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The Real Reason These Child Stars Were Recast

Sometimes a character is so important to a series that the show ends rather than recasting them with a new actor. "Punky Brewster" ending when Soleil Moon Frye hit puberty hard and began developing too quickly to continue playing a little girl is just one such example. 

Other times, an important character is essentially written out of the series. This is precisely what happened to Lisa Bonet when she got pregnant with her first husband, Lenny Kravitz. Bill Cosby worried that the eldest Huxtable child getting pregnant young would sully the image of the Cosby family in "The Cosby Show" and Bonet's spin-off "A Different World." As a solution, the character was sent to Africa and written out of both series. Although Bonet returned to "The Cosby Show," it didn't last. Ironically, it was Cosby who would ultimately tarnish the show's legacy.

When a character is less central to the series, they are often recast with a new actor, so the series can continue. This happens a lot with child stars because they grow up quickly, and sometimes the series needs to create the illusion of time passing more slowly. Other times, a series might need a character to age quickly for a time jump. Whenever a role is recast, speculation swirls about what happened behind the scenes. Stick with us as we uncover the real reason these child stars were recast.

Anna-Kat from American Housewife

Julia Butters was the first actress to play youngest daughter Anna-Kat Otto in 90 episodes of "American Housewife" between 2016 and 2020, before being recast with Giselle Eisenberg in Season 5. Eisenberg began her career at just five years old and starred in several film and television series before joining the cast of the ABC comedy. Butters left the series to pursue other opportunities.

After Quentin Tarantino noticed Butters in the family comedy, he cast her in "Once Upon a Time In Hollywood" while she was still working on the television series. This breakthrough role introduced Butters to an even larger audience, and the young actress set her sights on a film career. After working with a legendary director like Tarantino, she wanted to work with another legend. "I want to be in a Spielberg film," Butters told The Hollywood Reporter.

Since leaving "American Housewife" Butters has worked with numerous A-list actors, such as Ana de Armas, Ryan Gosling, and Chris Evans in Netflix's "The Gray Man." Butters starred with Oscar-winner Michelle Williams in Steven Spielberg's semi-autobiographical Oscar-nominated film "The Fabelmans" as a fictionalized version of Spielberg's older sister, Anne. Butters also stars in the upcoming supernatural horror film, "Queen of Bones," which hits theaters in 2024.

Ann from Arrested Development

If you don't remember Ann from "Arrested Development," that was kind of the point. The child actress Alessandra Torresani originally played George Michael's girlfriend Ann Veal in Season 1 of "Arrested Development." As a joke, the writers of the quirky comedy series recast Ann in Season 2 to play up how truly forgettable the character was. Torresani didn't let being recast throw her off her game. She went on to have a fruitful career in television, working on series such as "Bones," "Lucifer," "American Horror Story," and "The Big Bang Theory."

The role of Ann was recast with Mae Whitman in Season 2, who went on to "Good Girls" fame. Ultimately, the joke was on Whitman, because they decided she should continue to play the role for the rest of the series rather than recasting Ann in Season 3. "And then they stuck with me, which I feel like is a real insult. They were like, 'No, no, you're making the whole not-memorable thing work, we'll just go with that.'" Whitman shared on PeopleTV's Couch Surfing (per Yahoo! News).

Becky Connor from Roseanne

Perhaps one of the better-known recasting of a child actor happened when Lecy Goranson, who played Becky in the hit sitcom "Roseanne," left the series partway through Season 5 to go to Vassar College. The series contemplated writing Becky out of the series when she eloped with Mark and moved away. Sarah Chalke ultimately took on the role of Becky for Season 6 and Season 7.

It isn't uncommon for child actors to be recast when they decide to take a break from acting to pursue higher education. What makes the recasting of Becky Connor unique is that Goranson actually returned to the series repeatedly. After a couple of years away at college, Goranson wanted to come back, although she didn't have full availability. For a time, both actresses shared the role, before Chalke took over again in Season 9.

The writers of "Roseanne" had fun with the casting change and multiple characters made comments, some veiled and others blatant about other television recasting, while poking fun at the suspension of disbelief required for the audience to accept these changes. When "Roseanne" was rebooted, Goranson came back as Becky, and Chalke was cast as Andrea, a new character who approached Becky about being a surrogate.

Colleen Cooper from Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman

The part of Colleen Cooper, Dr. Quinn's (Jane Seymour) adopted daughter on "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman," was recast when the original actress, Erika Flores, left the series midway through Season 3. Flores starred in 59 episodes of the Western series, but Jessica Bowman took over the role for the rest of the series and the subsequent TV movies. Some fans of the series weren't happy with the change and even wrote to CBS to voice their disapproval of the recasting.

Although there were rumors circulated by fans that Flores left the series over a salary dispute, the consensus is that Flores left the series for personal reasons. At the time of the recasting, a spokeswoman for CBS stated, "The producers made a statement that her departure was by mutual agreement and that they honored her request to leave the show" (per Deseret News). Considering Flores hasn't acted since her last role in one episode of "House" in 2009, it seems that she left acting behind as she grew up, as many child actors do.

Dora the Explorer has been recast twice

Kathleen Herles was the original voice of "Dora the Explorer" in 102 episodes of the series. Although Herles admitted it was sometimes challenging to maintain the high-pitched voice she used for Dora, Herles told Entertainment Weekly, "I would love to do it as long as it's running, and as long as I still can." Once Herles graduated from high school and went to Pace College, the role was recast.

Caitlin Sanchez became the next Dora. "When my mother called me on the phone and told me I got [the part], I really didn't believe it at first," Sanchez told The Los Angeles Times. Despite her enthusiasm about becoming Dora, the role was recast after just 35 episodes. Sanchez was fired when her voice changed after hitting puberty. Sanchez then sued Nickelodeon, and the lawsuit made some pretty serious allegations regarding their conduct in hiring minor performers.

"The claims being made are baseless. Unfortunately, Caitlin's voice changed, and she was no longer able to portray the Dora character, as happened with the actress who originated the role." Nickelodeon shared in a statement (per The Hollywood Reporter). "Caitlin's contract was extensively negotiated through her agent and in compliance with her union. She was well-compensated for her work and for personal appearances." Much like Herles, Sanchez hasn't acted since playing Dora. Fátima Ptacek is the most recent voice actor to take on the role of Dora.

Jackie Geary from The Goldbergs

Former Disney alumni Rowan Blanchard originally played Jackie Geary in 11 episodes of Season 4 and 5 of "The Goldbergs." In Season 6, Jackie was recast with Alexis G. Zall, and Jackie was given a jolting goth makeover to obscure the recasting. There was much speculation about what led to this recasting, and fans were not happy. "I did not recast anyone. The actress [Blanchard] passed for the season," show creator, Adam F. Goldberg posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

Blanchard, who rose to prominence on Disney's "Girl Meets World," continued working in film and television and recently landed a recurring role on TNT's adaptation of "Snowpiercer." Zall ultimately only played Jackie for nine episodes of "The Goldbergs." Zall has continued acting but seems more focused on her work as a YouTuber, writer, and director dedicated to creating a platform for queer stories.

Jesus from The Fosters

Jesus from "The Fosters" was recast when Jake T. Austin left the popular series after only two seasons. People thought it was a mistake for this Disney alum to leave such a promising series, and there was speculation that bad behavior may have led to him leaving the series. Initially, viewers speculated Jesus was being written out of the series because Austin's announcement came on the heels of a Season 2 finale featuring Jesus getting in a serious car accident.

Austin tweeted, "I'm honored to have been a part of such a groundbreaking series, but I personally want to let you know that my time on the show..." before adding in another post, "has come to an end. Thank you for letting me be a part of your family, it's been a pleasure." Austin left the series because he felt his role was being sidelined, and he wanted to be free to take on more meaty roles.

Austin was replaced by Noah Centineo, who went on to break hearts in "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" before moving on to more adult roles in Netflix's "The Recruit" and "Black Adam." Although Austin's career trajectory seemed to suffer after leaving "The Fosters," don't count him out: Austin recently announced he would return to the "Wizards of Waverly Place" reboot alongside David Henrie and Selena Gomez.

Kaitlin Cooper from The O.C.

Shailene Woodley originally played Marissa Cooper's little sister in Season 1 of "The O.C." But when Marissa's little sister Kaitlin came back from boarding school in Season 3, she was a little older, a lot more manipulative, and was played by Willa Holland. Woodley has become a huge star and has garnered much recognition for her acting chops, leading some of us to think "The O.C." missed out on the talent Woodley could have brought to the role of Kaitlin.

Kaitlin was recast because the showrunners wanted to age up the character for the storylines they wanted to explore in Season 3 and Woodley was still a little girl. "We had an idea to send her away and then, a couple of years later, the plan was to bring her back," show creator Josh Schwartz told The Huffington Post while looking back at the series during a 10th anniversary interview. "The version of Kaitlin Cooper that we were going to bring back to the show was a little bit older than Shailene would've been able to achieve on her own and was kind of a very different character, which Willa was great for." For Woodley's part, she explained in a 2020 WIRED interview that although Holland was only a few months older than her, she "hadn't gone through puberty yet," which would have made it difficult for the type of storylines that they had envisioned for the character.

Mateo from Jane the Virgin

Mateo, Jane's son in "Jane the Virgin," has gone through a couple of recasting. The series employed a time-jump, necessitating Mateo be recast from a baby to an adorable four-year-old, played by Joseph Sanders for 11 episodes in Season 3. But when the poster for Season 4 dropped, it was clear Mateo had been recast again, and would be portrayed by Elias Janssen, who continued in the role for 36 episodes. 

Although some fans were sad about the recasting, even taking to Twitter to voice their heartbreak, Sanders' mother was quick to let fans know that working on "Jane the Virgin" was a positive experience for Sanders. "He loved playing Mateo on #JaneTheVirgin very much!!" Sanders' mother posted, adding how much they loved the cast, crew, and everyone involved. Sanders was simply too busy with school and being a little boy to commit to another year of filming.

Meg from Family Guy

Lacey Chabert, who became quite famous for her roles in "Mean Girls" and "Party of Five," was Meg Griffith in Season 1 of "Family Guy," before being recast with Mila Kunis. There has been much speculation over the years about why Chabert didn't continue voicing Meg after her run in Season 1 and occasional episodes in Season 2.

Show creator, Seth MacFarlane, added to the confusion — or maybe he was just confused. "I think there was a mistake in her contract, and I guess she had not intended to be involved for, like, the full run of the show. I don't even remember. To be honest, I don't really, to this day, know what it was," MacFarlane told IGN, adding, "It was nothing –- there was no tension or anything."

Chabert laid the confusion to rest when she admitted she left the series and had no regrets. "I actually left the show of my own accord. And only because I was in school and doing 'Party Of Five' at the time," Chabert told GameSpy in 2006. "But I think the show is hilarious, and don't have a grudge against her [Kunis] at all. I think she's a great actress."

The Griswold kids in the National Lampoon's Vacation franchise

Anthony Michael Hall originally played the part of Russ Griswold in the epic family comedy "National Lampoon's Vacation." Hall declined to return to the second movie to star in "Weird Science." This was a smart move for Hall's burgeoning film career, and he became one of the most famous teen actors of the '80s. When the "European Vacation" director learned Hall wouldn't be returning for the sequel, Amy Heckerling opted to recast both Rusty and Audrey (Dana Barron) in the sequel. The series suffered because of this decision, as the performances and ages were inconsistent in the subsequent movies.

Blake Lively's older brother Jason Lively played Rusty in "European Vacation," while Dana Hill played Audrey. This tradition carried on with "Christmas Vacation," when Johnny Galecki became Rusty long before "Roseanne" and "The Big Bang Theory" made him famous and Juliette Lewis played Audrey. In the oft-forgotten "Vegas Vacation," Ethan Embry played Rusty, and Marisol Nichols took on the role of Audrey. Recasting the children became a running joke, with Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) quipping about how he couldn't recognize his children anymore.

Teenie from Big Love

Jolean Wejbe originally played Teenie from HBO's "Big Love" in 26 episodes, but was recast. "Because our show is structured so tightly, we usually don't have year-breaks between seasons in show time. We never have time for our characters to age with our actors, which is OK generally," series creator Will Scheffer told the Los Angeles Times, adding, "Unfortunately our Teenie — our cute little pixie — just shot up. By the time she was 13 playing 11, she started to become tall and looked like she was turning into a 15-year-old." 

Bella Thorne took over the role for 5 episodes in Season 4 and Season 5. Meanwhile, Wejbe hasn't acted since being recast on "Big Love," instead studying computer science at California State University, Northridge. Thorne, who became a Disney alumni, went on to have a prolific career as a model, singer, actor, writer, and producer.

Zach Goodweather from The Strain

In Season 1 of Guillermo del Toro's apocalyptic series "The Strain," Dr. Ephraim Goodweather's son Zach was played by Ben Hyland. In Season 2, the character was taken over by Max Charles. Executive producer/showrunner Carlton Cuse told Deadline the character was recast "due to some specific story needs we have downstream. We are sad to see Ben go. He is a very talented actor and a wonderful person. We will all miss him and thank him for his great work." Some speculate Hyland's acting wasn't strong enough for the upcoming storylines the showrunner referenced in his statement.

But fans on a Reddit thread absolutely hated the new Zach, comparing him to the often-reviled characters of Lizzie and Carl from "The Walking Dead." Hyland hasn't acted since starring as Zach in "The Strain" and didn't appear to make a statement about why his role was recast, leaving us to believe the showrunner's statement. Charles played Zach for 33 episodes, and has done significant voice acting since starring in "The Strain."

Lily Tucker-Pritchett from Modern Family

If you were an original fan of "Modern Family" you probably noticed that Cam (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell's (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) adopted daughter Lily was recast in Season 3. Lily was first played by twins, Ella and Jaden Hiller. The twins' mom Michelle told Women's Day, "The girls were in 36 episodes throughout Seasons 1 and 2 — they didn't have an agent, so they got $200 per girl per day. All the money they earned went into their college funds."

Michelle went on to explain to Women's Day that "Halfway through Season 2 their personalities had started to develop, and it was really clear to us that they weren't enjoying their time on set," so the family told the producers that the twins would not return for the next season. After leaving the series, "Ella and Jaden are enjoying new toddler adventures in swimming, dance, gymnastics, and rock climbing," Michelle told People. "They are happy with the freedom of being 3 [years old]!"

In Season 3, Aubrey Anderson-Emmons, who played Lily for 179 episodes between 2011 and 2020, replaced the twins and made the character her own. Although the actress hasn't been in anything since the series wrapped, she is active with the YouTube channel, FoodMania Review, which she started with her mom. Anderson-Emmons seems to be enjoying life as a normal teenager after working for so many years as a child actress.