We’ve touched upon the thorny issues of recasting in soap operas before on TV Today. As we stated then:
Of course, all soaps occasionally have to recast… While in a way, it’s more understandable that child actors may end up being replaced, when there are so many other pressures on them, it’s the adult transformations that require the most extreme suspensions of disbelief.
And things get even more confusing when the originally cast actor returns to the role…
At the time, I noted Dynasty’s Steven Carrington, who changed from Al Corley to Jack Coleman via extreme cosmetic surgery, and then back without any such device. We could also have mentioned the case of Miss Ellie in Dallas: played originally by Barbara Bel Geddes, the actress’ heart surgery meant that the role was given in 1984 to fellow veteran Hollywood actress Donna Reed, only to revert to Bel Geddes a year later.
Recently, longtime Neighbours character Libby Kennedy was briefly played by Michala Banas when regular actress Kym Valentine was struck down with pneumonia. Illness also played a hand in Louise Crawford’s temporary role as Selina in Home and Away, when main actress Tempany Deckert fell ill in 1996.
That said, a recasting that has effectively been permanent and then has reverted to the original actor is rare, even in soap operas. I’m not sure if it’s even happened on a British soap before.
But according to the EastEnders website, Danniella Westbrook will be returning to the role of Samantha Mitchell, a part she last played in 2000. From 2002 to 2005, the role was played by Kim Medcalf, but it seems that it will be Westbrook whose high heels come strutting back into Albert Square.
Hmm… a blonde daughter of a principal character played by two different actresses — now where have I seen that before?
(For more on the Lecy Goransen/Sarah Chalke recasting references in Roseanne, see also this compilation video)