ABC Casting a tv show is a weird kind of alchemy, where you don’t know who’s really going to resonate with the audience, and how well they’ll perform. Sometimes, you’ll think someone is perfect, and they’ll stink up the joint. Other times, you’ll hire someone for a guest spot, and they’ll steal the show.
Frankly, I’m grateful that these guys were so awesome at their minor roles, because I can’t imagine these shows without the actors that played the characters.
NBC Sophia Petrillo
The sassy Golden Girl played by Estelle Getty wasn’t written as a series regular. She was only supposed to show up once, but that first appearance, full of blunt wisecracks and pure hilarity, convinced the writers to keep her. The then became a core part of the show as Dorothy’s mother, and even joined two other spin-offs; The Golden Palace & Empty Nest.
For the majority of the fans of the show, there is no show without the Winchester’s angel buddy. Originally, the actor was only signed on for a 3-episode arc. He proved to be so popular that he got another arc, and then another, and became a series regular in the seventh season.
ABC The Fonz
Originally, Henry Winkler’s greaser character was only supposed to be a secondary side character that acted as comic relief and as a foil to Richie. Instead, he became more popular than the original characters and became the focus of the show after Ron Howard left.
Ayyyy, sit on that, Richie!
CBS Frasier Crane
As one of the longest-running TV characters of all time, Dr. Crane was only supposed to show up in 3 episodes of Cheers’ third season. Instead, he started having regular appearances and became a member of the cast in the 5th season.
He then went on to have his own spin-off show, and even on an episode of
South Park Studios Butters Stotch
Starting off as a background character on the show, by the third season, the writers started giving him lines. When Kenny was killed for good a few seasons later, Butters became the new fourth friend and the butt of the gang’s jokes.
Even though Kenny’s come back, Butter’s is still a key part of the show, and frankly, I can’t get enough of the guy. He’s my favourite.
NBC Andy Bernard
Ed Helms was only supposed to show up in 10 episodes, when Jim moved to the Stamford branch. Instead, he proved himself to be a breakout character and ended up becoming a series regular, and even took Michael Scott’s job at one point.
ABC/CBS Steve Urkel
When you think of this show, I bet you’d consider that Urkel was the star of the show, right? Not always. He was meant to be an annoying guest star and a source of conflict, but everyone loved him and it shot the ratings though the roof.
NBC Josiah Bartlet
The West Wing
This might come as a surprise, but the President of the United States was never supposed to be a main character on the show. It was meant to be about the Office itself, and the staffers that work in the White House. But when Martin Sheen gave his grand speech at the end of the pilot, they realized that he had to be a regular cast member.
Saban Tommy Oliver
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
Tommy was only supposed to show up in the first season as a minor character, but instead, became the most important and prominent figure in the franchise. He’s had the most appearances as a ranger, as well as the most colour changes (Green, White, Red and Black).
NBC Dean Pelton
In the earlier episodes of the show, he was a very lightly recurring character on the show, and was only heard or seen briefly. As he got to know the gang, and as the character became more popular, he became a main character.
ABC Benjamin Linus
Originally, Michael Emerson was only supposed to play a captured Other by the assumed name of Henry Gale for 3 episodes. But he was so compelling and solid in the role that the entire mythos of the Others was changed to make him their leader. Thus an iconic, and sympathetic, villain was created.
AMC Jesse Pinkman
Jesse was only supposed to be in a few episodes until creator Vince Gilligan saw his dynamic with Bryan Cranston, and decided to make the show about the relationship between the two men.
Warner Bros. TV Mimi Bobeck
The Drew Carey Show
Mimi was only supposed to show up in the pilot as a badly made-up woman applying to work in the make-up department. Instead, she became Drew’s frenemy and a source of hilarity.
ABC Topanga Lawrence
Boy Meets World
Originally, Topanga was supposed to be a middle-school hippie chick, who was an outsider to the group, appearing in a handful of episodes. Instead, she became a key part of Corey’s past and future, and demonstrated a relationship we all aspired to.