How COVID shook up TV casts, from ‘9-1-1: Lone Star’ to ‘Witcher’

Time to shuffle the deck.

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown a wrench into Hollywood’s plans, impacting TV shows across the board. For some, this means premature cancellations — even when they initially got the green light of a renewal (such as Showtime’s Kirsten Dunst vehicle “On Becoming a God in Central Florida,” or ABC’s “Stumptown”).

For others, it means losing a star or shaking up the cast when production delays and shutdowns affect actors’ availability.

Here are the biggest shows that were forced to shake up their casts.

‘Dr. Death’

Jamie Dornan was initially set to star in this Peacock limited series as Dr. Christopher Duntsch. Co-starring Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater, it’s based on a sinister true story following a respected neurosurgeon who left his patients worse for wear. The role would have been a return to form for Dornan, who’s known for playing stiff suit Christian Grey in the “50 Shades of Grey” franchise but did his best work playing a creepy serial killer in BBC series “The Fall.” But on Oct. 13, it was announced that he was no longer available, due to the production’s pandemic-related delays. He’s been replaced by Joshua Jackson, who also has apt range (“The Affair,” “Little Fires Everywhere”) to play a pillar of the community with dark secrets.

“Dr. Death” does not yet have an announced premiere date.

‘9-1-1: Lone Star’

When Liv Tyler joined the spinoff to the hit Fox show “9-1-1,” starring opposite Rob Lowe, it was her network TV debut after a career filled with movies (“The Lord of the Rings” franchise) and prestige premium dramas (“The Leftovers”). Season 1 of “Lone Star” aired from January to March. Unfortunately, her time playing chief paramedic Michelle Blake was short-lived. Tyler, who lives with her family in London, was reportedly reluctant to fly to Los Angeles to film Season 2 amidst coronavirus concerns. She won’t be replaced, but network TV mainstay Gina Torres (“Suits”) will step into the second season to play a new character, filling in the hole Michelle leaves. Ironically, Torres will play a woman who’s re-entering the workforce after her husband loses his restaurant job due to the pandemic.

Season 2 will premiere at an unspecified date in January 2021.

‘The Witcher’

The Netflix fantasy swords-and-monsters epic starring Henry Cavill initially cast Danish actor Thue Ersted Ramussen as Eskel, a fellow Witcher (magical monster-hunter) character who’s a fan favorite from the books and video games the series is based on. However, the show saw a scheduling shake-up after the production shut down in March and resumed in August (one of its new actors, “Game of Thrones’” Kristofer Hivju, even tested positive for the virus). Ramussen posted on his Instagram, “Sadly, due to the rescheduling because of Covid-19, I will not be portraying Eskel…it’s heartbreaking.” Swiss actor Basil Eidenbenz (“The Favorite”) has been recast in the role.

Season 2 does not yet have an announced premiere date.

‘Superstore’

In what might be the only instance of the pandemic causing an actor to change their schedule for the better, star America Ferrera was set to leave the NBC workplace sitcom at the end of Season 5 (she cited the reasons of spending more time with her family and pursuing other opportunities). However, that season’s production was forced to shut down one episode short, throwing a wrench in that plan. In order to give Amy a proper send-off, she’s lingering longer than initially planned, staying an extra two episodes into Season 6. The show airs Thursdays at 8 p.m.

‘The Voice’

In October 2019, it was announced that Gwen Stefani was leaving NBC’s hit reality series to do a Las Vegas residency. (She appeared in Seasons 7, 9, 12, and 17.) Nick Jonas stepped in, coaching alongside Blake Shelton, John Legend and Kelly Clarkson in Season 18. However, Stefani’s residency was scheduled to last through May of 2020 and ended sooner than anticipated because of the pandemic. She’s now free to return to “The Voice” and her fiancée Shelton. Meanwhile, Jonas is out after just one season (although he has not disclosed if his departure has anything to do with the current state of the world). Season 19 is currently airing Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

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