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Guest actors who became key characters in a series


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#1 of 35 Scott_F_S

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Posted September 02 2009 - 05:24 AM

I got to thinking about this while going through the thread on actors/characters who vanished without trace from a TV series. This is the opposite. Let's talk about actors who appeared in a series initially as a one-shot guest appearance but were so memorable, they were eventually added as a key character in a series.

The Buffy/Angel franchises had a few--most notable James Marsters as Spike. The original plan was for him to be killed after in his third or fourth appearance of the Drusilla arc in the second season of Buffy. But the character was so good, the arc was rewritten to where he survives and remains as a key guest star throughout the season. He returned for a one-shot appearance in the third season of Buffy, was really good again and eventually emerged as a series regular in the fourth season. He stayed through the rest of Buffy's run, was supposed to die in the season finale. But still, Spike again returned from the dead to appear in the final season of Angel on the network's insistence.

Other Buffy/Angel guest stars-turned-key characters were Alexis Denisoff as Wesley, Emma Caulfield as Anya, Julie Benz as Darla. Possibly one or two others.

Juliana Margulies' Nurse Hathaway committed suicide in the pilot of ER. But she was miraculously resurrected after the series got picked up and was made a regular cast member.

Hill Street Blues had two officers who were resurrected from the dead to join the cast -- Renko (Charles Haid) and Joe Coffey (Ed Marinaro).

Those are just off the top of my head. Who are some others?



#2 of 35 whisperintherain

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Posted September 02 2009 - 05:52 AM

In a story quite similar to the Julianna Margulies one, Laura Leighton was originally supposed to appear in no more than two episodes of MELROSE PLACE in 1993. However, her character got extremely positive feedback from the viewers and she was brought back as a recurring character at the beginning of the second season, for which she eventually got a Golden Globe nomination as Best Supporting Actress on a Drama Series. She was made a regular at the start of Season 3 and her exit at the end of Season 5 was followed by a ratings nosedive. Although her character was killed off, she was the first cast member of the original series to be officially brought back for the spin-off show which hits the airwaves next week.


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#3 of 35 Dave B Ferris

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Posted September 02 2009 - 06:10 AM

I think both Jaime Farr (Klinger) and William Christopher (Father Mulcahy) on M*A*S*H started as non-regulars.

#4 of 35 Joseph DeMartino

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Posted September 02 2009 - 09:08 AM

When Michael Emerson was cast as "Henry Gayle" on Lost it was for a short arc and he wasn't supposed to be the leader of The Others.  The producers had intended to go in a completely different direction for that role, casting a  big, physically imposing actor.  But after seeing Emerson's performance they changed their minds and had "Henry" revealed as Ben Linus and eventually the main antagonist of the series. 

As noted above, Charles Haid originally died when Hill and Renko were shot at the end of the Hill Street Blues pilot.  IIRC the preview audiences loved the character, so the final lines of the show, in which Renko was reported dead at the scene and Hill en route to the hospital in bad shape were re-recorded to say that both cops were expected to live.

Jeff Conaway was only supposed to do a one-shot as security officer Zack Allen on Babylon 5, but Zack became a recurring character, the second in command to security chief Michael Garibaldi and finally a regular.  He even did at least one of the TV movies. 

Kelly Carlson is another actor who was only hired for a guest appearance in a series pilot (Nip/Tuck) and ended up a regular. 

Walter Koenig was set to appear as "Knight One", a zealot who kidnaps and interrogates Cmdr. Sinclair in a first season episode of Babylon 5, but he suffered a heart attack and lost role to another actor.  This was bad for Koenig, but good for the show.  Losing the one-time character of Knight One meant he could later appear as Alfred Bester, the telepathic "Psy Cop", a role he played in various episodes scattered across all five seasons.

Ed Wasser is another B5 alum with a curious history on the show.  Cast as a tech named Guerra on the command and control deck in the pilot, he didn't make the cut when they went to series.   But he came back as the memorable Mr. Morden who got up to all sorts of mischief until his untimely and deeply satisfying exit in S4. 

Finally on B5, there's the curious case of Pat Tallman.  Series creator J. Michael Straczynski had seen her in the first remake of Night of the Living Dead.  Pat has very large eyes, and he thought they looked like the eyes of a telepath, capable of seeing inside you.  So he wrote the role of resident station telepath Lyta Alexander with her in mind.  But she and Warner Bros. were unable to come to terms on a contract, so she didn't return for the series.  Rather than simply recast the Lyta role, JMS wrote her disappearance (and the loss of a couple of other cast members) into the story by having everyone connected to the attempt on Ambassador Kosh's life in the pilot mysteriously recalled to Earth during the months between the pilot and the first episode.  A new commercial telepath, Talia Winters, played by Andrea Thompson, was added instead.  By late in the second season Thompson was feeling under-used in the large ensemble cast and she decided to leave.  Luckily Pat was available again and she returned for Talia's dramatic send-off.  Pat made a couple of more appearances in S3, where she was introduced as Kosh's aide, before joining the cast full time for the fourth and fifth seasons.  

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Joe






#5 of 35 Brent S

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Posted September 02 2009 - 09:12 AM

TAXI -  Christopher Lloyd as "Rev." Jim Ignatowski.

#6 of 35 Mark Talmadge

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Posted September 02 2009 - 09:13 AM

Jamie Farr was not a guest star.

William Christopher was not a guest star either. He started out as a cast regular from his first appearance, after the pilot episode, when he replaced the original actor who played father Mulcahy.

Jamie Farr: He was hired for one day's work as "Corporal Klinger" on the M*A*S*H episode "Chief Surgeon Who?" and he played it so well, and became such a fan favourite, that this day job became an 11-year career. His character wore dresses to try to convince the army that he was crazy and he deserved a Section 8 discharge. Comedy writer and playwright Larry Gelbart has said that comedian Lenny Bruce's attempt to be released from military service in World War II by dressing in a WAVES uniform was the original inspiration for the character of Klinger on the sitcom. He was asked back for a dozen episodes in the second season and he became a regular in the third. Eventually, his character gave up wearing women's clothing. Like most of the characters on M*A*S*H, Corporal Klinger matured as the years passed. He gradually progressed from being a cross-dressing visual joke, and became a more sensitive and resourceful character.

William Christopher: In 1972, Christopher landed the role of Father Mulcahy in the television series M* A* S* H, when the actor who originated the role, George Morgan, was being replaced after one appearance. 

#7 of 35 TravisR

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Posted September 02 2009 - 09:59 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joseph DeMartino View Post

When Michael Emerson was cast as "Henry Gayle" on Lost it was for a short arc and he wasn't supposed to be the leader of The Others.  The producers had intended to go in a completely different direction for that role, casting a  big, physically imposing actor.  But after seeing Emerson's performance they changed their minds and had "Henry" revealed as Ben Linus and eventually the main antagonist of the series.


The way that I've heard it is that Michael Emerson was cast for a few episodes as Henry Gale and they hoped/intended for the character to be the leader of The Others but they left themselves an escape hatch. If he didn't work out, the character escaped and would have became a supporting Other (like Ms. Klugh or Mikhail). Then they'd get a another actor to be revealed as the leader of The Others. That being said, I'm sure it was the quality of his performance that caused them to make Emerson a series regular after those four or five guest spots.

#8 of 35 Greg_S_H

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Posted September 02 2009 - 10:54 AM

They weren't guests, but Urkel and Fonzi were just supposed to be secondary characters but they were so popular the shows began to revolve around them.


#9 of 35 Joe Tor1

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Posted September 02 2009 - 11:20 AM

LOST IN SPACE... "Special Guest Star Jonathan Harris"! 

'Nuff said! 

#10 of 35 RickER

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Posted September 02 2009 - 11:28 AM

 Lindsey Wagner was The Bionic Woman on The Six Million Dollar Man. She died at at the end of the 2 part episode. Of course the show was so popular, they had to bring her back to life, and give her, her own show.

#11 of 35 Todd_W_Zimmrman

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Posted September 02 2009 - 11:34 AM

Martin Landau was billed as a "Special Guest Star" during most of Season 1 of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE.  In the second season (and the third), he was a regular.
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#12 of 35 Tony J Case

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Posted September 02 2009 - 02:43 PM

Joe, joe, joe - you mention all these B5 characters, but dont mention Lt Corwin - who while never a main character started out as "Spear Carrier #1", eventually getting a real name and actual speaking parts.


#13 of 35 nolesrule

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Posted September 02 2009 - 05:51 PM

And bearer of the Love Bat.

I think it's time to rewatch B5. It's been a few years.


#14 of 35 sweetheart

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Posted September 02 2009 - 07:03 PM

CSI: Miami is a fun show to watch, like the original CSI:. But the chemistry in the original isn't quite there.

Grissom, in CSI:, is interesting, deep, and can easily be believed to be as smart as he is. But Horatio in CSI: Miami seems a bit more flat, and his bright moments seem cheesy and scripted.

Other characters don't seem to grow in CSI: Miami, while there's clear changes in their CSI: counterparts. Also, the side stories are more interesting in CSI: than in CSI: Miami.

So, while I'll watch CSI: Miami, it's not growing on me like how the original did.

#15 of 35 sweetheart

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Posted September 02 2009 - 07:04 PM

CSI: Miami is a fun show to watch, like the original CSI:. But the chemistry in the original isn't quite there.

Grissom, in CSI:, is interesting, deep, and can easily be believed to be as smart as he is. But Horatio in CSI: Miami seems a bit more flat, and his bright moments seem cheesy and scripted.

Other characters don't seem to grow in CSI: Miami, while there's clear changes in their CSI: counterparts. Also, the side stories are more interesting in CSI: than in CSI: Miami.

So, while I'll watch CSI: Miami, it's not growing on me like how the original did.

#16 of 35 Jeff Willis

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Posted September 02 2009 - 11:48 PM



Quote:
Originally Posted by RickER View Post

 Lindsey Wagner was The Bionic Woman on The Six Million Dollar Man. She died at at the end of the 2 part episode. Of course the show was so popular, they had to bring her back to life, and give her, her own show.
Thanks, Rick for a great example of guests in shows.  This story was ironic since, after Universal let Lindsay go as a contract actor, they had to "eat crow" and hire her back for big bucks after ABC had received a ton of letters when her character had been killed off in that 2-parter episode.  Fred Silverman, then ABC's president of programming, said "Get Lindsay Wagner!!" when his staff had to admit that Universal had fired her during the filming of the 1st 2-parter "Bionic Woman" in the 6M$M series.

The rest, as we bionic fans say, was history.

- Jeff "big LW fan, especially the 1st season of BW" W.

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#17 of 35 Joseph J.D

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Posted September 03 2009 - 01:41 AM

Cheers - Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Frasier Crane. 'Nuff said.

Edit:  I guess I should include Bebe Neuwirth as Dr. Lilith Sternin-Crane as well. /img/vbsmilies/htf/smile.gif


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#18 of 35 JanuaryMan

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Posted September 03 2009 - 04:40 AM

Marla Gibbs as Florence on The Jeffersons - intended as a one-shot character in the pilot whose closing line ("How come we overcame and nobody told me?") brought down the house. She quickly became a regular, and the other actress in the pilot, who was probably supposed to be a recurring character, never appeared again.

Richard Kline as Larry on Three's Company
Marvin Kaplan as Henry on Alice
Herb Edelman as Stanley on The Golden Girls


#19 of 35 todd s

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Posted September 03 2009 - 05:21 AM

Misha Collins (Castiel) on Supernatural.  I don't think his character was supposed to be permanent.  But, he became very popular and they kept him on.  This is from Wikipedia.  Which quotes from some news articles.



Quote
Fan response to the character has also been positive.Collins believed that the character would end up being just another role for him, and never expected such a reaction from the fans. According to him, "The enthusiasm that I’ve been met with is something new and not something I’m really prepared for." The character was originally intended for only a six episode story arc,but this has been rewritten, and he will now continue the rest of the season. In January 2009, Supernatural was renewed for a fifth season and Misha was promoted to a series regular, set to star in seventeen of the twenty-two episodes, something Collins believes to be mainly due to fan support.


 


Bring back John Doe! Or at least resolve the cliff-hanger with a 2hr movie or as an extra on a dvd release.

#20 of 35 Richard V

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Posted September 03 2009 - 06:34 AM

Rhoda -  Lorenzo Music who supplied the voice of "Carlton - the doorman" remain throughout most of the series after becoming very popular with the viewers due to his often hilarious takes.

Mary Tyler Moore - Betty White as Sue Ann Nivens, started out as a guest star, but was so wildly popular that she became an "unofficial" regular.

Gunsmoke - Ken Curtis as Festus, started out as a one shot guest, and started out as a trouble making bad guy, but evolved into an upstanding side kick for Marshal Dillon.

24 -  Mary Lynn Rajskub as Chloe O'Brien, started out as a computer nerd genius and was planned as a short stint character, however fans clamored for her to become a regular and her role was made a permanent part of the show.



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