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Credit: The CW

10 genre shows that lost their leads like Batwoman: Here's how they fared

Contributed by
May 20, 2020

Ruby Rose shocked the genre world yesterday by stepping away from the lead of The CW’s Batwoman, making her the first to exit a prime Arrowverse role on the cusp of a snowballing TV career. With Rose no longer playing Kate Kane, Warner Bros. TV  is now on the hunt for another actor to take over the cowl.

While Rose issued a statement thanking those who’ve worked on the show, it still doesn’t answer the pressing questions of why she’s leaving and what the show will do in her absence.

“This was not a decision I made lightly as I have the utmost respect for the cast, crew and everyone involved with the show in both Vancouver and in Los Angeles,” Rose said in a statement, as she expressed her appreciation to the creative team involved.

But, despite the shock, this departure is not unprecedented. Genre shows have overcome similar casting problems throughout history, replacing leads and key players with new actors and finding varying success doing so. To get a good sense of the impact of this, SYFY WIRE has collected 10 instances of key characters being recast on genre shows — and taken a look at what happened next.

First, let’s start with the character of the moment:

Ruby Rose/Kate Kane/Batwoman

Why Rose left the titular role of Batwoman is still unclear, though reports indicate that it wasn’t because of her health (the actress revealed last year that she had suffered an injury on set). Could the convention and promotional schedule of the comic adaptation, perhaps, been one factor that influenced Rose's decision to decline a longer-term commitment?

Franchise fallout: We simply don’t know yet. Batwoman is already set for a second season at The CW, so the show will either have to recast the lead and find a new heroine for Gotham or take an incredibly different approach to its future.


 

Here’s how a handful of other genre shows handled losing some of their main actors over the course of their runs:

Andy Whitfield as Spartacus (Spartacus)

Source: Starz

Whitfield, diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after the production of the first season in March of 2010, needed to undergo immediate treatment.

Franchise fallout: Upon the original diagnosis, Starz greenlit the prequel series Spartacus: Gods of the Arena to bridge the gap between the first and delayed second season. However, Whitfield’s cancer returned and the actor tragically died before the show's planned sophomore outing. That second season, Spartacus: Vengeance, replaced Whitfield with Liam McIntyre (with Whitfield’s blessing) and met enough success to warrant a third season.

 

Julie Newmar as Catwoman (Batman)

Source: ABC

Newmar tackled Selina Kyle’s cat burglar during the first two seasons of the iconic ‘60s superhero show, but due to other interests and commitments (like the film Mackenna's Gold), she left to pursue other roles before Batman’s film and final season of the show — laying the groundwork for the character’s most iconic portrayers.

Franchise fallout: Eartha Kitt, who replaced Newmar for the show’s third season, gave the role a more serious, less silly flavor and broke ground as a black woman in the series. Both actresses' portrayals are well respected, but Kitt’s performance has perhaps influenced the character’s on-screen trajectory the most.

 

Michael Pitt as Mason Verger (Hannibal)

Source: NBC

One of Hannibal’s biggest foes over the course of Bryan Fuller’s NBC take on the cannibalistic forensic psychiatrist, Pitt gave Mason Verger plenty of freaky qualities during his portrayal over the second season of the show. However, Pitt departed for mysterious reasons (sources say it was his choice, not the show’s) before the third season.

Franchise fallout: Joe Anderson took over as the villain in Season 3, and by this time the character was so disfigured that some fans couldn’t even tell who had come out of the makeup chair. “Eaten by pigs” is quite a fitting way to make sure a character’s recasting isn’t immediately noticeable.

 

Dick York as Darrin Stephens (Bewitched)

Source: ABC

One of the first genre shows to tackle this problem, the show needed to give York a break simply because his health wasn’t holding up over five seasons of magical ABC television. He sustained a back injury on the set of the film They Came to Cordura, which was only exacerbated by the show’s schedule. Being married to a witch could take a toll on anyone.

Franchise fallout: After a collapse in the Season 5 episode "Daddy Does His Thing," York needed to leave the show. His replacement, Dick Sargent, played Stephens until Bewitched came to an end — a jarring and (at the time) unexplained change, but one enjoyed well enough for fans to endure through Season 8.

Michael Landes as Jimmy Olsen (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman)

Source: ABC

The ABC show that saw Dean Cain don Superman's cape faced a problem with one of comics’ more famous characters: Jimmy Olsen. The problem? Original actor Landes simply looked too much like Cain, who needed to be far and away the star of the DC proceedings. “They just thought that Michael looked too much like Dean,” said Justin Whalin, the actor who replaced him.

Franchise fallout: After the first season, Whalin took over for the remaining three seasons and gave the character a different take, more akin to the comics. His version, more silly and childlike (fitting with his more youthful appearance), stuck with fans and helped differentiate from the more serious heroes.

 

Beverley Owen as Marilyn Munster (The Munsters)

Source: CBS

Owen was over the classic monstrous CBS sitcom after the first season. She left the show, married producer Jon Stone (Sesame Street), and never looked back.

Franchise fallout: Pat Priest took over the role as the family’s ugly duckling (aka the only one who wouldn’t fit in with the Dark Universe) and played Marilyn for the rest of the show’s 70 episodes.

 

Luke Grimes as James Kent (True Blood)

Source: HBO

Amorous vampire Kent was way into Jessica over the course of the bloodsucking HBO show’s sixth season, but was going to be written as bisexual and have a romance with Nelsan Ellis’ Lafayette. Grimes, rather than play this through, left the show. “You quit your job because you don’t want to play a gay part? You make a big statement when you go, ‘I don’t want to play this part because it’s gay,'” Ellis said at the time. “You just made a statement, and it has ripple effects.”

Franchise fallout: True Blood and its fanbase were quite progressive and welcomed LGBTQ romances throughout the series. So when Grimes got dropped for Nathan Parsons in the seventh and final season, there was no love lost.

 

Ed Skrein as Daario Naharis (Game of Thrones)

Source: HBO

Skrein was no longer seeking the affections of the Mother of Dragons after the first few appearances of Daario Naharis during Game of Thrones’ third season. Why? Skrein said his “plan was to stay with Game of Thrones for the long haul ... but politics led to us parting ways.” The actor went on to many genre movies and shows ... but has stayed vague about his departure as the man who seduced Daenerys Targaryen.

Franchise fallout: Michiel Huisman, who took over the role through the HBO show’s sixth season, became a season regular and a well-loved hunk in a show full of fantasy dudes with flowing manes.

 

Various actors as The Doctor (Doctor Who)

Source: BBC

OK, maybe this one is cheating, considering that The Doctor is one of the biggest revolving doors in all of genre. The mysterious reincarnating Time Lord has recasting built into the character, meaning that the 13 Doctors have a bit of a different relationship with each other than some of the actors on this list. From William Hartnell to Peter Capaldi to David Tennant to Jodie Whittaker, Doctor Who’s lead has spanned personalities, ages, and genders — and every fan has their favorite.

Franchise fallout: While online debates will rage on forever about the best Doctor, Whittaker’s most recent take on the character has been the most high-profile simply because she gives a new feminine twist to the long-running sci-fi staple. But the verdict remains: The Doctor rules no matter who is playing them.

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