Giving established characters an alternative face happens all the time, and for wildly varying reasons. If it works you end up forgetting the recast ever happened and accept the replacement, so RadioTimes.com brings you a list of fan favourites we can’t believe were once played by someone else.
1. Peggy Mitchell (EastEnders)
Dame Barbara Windsor is so synonymous with her iconic role it’s still hard to get your head around the fact she was not EastEnders‘ OG Mitchell mama. In 1991 Jo Warne, who couldn’t look more opposite to bubbly Babs if she tried, played the first iteration of the future Queen Vic landlady as a formidable but frumpy battle-axe. She popped in and out on a recurring basis until 1994 when Peggy 2.0 arrived, reworked as a pint-sized blonde pocket rocket.
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2. Clare Devine (Hollyoaks)
Another famous blonde, cruel Clare was one of Chester’s most notorious bad girls who recently earned a whole week’s worth of Hollyoaks Favourites reruns from her mid-2000s reign of terror. However, it wasn’t always ex-Walford resident Gemma Bissix who slapped on the red lippy: for her first few months on screen from December 2005, Clare was played by model and reality show discovery Samantha Rowley, until producers decided to turn the character from confident, likeable businesswoman to the gold-digging murderous maniac we all know and love.
3. Libby Kennedy (Neighbours)
One of those rare, baffling instances where characters are temporarily replaced while the original actor is indisposed. Kym Valentine took emergency sick leave in 2008 after contracting pneumonia and having a lung collapse. Instead of writing in a reason for Karl and Susan’s daughter to be absent, producers drafted in actress Michala Banas off the subs bench to take over as Lib for a couple of weeks while Valentine recovered. Check out the knowing sketch from the time about the bizarre body swap.
4. Scott Robinson (Neighbours)
Jason Donovan was one half of soap’s most famous love story with co-star Kylie Minogue, their chemistry as power couple Scott Robinson and Charlene Mitchell made them a huge hit with audiences and launched both their stellar careers. But Jase was actually the second Scott – Darius Perkins played him for the first year of Neighbours before the soap was axed, then immediately picked up by a rival network after fans successfully campaigned for a reprieve. When we returned to Ramsay Street in 1986 hunky Scott suddenly looked like a future pop star and West End musical sensation.
5. Aaron Dingle (Emmerdale)
It’s true, the multi-award-winning Danny Miller started his stint as sensitive soul Aaron in 2008, three years after Danny Webb originated the role. It wasn’t until Miller was cast as Chas’s troubled son that he became a regular, and producers gave the character a tragic backstory and a sexuality struggle that required Miller to cry on cue for the next decade. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
6. David Platt (Coronation Street)
Due to soaps’ continuous nature, recasting can occur out of necessity when characters are born into the show and grow up on screen. Long-running Corrie probably boasts the most incidents of recasting as newborn babies become toddlers, who turn into teenagers and eventually adults, and producers decide what kind of traits they should have as they get older. Tracy Barlow, Nick Tilsley and Sarah Barlow are just some examples of multiple replacements, but we have to mention Jack P Shepherd who has given us the definitive David Platt since taking over from young Thomas Ormson in 2000 when the character was just nine years old. He turns 30 in December 2020, but can you even believe he wasn’t the sarcastic, laidback legend Shepherd has made him?
7. Joel Dexter (Hollyoaks)
Maybe it’s the shock of peroxide blonde hair, the leather motorbike gear or the dog collar, but Rory Douglas-Speed has made such an impact as Warren Fox’s reformed bad boy son since taking over in 2016 we admit it’s a struggle to remember Andrew Still in the role, even though he did it for a few years from 2011. Maybe because there was less peroxide, no hint of holy orders, and a romance with only one of the McQueen women rather than juggling several at once.
8. Peter Barlow (Coronation Street)
Statistically, Ken’s son is one of the most recast parts in any UK soap, mainly by virtue of him being born into the show back in 1965 and subsequently packed off to live with various relatives throughout his childhood, sporting a new face each time he came home. It’s testament to Chris Gascoyne, the sixth and longest-serving Peter who took over in 2000, that you can’t imagine anyone else in the role now. Even Linus Roache, real-life son of Ken actor William who did a brief stint in the 1970s.
9. Adam Barlow (Coronation Street)
Another Barlow bloke it now feels weird to think was face swapped – brooding, big-haired, bearded heart-throb Sam Robertson replaced geeky Iain De Caestecker in 2004 after three years of recurring appearances from Ken’s grandson he didn’t know existed until he was almost a teenager. Don’t feel bad for De Caestecker, though, who went on to bag a leading role in global TV hit Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD as nerdy scientist Leo Fitz. Bet he doesn’t give the cobbles a second thought from Hollywood.
10. Tom Cunningham (Hollyoaks)
OK, we’re stretching things a bit now as Ellis Hollins has been Tom since 2003 when the character was only four years of age, and was only played before by very small babies who had no dialogue or storylines. That doesn’t change the fact that – technically – somebody else was once the offspring of legendary Mr C, however brief it was, which is frankly unthinkable seeing as we’ve seen Hollins evolve from cheeky toddler to fully grown adult and local entrepreneur.
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