"Breaking Bad" wouldn't be the same with anyone other than Bryan Cranston as Walter White; Sarah Jessica Parker made the role of Carrie Bradshaw on "Sex and the City"; and Michael Chiklis is "The Shield's" Vic Mackey. But what if someone else had taken these roles?
We thought we'd round up some big TV roles that almost looked very different, on the heels of some huge casting-that-almost-was news: "The Shield" creator Shawn Ryan tweeting that the network originally wanted Eric Stoltz to play the corrupt leading LAPD officer, and that both Matthew Broderick and John Cusack were up for the lead on "Breaking Bad" before Cranston was cast.
Not only was "Lost" good guy Jack Shepard supposed to die in the pilot, but he was also supposed to be played by someone else. Another TV star turned down the role of Don Draper on "Mad Men" and Sarah Michelle Gellar originally auditioned to play Cordelia on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," while a recently divorced, fellow WB alum was the first pick to play the titular vampire slayer.
Click through our gallery to see more stars who turned down big TV roles:
Ray Liotta as Tony Soprano, "The Sopranos"
You'd think playing Tony Soprano would be an offer any actor couldn't refuse, but Ray Liotta<a href="http://entertainment.ca.msn.com/tv/gallery.aspx?cp-documentid=24861381&page=7" target="_hplink"> turned down the iconic role</a> to focus on his movie career. Instead, James Gandolfini nabbed the part, which kick-started TV's Golden Age and made "The Sopranos" look a lot less like "Goodfellas."
Bridget Fonda as Ally McBeal, "Ally McBeal"
Bridget Fonda was the first choice to play Ally McBeal and not Calista Flockhart. Fonda passed, however, and Flockhart made a name for herself on David E. Kelley's legal comedy/drama for the show's five seasons. Fonda focused more on her film career, including a role in "Lake Placid," another David E. Kelley piece.
Eric Stoltz as Vic Mackey, "The Shield"
Can you imagine anyone other than Michael Chiklis as "The Shield's" Vic Mackey? <a href="https://twitter.com/ShawnRyanTV/status/224744123318538240 https://twitter.com/ShawnRyanTV/status/224744123318538240" target="_hplink">According to show creator Shawn Ryan</a>, FX actually wanted Eric Stoltz for the part.
Gillian Anderson as Lady Cora, "Downton Abbey"
Imagine if Gillian Anderson ("The X-Files") had played Lady Cora on "Downton Abbey." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/15/gillian-anderson-downton-abbey_n_1346920.html" target="_hplink">Anderson admitted to <em>TV Guide Magazine</em></a> that she was offered the role, but passed. Elizabeth McGovern is now the wife of the Earl of Grantham and has already signed on for Season 4 and 5 of the critically-acclaimed drama.
Michael Richards as Adrian Monk, "Monk"
Michael Richards (the always around, but uninvited Kramer on "Seinfeld") was asked to play Adrian Monk when "Seinfeld" was coming to an end. Richards wasn't interested and without him, ABC passed on the show. USA picked it up and cast Tony Shaloub as the OCD detective on "Monk," a role that won him three Emmys.
Bonnie Hunt as Jamie Buchman, "Mad About You"
Paul Resier and Helen Hunt made an adorable couple on "Mad About You," but the role of Jamie Buchman almost went to funny lady Bonnie Hunt.
Craig T. Nelson as Jay Pritchett, "Modern Family"
Before Ed O'Neill became the patriarch of the Pritchett/Dunphy clan on "Modern Family," the role was offered to Craig T. Nelson (who is now playing a grandpa on "Parenthood"). <a href="http://www.accesshollywood.com/craig-t-nelson-admits-passing-on-modern-family-over-money-i-felt-disrespected_article_42817" target="_hplink">Nelson admitted to Access Hollywood that he turned down the role</a> because the paycheck wasn't big enough.
Whitney Houston as Sondra Huxtable, "The Cosby Show"
Whitney Houston's career might have been very different had she not turned down the role of Sondra (played by Sabrina LeBeauf) on the hit '80s comedy "The Cosby Show." <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2101100/Whitney-Houston-turned-lead-role-The-Cosby-Show.html " target="_hplink"> "Cosby" director Jay Sandrich told The Daily Mail</a> that Houston stopped just short of signing on the dotted line to play Sondra. "We gather in this room and there are kids from New York and Los Angeles and they are all signing their contracts, and this girl who we brought from New York said 'I can't sign this contract,'" he recalled. "And I said 'Why?' She said, 'Well, I want to be a singer ... I can't be in every show ... I have to be in every tour.'"
Stephen Tobolowsky as Al Borland, "Home Improvement"
Stephen Tobolowsky is one of those amazingly memorable character actors who seems to pop up in everything, but when scheduling conflicts kept him from shooting the "Home Improvement" pilot, the role of Tim "The Toolman" Taylor's sidekick Al Borland went to Richard Karn.
Dana Delany as Carrie Bradshaw, "Sex and the City"
Dana Delany had the opportunity for a big role on "Sex and the City" in its early beginnings. She turned down the role of Carrie Bradshaw (and also the role of Bree in "Desperate Housewives"), and instead Sarah Jessica Parker took the role for "Sex's" six seasons and two movies. Delany's explanation? "I didn't want to be in a show about sex," <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2030221/I-Bree-Carrie-Bradshaw-Ive-regrets.html " target="_hplink">she told <em>The Daily Mail</em>. </a>
Tom Selleck as Mitch Buchannon, "Baywatch"
Rumor has it that the role that put red bathing suits and David Hasselhoff on the map was originally offered to Tom Selleck, who turned it down because he didn't want to be seen as a sex symbol.
Sandra Bernhard as Miranda Hobbes, "Sex and the City"
Sandra Bernhard ("The King of Comedy") never wanted to play Miranda Hobbes (the part went to Cynthia Nixon) even though she was reportedly offered the "Sex and the City" role. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/01/25/sandra-bernhard-sex-and-the-city_n_1230281.html?just_reloaded=1 http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/01/25/sandra-bernhard-sex-and-the-city_n_1230281.html?just_reloaded=1 " target="_hplink">During an interview with radio host Howard Stern, she said</a>, "First of all, you have to understand, when I was offered that role they were paying everybody $7,500 a week. The original script was terrible. Never in a million years. It had nothing to do with selling out, it just wasn't any good."
Thomas Jane as Don Draper, "Mad Men"
Jon Hamm is "Mad Men's" Don Draper, but it could have worked out differently. Thomas Jane ("Hung") almost played the ad-executive, <a href="http://www.wtfpod.com/podcast/episodes/episode_215_-_jon_hamm" target="_hplink">Hamm admitted as a guest on Marc Maron's WTF podcast</a>. As Hamm tells it, Jane's decision made sense at the time. "It was on a network that no one had heard of for scripted television, they went there to watch reruns of 'Diehard,' or whatever. And it's a very think-y show, which is all not necessarily high up on our current cultural needs," Hamm said in the podcast.
Jayne Mansfield as Ginger Grant, "Gilligan's Island"
It's been said that the role of Ginger Grant on "Gilligan's Island" was created for actress Jayne Mansfield, but she reportedly turned down the part, which went to Tina Louise. Sadly, Mansfield was killed in a car accident at the age of 34 in 1967, which was coincidentally the last year the show was on the air.
Michael Keaton as Jack Shepard, "Lost"
It's widely known that in the original "Lost" pilot, Jack was slated to die. Obviously that changed before they shot the show, but so did the casting -- <a href="http://www.movieinsider.com/archive/5192/" target="_hplink">Michael Keaton, who'd originally been approached by J.J. Abrams, turned the role down</a> when he learned Jack would live, opening the door for Matthew Fox to take the gig.
Kristen Bell as Charlotte Lewis, "Lost"
Before Rebecca Mader took the role as one of the ill-fated "Lost"-ies, <a href="http://www.tvguide.com/news/lost-newbie-to-8462.aspx http://www.tvguide.com/news/lost-newbie-to-8462.aspx" target="_hplink">Kristen Bell was offered it</a> and turned it down to do a stint on "Broadway" and an arc on "Heroes."
Paul Giamatti as Michael Scott, "The Office"
Imagine if Paul Giamatti had worked at Dunder Mifflin's Scranton branch. Giamatti was reportedly pursued by NBC executives for the role of Michael Scott, but when Giamatti passed, Steve Carell was then chosen as "The Office's" leading man for seven seasons.
Pamela Anderson as Dana Scully, "The X-Files"
What would the "X-Files" sexual tension have been like if Scully was <a href="http://www.actressarchives.com/news/pamela-anderson-was-original-x-files-choice" target="_hplink">played by Pamela Anderson</a> instead of Gillian Anderson? We can't even bring ourselves to imagine that iconic role going to anyone else.
Matthew Broderick as Walter White, "Breaking Bad"
John Cusack or Matthew Broderick as Walter White? Too weird to imagine it now, but AMC wanted them as Walter, <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/breaking-bad-vince-gilligan-bryan-cranston-347082" target="_hplink">according to The Hollywood Reporter</a>. When both turned down the role, AMC went with Bryan Cranston as the drug-dealing, facial hair-growing chemistry teacher.
Katie Holmes as Buffy Summers, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
Imagine "Buffy" with Sarah Michelle Gellar as Cordelia (which she reportedly auditioned for originally) and <a href="http://entertainment.ca.msn.com/tv/gallery.aspx?cp-documentid=24861381&page=10 http://entertainment.ca.msn.com/tv/gallery.aspx?cp-documentid=24861381&page=10" target="_hplink">Katie Holmes as the vampire-slaying lead</a>. Rumor has it Holmes turned down the role of Buffy to finish high school. (She started "Dawson's Creek" the following year.)
Ryan Reynolds as Xander Harris, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
Buffy's friend (who sometimes wished he could have been more than that) was almost played by Ryan Reynolds. Nicholas Brendon got the role when Reynolds passed.
Lucy Lawless as Tammy 1, "Parks and Recreation"
Ron Swanson loves "Tammys" on "Parks and Recreation," and Lucy Lawless could have been one of them. Lawless was offered Tammy 1, Swanson's ex-wife, but couldn't take the role due to commitments to "Spartacus," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/07/lucy-lawless-parks-and-rec_n_1261022.html" target="_hplink">Lawless told The Huffington Post</a>. Instead, Patricia Clarkson drove Nick Offerman's small government-loving Swanson crazy in her "Parks and Rec" stint.
John Hawkes as The Governor, "The Walking Dead"
A rare case of honesty in Hollywood: Actor John Hawkes turned down a big role as The Governor on the upcoming third season of "The Walking Dead because, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/19/john-hawkes-the-walking-dead_n_1438992.html" target="_hplink">as he said</a>, "I just felt there would be someone else who could do it better." David Morrissey is the lucky guy.