Skip To Content

    23 TV Characters Who Started As Cameos But Were Bumped To Starring Roles

    Breaking Bad wouldn't have been the same if they killed off Jesse!

    1. Andy Dwyer was only supposed to appear in six episodes of Parks and Rec before Ann kicked him to the curb, but Chris Pratt was "too funny to not use," according to the show's creator Michael Schur.

    Andy standing next to Leslie's desk in "Parks and Rec"
    Colleen Hayes / NBC/ Courtesy Everett Collection

    2. Gunther, the iconic bleach-blonde Central Perk barista, was promoted to a supporting role on Season 2 of Friends despite originally being just a background character.

    Gunther talking to Rachel Green in Central Perk
    NBCUniversal / Courtesy Everett Collection

    3. Jesse Pinkman was supposed to die in the Season 1 finale of Breaking Bad, but creator Vince Gilligan flipped the script and kept him around for the show's five-season run.

    AMC / Via giphy.com

    4. Summer Roberts was intended to be a guest-starring role on The O.C. However, Rachel Bilson nailed the part and was bumped to a series regular before the end of Season 1.

    Summer standing in her dorm room on "The O.C."
    Michael Desmond / WB / Courtesy Everett Collection

    5. Andy Bernard was only supposed to appear in an eight-episode arc as the cocky antagonist on The Office. Writers had so much fun crafting stories for Ed Helms that he became a series regular in 2007.

    Michael Scott and Andy Bernard on "The Office"
    Paul Drinkwater / NBC / Courtesy Everett collection

    6. Topanga Lawrence was supposed to be Cory's hippie classmate in a few episodes of Boy Meets World, but her character became too popular to write off.

    Cory giving Topanga a thumbs up
    Touchstone Television / Courtesy Everett Collection

    7. Despite serving as the show's protagonist for six seasons, Jack Shephard was supposed to die in the pilot of Lost.

    NBCUniversal / Via media.giphy.com

    8. Dr. Frasier Crane was only meant to appear in a few episodes of Cheers. However, Kelsey Grammer's acting chops earned him a series-regular position in addition to a spinoff that lasted 11 seasons!

    Frasier and Lilith having a drink in "Cheers"
    NBC / Courtesy Everett Collection

    9. Dr. Arizona Robbins was given a three-episode arc on Grey's Anatomy, but she stuck around for seven seasons!

    Arizona lying against the plane that crashed
    Craig Sjodin / ABC / Courtesy Everett Collection

    10. The diner owner in Stars Hollow was originally written as a female character named Daisy on Gilmore Girls. When creator Amy Sherman-Palladino received a note to add more men to the series, Scott Patterson was cast instead as just a guest star. His chemistry with Lauren Graham’s Lorelai Gilmore was so strong, he became her primary romantic interest on the series.

    Luke and Lorelai on "Gilmore Girls"
    Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

    11. Bedelia Du Maurier, Hannibal Lecter’s psychiatrist, was written as a cameo for Gillian Anderson on Hannibal, but writers were inspired by Anderson's performance and Bedelia became a series regular in Season 3.

    Gillian Anderson as Bedelia waiting for a train
    Brooke Palmer / NBC / Courtesy Everett Collection

    12. Steve Urkel was only supposed to appear in one episode of Family Matters, but audiences wanted to see more of the Winslows’ nerdy neighbor, so Jaleel White was cast as a character on the series.

    ABC / Warner Archive / Via giphy.com

    13. Felicity Smoak was intended to appear on one episode of Arrow. Yet her role was quickly expanded as she became the primary love interest for Oliver Queen.

    Felicity sitting at a computer
    CW Network / Courtesy Everett Collection

    14. President Bartlet was supposed to be a supporting role, only appearing in four or five episodes per season of The West Wing. Yet Martin Sheen played the commander in chief on Aaron Sorkin's political drama for seven years.

    Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet standing at his limo with the presidential seal
    NBC / Courtesy Everett Collection

    15. Detective Odafin Tutuola, played by rapper Ice-T, was only meant to be on four episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Thankfully for fans of the show, Ice-T has appeared in 474 episodes and is still going strong!

    NBCUniversal / Via giphy.com

    16. Dr. Camille Saroyan was supposed to be killed off after a small story arc on Bones, but she ran the Jeffersonian lab for over 200 episodes!

    Dr. Brennan, Dr. Saroyan, and Dr. Hodgins standing around a human skeleton
    20thcentfox / Courtesy Everett Collection

    17. The Cigarette Smoking Man was meant to be a background role on The X-Files, but he quickly became the main antagonist to Agents Mulder and Scully.

    The Cigarette Smoking Man smoking a cigarette
    20thcentfox / Courtesy Everett Collection

    18. Colin O'Donoghue was hired to play Captain Hook for four episodes of ABC's Once Upon a Time. His chemistry with Jennifer Morrison's Emma Swan was unmatched, and he was written in as a series regular.

    Captain Hook on "Once Upon a Time"
    ABC / Everett Collection

    19. The Tipton Hotel's lovable bellhop, Esteban Julio Ricardo Montoya de la Rosa Ramírez, was only going to appear in a few episodes of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, but he was promoted to a series regular after his successful performance in the episode “The Ghost in Suite 613.”

    Esteban smiling next to Zack and Cody
    Disney Channel / Courtesy Everett Collection

    20. Coconut Head wasn't supposed to have lines on Nickelodeon's Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide. Yet he became a fan favorite and stayed for the duration of the series.

    Nickelodeon / Via giphy.com

    21. The Janitor on Scrubs was a small role intended to be a figment of J.D.'s imagination, but as the show got picked up for more seasons, creator Bill Lawrence dropped that storyline and promoted Neil Flynn to a series regular.

    The Janitor holding a broom and a photo of a baby on "Scrubs"
    ABC / Courtesy Everett Collection

    22. Stacey Dillsen, the Pacific Coast Academy student with a notable lisp on Zoey 101, was only supposed to be in one episode, but execs loved her and she stayed on for 30 more!

    Stacey holding up a house made of cotton swabs
    Nickelodeon / Paramount+

    23. And finally, Misha Collins signed on to play Castiel for three episodes of Supernatural but ended up spending 12 years as the trench coat–wearing angel.

    Sam, Dean, and Castiel on "Supernatural"
    CW Network / Courtesy Everett Collection

    TV and Movies

    Get all the best moments in pop culture & entertainment delivered to your inbox.

    Newsletter signup form