Audra McDonald to Replace Merrin Dungey in Cast

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Apparently, Addison Montgomery goes through girlfriends as fast as she does boyfriends. When Private Practice debuts this fall, Kate Walsh's character will have a new BFF - Audra McDonald.

TV Guide reports that McDonald, a four-time Tony winner, has been tapped to replace Merrin Dungey in the role of Dr. Naomi Bennett, Dr. Montgomery's old friend from medical school and trusted confidant.

Audra McDonald Photo
The network's surprise decision was reportedly made for creative reasons.

Earlier this month, there were rumblings that execs had concerns that the Private Practice lineup wasn't perfect, especially as of the actors, who were cast hastily, reportedly didn't "pop" with audiences.

"Grey's Anatomy was cast off whoever seemed to fit the parts best and have good chemistry," says a well-placed source. "The spin-off was cast with actors the network and studio already had under contract."

Nevertheless, there are not expected to be any further cast changes coming before the show goes into production next month.

While we'll miss Merrin Dungey, we have to think creator Shonda Rhimes and ABC made the right call by discharging her. Of all the problems viewers expressed regarding the "enhanced two-hour Grey's" episode that doubled as the Private Practice pilot, a big one was the Dungey-Walsh dynamic.

We're looking forward to the debut of the new series and the role of Audra McDonald, an acclaimed actress and singer, within it.

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.


Merrin was SO much better! Audra is WAY too edgy & harsh-looking. Merrin had great chemistry with Kate Walsh and showed a softer side. She was a much better fit with Taye, too. Not a good call. I'm skipping this one. I give it 1 season.


I think ABC made a horrible decision in replacing Merrin Dungey! She is a fantastic actress, and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching her on Alias, Summerland, and the King of Queens. I enjoyed her chemistry with the entire cast of Private Practice in the pilot and so looked forward to another great show with her involved. However, upon the opening of this past week's Private Practice, I was very upset to see someone else playing the role. While I am sure Audra McDonald is great as well, I just did not get a good feel about her or her chemistry with ANY of the other actors. I found it harder and harder to watch the show because of my dislike for the new Naomi. I just wanted her to get off the screen. I definitely think ABC needs to rethink this decision and reverse it - if Merrin Dungey would accept!


I was totally thrown off with the re cast of Dungey and McDonald. I was watching the premier and realizing something was off but couldn't figure it out until I watched on DVR. Big mistake Ms Rhimes I agree with previous comments Taye Diggs doesn't seem to fit and putting the talented Mc Donald with him doesn't help.


I was so disappointed and shocked to see the Merrin was gone. I thought the pilot had great chemistry and found the episode with Audra awkward. I didn't think there was any chemistry. This is one show that I won't be watching this fall.


Man oh man, what a shocker... to replace Dungay was rediculous. she was great on Alias and the King of Queens. A very likable character because we know her through other tv avenues. This new chick I barely remember in Homicide life on the street as the wife of the boss, she was horrible on that show. I see no chemistry at all now with that character and walsh. You blew it! BIG TIME.


I think both Audra and Merrin are extremely talented but I agree with many commentators that there wasn't really a need to do a recast. Likewise, I say "if it ain't broke, DON'T fix it!", and I loved it when Merrin teased the surfer dude on the pilot episode and I thought she was really going to kiss him and then...sike! Don't mess with a woman old enough to be your mother. CLASSIC! Honestly, ABC, don't make stupid moves that will drop all your fanbase before the show even takes off.


I had a harder time with Audra McDonald as Tayes wife than I think anyone really had with Merrin Dungey, I think she was great in that role and was really looking forward to last nights premier, I had not been following the developments with the show and was really surprised when she was not on. I wasas really shocked and caught off guard.


Replacing Merrin was a horrible mistake. She was the perfect package of brains, beauty and confidence. Now we are supposed to believe that Sam would have married the manly new Naomi? The reality factor plummeted to zero.


I think the change between Marrin Dungay to Audra McDonald totally sucks. I was looking forward to seeing Dungay. I thought the show was just ok Wednesday night. I will forsure watch it, I love Kate Walsh! And the idea! I just thought it would be better. Maybe it will get better, and we'll have to get used to McDonald.


The decision to replace Marrin Dungay was uterly disappointing to say the least. The chemistry between Marrin Dungay, Kate Walsh, and Taye Diggs was amazing and I found the show something I was truly looking forward to watching. And although I am sure that Audra McDonald is a very talented actress, the chemistry does not click between her and any of the cast memebers on the show. I am a huge Alias fan and was extremely excited to see Marrin on another show and when I saw that they all had chemistry as a cast I was truly looking forward to watching and becoming an advid watcher of the series. The pilot episode was fantastic, and to have it followed up with last nights show was truly disappointing and left me with a feeling of something was missing. I no longer look forward to watching the show and will most likely not be tuning in to watch it anymore. I do not like watching shows that have miss match chemistry with its cast memebers, it leaves a uneasy feeling of wanting something more....
Utterly Disappointed,


Private Practice Quotes

Having a conscience is brutal.


Lucas's mom is amazing.


Private Practice Music

  Song Artist
Song Lost The Mary Onettes
Down in the valley Down In The Valley The Broken West iTunes
Song Message From Yuz The Switches