On the Anniversary of a Singularly Unsuccessful Switcheroo, We Count Down 10 of Soaps’ Most Unfortunate Recasts Ever
You can’t always catch lightning in a bottle twice.
It happens. Popular actors leave their soap-opera gigs all the time, in so doing leaving their flummoxed executive producers to answer an age-old question: to recast or not to recast?
When the powers that be do attempt to replace the departed performer, it can not only work but work brilliantly. Does anyone remember that somebody played The Young and the Restless’ Smilin’ Jack Abbott before Peter Bergman took over? (Because Terry Lester did, for years.) Can you even picture the pre-Leslie Charleson Monica Quartermaine on General Hospital (that would be Patsy Rahn) or, for that matter, the Chad DiMera who came before Days of our Lives‘ Billy Flynn (Casey Diedrick)? Didn’t think so.
But it just isn’t always possible to replicate the success of the original actor/role combo. For instance, on July 4, 1985 — a whopping 36 years ago today — Search for Tomorrow attempted to pass off Louan Gideon as Liza Sentell, the beloved heroine that Sherry Mathis had already played for five years. Not only were viewers unimpressed, the whole soap was cancelled a year later! (Remember it in better times via this photo gallery.)
In (dis)honor of this unfortunate anniversary, Soaps.com has compiled a list of 10 of the most poorly-received recasts in soap history, from a heartthrob who sorta flat-lined to a resurrection that was dead on arrival, from a blonde bombshell who never quite detonated to a hellcat who lacked the claws to scratch anyone’s eyes out. Just click on the photo gallery below to, if you will, repeat these mistakes.
<p>After the mobster’s first death in 1989, the show resurrected Ian Buchanan’s character with Greg Beecroft (formerly Tony on <em>Guiding Light</em>) in the role — a move that so royally ticked off fans that Duke was killed off again and then said not to have been Duke in the first place!</p>
<p>You just don’t mess with a classic — and Louise Sorel, folks, is a classic. So, despite the fact that the show picked a wonderful actress to replace her in 2019 — <em>One Life to Live</em> Emmy winner Robin Strasser (Dorian) — the recast didn’t take, and Sorel was brought back when Vivian returned in 2020.</p>
<p>Winsor Harmon admitted that <a href="https://soaps.sheknows.com/the-bold-and-the-beautiful/news/50368/winsor-harmon-talks-leaving-bb-as-thorne-and-has-a-message-for-fans/">“it was a bit of a shocker”</a> when he was fired in 2017 after two decades. And he wasn’t the only one taken aback. Fans who’d gotten used to him as Jeff Tracta’s successor did a double, then a triple take when suddenly his part was played by Ingo Rademacher, who split in 2019 to return to <em>General Hospital</em> as Jax.</p>
<p>Lachlan Buchanan’s gone on to a promising career in primetime (in 2020 alone, he appeared on <em>Station 19</em>, <em>Grey’s Anatomy</em> and <em>Dynasty</em>). But he was a flop in the role that Michael Mealor has since made very much his own. Come to think of it, Buchanan’s predecessor — <a href="https://soaps.sheknows.com/the-young-and-the-restless/news/568270/hartley-sawyer-the-flash-fired/">disgraced <em>Flash</em> co-star</a> Hartley Sawyer — had also been a short-lived dud as Kyle.</p>
<p>The ABC soap should’ve let our memories of supercouple Greg and Jenny die when it killed off Kim Delaney. Instead, following the departure of Laurence Lau, they recast Greg with Jack Armstrong, who <span style="text-decoration: line-through">you may also</span> there’s absolutely no chance you’ll remember as one of the shorter-lived Kevin Buchanans on <em>One Life to Live</em>.</p>
<p>We get it — it’s hard to fill a legend’s stilettos. <em>Y&R</em> kinda pulled it off when it first replaced Eileen Davidson with lookalike Brenda Epperson; if you only glanced at your screen, you could almost think they were the same actress. But subsequent Ashley Shari Shattuck — at the time Mrs. Ronn Moss (then Ridge, <em>The Bold and the Beautiful</em>) failed to strike a match, much less catch fire.</p>
<p>Nowadays we think of Jess Walton and only Jess Walton as Billy’s Mommie Dearest. But in the 1970s and ’80s, Brenda Dickson owned the role of the man-eating manicurist. When she exited stage right in 1980, first Bond Gideon, then Deborah Adair (later Kate, <em>Days of our Lives</em>) tried to fill in…but fell so flat that Dickson was lured back three years later.</p>
<p>When the character was introduced in 1994, she was played — briefly — by future <em>Parenthood</em> star Monica Potter. Then somehow the show got it in its head that the only actress with the chops to play Nick’s true love was <em>Playboy</em> Playmate Heidi Mark; she lasted eight weeks before <em>Y&R</em> finally found a Sharon with staying power: eventual Emmy winner Sharon Case.</p>
<p>As stunt-casting ideas go, it wasn’t half bad: In 2002, the CBS soap hired <em>Dynasty</em>‘s Alexis, Joan Collins, to play <em>its</em> Alexis, Alexandra. Trouble was, the rigors of daytime were far greater than the rigors of primetime — and fans weren’t pleased to see previous Alex Marj Dusay kicked to the curb, either — so halfway through her six-month contract, Collins quit, only to be replaced by the actress she’d replaced.</p>
<p>Don’t blame Darius McCrary for this recast’s failure — the guy’s a fine actor who brought a cool edge to the role of Malcolm. Unfortunately, predecessor Shemar Moore had been so <em>extraordinarily</em> popular in the part that no way, no how were viewers going to accept anybody else playing it. In fact, after McCrary’s two-year stint ended, Moore came back for not one but two visits. </p>
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