From Ward Cleaver to Cliff Huxtable, TV dads have always been part of the small screen family. But some of television’s most famous paternal roles almost didn’t happen. Check out this rundown of iconic TV dads who were almost played by other actors.
Archie Bunker, All in the Family
Carroll O’Connor played the bigoted patriarch of the Bunker clan on the ’70s sitcom All in the Family, but former child star Mickey Rooney was actually producer Norman Lear’s first choice for the role. In an interview with the Sun-Times, Lear said, “When I described Archie to him as a bigot and a racist, Mickey said, ‘They’re gonna kill you in the streets.’ He turned me down flat.”
Mike Brady, The Brady Bunch
The story of a man named Brady almost had a different ending. Robert Reed played the beloved dad of six on the classic ABC sitcom about a blended family, but Gene Hackman was the original choice to play Mike Brady. Creator Sherwood Schwartz wasn’t able to convince network execs to hire the movie actor, which is probably a good thing because can you picture The French Connection star ever doing this?
Danny Tanner, Full House
The widowed dad of three was played by comedian Bob Saget, but the Full House pilot featured another actor in the role of Windex-wielding Danny Tanner. John Posey played Daddy Tanner in the pilot episode, but he told Yahoo TV, “I later found out that Bob Saget and Paul Reiser were the two guys they were after first, and they were both unavailable. They were obligated to other shows.” When Saget became available, the pilot was reshot: “Exact same pilot, with [Saget wearing] the exact same outfit, which is weird.” Posey said. Saget later revealed he felt guilt about replacing Posey in the series.
Jay Pritchett, Modern Family
Ed O’Neill has been nominated for three Emmys for his role as wealthy closet designer Jay Pritchett on the ABC sitcom Modern Family, but the part of the Pritchett patriarch was first offered to Craig T. Nelson. So why did Nelson turn down a starring role in the ensemble series? “I’m old enough to say it, I guess. [Money] was it,” he told Access Hollywood. “I just said, ‘You know what? I’ve been doing this too long.’… I just felt disrespected, to tell you the truth.”
Jim Walsh, Beverly Hills 90210
James Eckhouse was the perfect papa for Brenda and Brandon Walsh on Beverly Hills 90210, but Ferris Bueller’s dad was almost signed for the ’90s teen drama. Actor Lyman Ward was hired as the original Jim Walsh, but he was replaced after shooting scenes for the first episodes. Eckhouse later deemed Ward a “wonderful actor…it just didn’t quite match the rest of the family.”
Howard Cunningham, Happy Days
The hit ’70s show was actually a spinoff of a 1972 Love, American Style episode called “Love and the Happy Days,” in which the role of hardware store owner Howard Cunningham was played by character actor Harold Gould. But when the sitcom was picked up by ABC, Gould was abroad working on a play, so Tom Bosley was cast in the role. Gould once said he also turned down the role of Mr. C. because he didn’t want to shave his beard.