmina’s assistant, discovered she was hiding Nico in her apartment, he attributed her new appearance to a nose job.
THE SWITCH: On Roseanne, Lecy Goranson played Becky Conner for Seasons 1–4, but she was written off (by eloping with Mark) in Season 5 so Lecy could go to college. Then, Becky returned for Seasons 6–7 played by Sarah Chalke. However, for Season 8, the two actors alternated the role around Lecy’s college schedule.
THE EXPLANATION: The show joked about the two Beckys several times. For example, when the family went to Disney World in Season 8, Episode 17, Roseanne jokingly acknowledged that it was a great week for Sarah to be playing Becky.
In the Roseanne reboot (which later became The Connors), Lecy reprised the role of Becky, but Sarah guest-starred as Andrea, who asked Becky to be her surrogate.
THE SWITCH: Nicollette Sheridan originally played Alexis Carrington Colby in the Dynasty reboot. However, when she left towards the end of Season 2 to spend time with her mother, who was terminally ill, Elizabeth Gillies — who already starred as Alexis’s daughter Fallon — put on facial prosthetics and temporarily took over for her.
THE EXPLANATION: Alexis’s son, Adam, pushed her into a fire. Then, he took her to a hospital and arranged for plastic surgeons to give her a “new face” modeled after Fallon’s.
THE SWITCH: Having Elizabeth in two main roles proved to be a production challenge, so for Dynasty Season 3, Elaine Hendrix took over the role of Alexis.
THE EXPLANATION: At the end of Season 3, Episode 8, Alexis — who’d been abroad until she returned to the US with another new face the previous day — made a surprise appearance as the final witness in her ex-husband’s murder trial. She kept her face obscured until she got to the stand, where she made her grand reveal.
THE EXPLANATION: In Season 3, Episode 14, Morgan returned from a long absence, which was jokingly explained away as an incredibly long timeout in her room.
On the series finale of the spin-off Girl Meets World, both actors reprised the role of Morgan.
THE SWITCH: On Sense8, Aml Ameen originally played Capheus Onyango, but he reportedly left ahead of Season 2 over creative differences and disagreements. In the Christmas special between seasons, Toby Onwumere made his debut as the new Capheus.
THE EXPLANATION: In the first episode of Season 2, Capheus’s friend Jela acknowleged that he was looking different.
THE SWITCH: William Hartnell originated the role of The Doctor during the original run of Doctor Who. After three seasons, he left the show because, due to his developing arteriosclerosis, the grueling production schedule was too much. He also disagreed with producers over the show’s direction. Patrick Troughton took over the lead.
THE EXPLANATION: Script editor Gerry Davis and producer Innes Lloyd invented regeneration — the process by which Time Lords like The Doctor can cheat death through a complete biological renewal. He kept his knowledge and memories but regenerated into a new body with a new personality. Throughout the show’s original run and the reboot, The Doctor has regenerated many times.
Here’s the full clip of the First Doctor’s regeneration:
THE SWITCH: Jazz Raycole played Claire Kylie for one season of My Wife and Kids before she reportedly left because her mother objected to a pregnancy storyline involving one of Claire’s friends. Jennifer Nicole Freeman replaced her.
THE EXPLANATION: In Season 2, Claire’s dad, Michael, joked that there was something different about her that he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
THE SWITCH: For the six seasons that Last Man Standing aired on ABC, Molly Ephraim played Mandy Baxter. After the network canceled it, she moved on to new projects. However, the show was picked up by Fox, so they replaced her with Molly McCook.
THE EXPLANATION: On Season 7 Episode 1, Mandy’s husband Kyle said she was mad because he couldn’t figure out what was different about her.
THE SWITCH: Early in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Season 2, Greg broke up with Rebecca by singing “It Was A Shit Show” and left West Covina to study business at Emory University because actor Santino Fontana signed on for other projects while the show’s renewal was still up in the air. In Season 4, he was replaced by Skylar Astin.
THE EXPLANATION: When Greg returned to West Covina midway through Season 4, Rebecca literally and metaphorically saw him as a completely different person, which represented how he’d changed and grown.
THE SWITCH: After four seasons of playing Anna-Kat Otto on American Housewife, Julia Butters left the show to pursue different opportunities. Giselle Eisenberg took over the role for the final season.
THE EXPLANATION: In the opening of Season 5, Anna-Kat’s mom, Katie, broke the fourth wall to joke about how “kids change.”
THE SWITCH: On The Baby-Sitters Club, Xochitl Gomez left the role of Dawn Schafer after Season 1 for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. She was replaced by Kyndra Sanchez.
THE EXPLANATION: On Season 2, Episode 1, Dawn joked that she felt “like a whole new person” after her summer vacation.
THE SWITCH: Rowan Blanchard played Jackie Geary for Seasons 4–5 of The Goldbergs but passed on Season 6. She was replaced by Alexis G. Zall, who also reprised the role in Season 10.
THE EXPLANATION: In his narration for Season 6, Episode 2, Adam Goldberg explained that his girlfriend had changed a lot after spending her summer away at NYU.
And finally, THE SWITCH: On The Fosters, Jake T. Austin left the role of Jesus ahead of Season 3 after learning his part was going to be significantly reduced, and he didn’t want it to hold him back from other opportunities. Noah Centineo replaced him.
THE EXPLANATION: In the Season 2 finale, Jesus was in a car accident. In Season 3, Episode 10, he finally came home. The surgeries he had to get resulted in his new face.