Making a character last on TV takes more than good acting skills. It's about charisma and looking the part, as much as it is having chemistry with fellow cast members and making the audience fall head over heels for a character. Sometimes, the pressure is quite high - if, say, it's a role for a TV show based off a book - when the audience already has a pretty clear idea of what such and such should look like. Others, it's a blank canvas, waiting to be painted by just the right actor.
These 7 actors had their hands on the script, but their eyes weren't on the game. Some turned down what were actually be great offers, while others simply didn't have what it takes. These roles have been made so iconic by their performers, that it feels wrong even to imagine them with another face...but here's for trying.
1. The Walking Dead: Rick Grimes
Let's get this out of the way and be done with it.
I mean...imagine The Walking Dead without Coral or any angry camera stares? Rick is Andrew Lincoln and no one else. Maybe at one point we've all had our doubts about the casting but now, six season in, it's beyond any change. Andrew has given us an emotionally driven, fast-learning and raw Rick Grimes, so even if you have your issues with the guy, you gotta hand it to him for beating 100 other actors for the part.
Almost got it: Well, quite the A list, actually. There's Hung's Tom Jane, Salem's Stuart Townsend and, most importantly, The Walking Dead's own Ethan Embry - who, by the way, was killed off by Rick Grimes himself in season 6. Way to put down the competition, Andrew!
2. Game of Thrones: Jon Snow
Talk about a show that has done it's fair share of recasting. Most actors who we now love or hate on Game of Thrones got their parts through readings and auditions, except for Peter Drinklage (Tyrion) and Sean Bean (Ned Stark). It was in one of these readings that Kit Harrington eventually became Jon Snow, but it was a close call. Kit had a head-to-head competition with an actor who would later join the cast as someone else.
Almost got it: Iwan Rheon, who plays the absolute villain Ramsay Bolton, first read for the part of Daenerys's brother, Viserys. In a recent interview, Iwan explained that the producers had him come back and read for the Jon Snow part. Later on, Iwan auditioned again for Ramsay and became the most hated man on TV (says New York Times!).
3. Gilmore Girls: Rory Gilmore
The stunning blue eyes, the soft voice, the fast speech and the impulsive decision making are Rory's trademarks, all associated with Alexis Bledel, of course. Alexis was new to acting and Rory was her first role, which is kind of great since we've been able to see her grow through the 8 seasons of Gilmore Girls. And, what's great, she's back for the Gilmore Girls: Seasons, on Netflix, but Rory could have turned out a brown-eyed blond.
Almost got it: Liza Weil auditioned for the roll of Rory early on, but she wasn't what the series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino had in mind. That being said, the producers liked Liza so much that they wrote Paris Geller just for her. Talk about captivating your audience!
4. Sex and the City: Carrie Bradshaw
The alter ego of Sex and the City's creator Candace Bushnell, Carrie Bradshaw is a die-hard fashionista with her own unique sense of style. Between weekly crisis, many boyfriends and her trio of friends, Carrie leads her New York life balancing the search of a true soulmate and the thrills of the hunt. Sarah Jessica Parker wasn't the first choice for the part. Instead, she was the one who didn't get away, but who ended up with such an iconic character that Carrie and her friends made the jump from TV to the big screen.
Almost got it: This one should read "who didn't want it", actually. Though Candace's book was quite the hit, the plot was too sex-oriented for Desperate Housewives' Dana Delany. She was the first option for Carrie Bradshaw and, even though she turned it down, she encouraged her friend Kim Cattrall to play Samantha. That's what friends are for!
5. Grey's Anatomy: Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd
Dr. Shepherd may have left Grey's Anatomy - in the most terrible way possible - but McDreamy will live on in the minds of a generation of ladies because of Patrick Dempsey. He made Derek the perfect catch, the perfect neurosurgeon and the perfect love interest for his leading lady, Meredith Grey. He became a father, chose family over the President of the United States and broke our hearts when he died. Long Live Dr. Derek!
Almost got it: Rob Lowe has come out and said it: turning down the offer to play Derek Shepherd was "the first time in all his career that he picked wrong", and quite wrong he was. They both got the looks, but I can't help but think Lowe's Derek would have carried a whole different tone - not necessarily a good one.
6. Lost: Jack Shephard
He led the survivors through six seasons and the whole set of weekly mysteries Lost threw on its characters. He opened the hatch, he fought for Kate, he forgave his father and he accepted his fate - that they were all dead in the end. Mathew Fox even got a whole Thailand episode written as to explain the actor's own tattoos, so it's fair to say no other character - apart maybe from Hurley - represents Lost better than Matthew's Jack does.
Almost got it: Truth is, Jack wasn't supposed to be a leading character. In fact, he wasn't even supposed to survive for more than the pilot, so the producers cast someone big for that cameo. That's how Michael Keaton's name became associated with the series. Once the producers decided to keep Jack alive, Keaton stepped down and Matthew got his chance.
7. Spartacus Vengeance: Spartacus
This is one of those shows where the recasting was the only choice, since Andy Whitfield passed away and he played Spartacus. Though many fans questioned it at the time, Liam McKintyre did a great job at preserving Andy's memory in his last role, while giving it new life in the third season. His Spartacus was lighter and Liam eventually grew into the role, albeit just as the series was getting to a closure.
Almost got it: A game-changer this one, because we would have not only one different character, but two. Stephen Amell auditioned for the role of Spartacus, and it came down to Liam and him. Had he gotten it, our beloved Oliver Queen would look completely foreign to us, as well as Spartacus himself.