Inside the Audra McDonald-Merrin Dungey Switch

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This weekend's news about the recasting of Merrin Dungey (below, left) in one of the lead roles in Private Practice, raises an interesting question of how producers plan to handle the launch of the series this fall since the pilot was actually part of a two-hour episode of Grey's Anatomy.

It might've made sense, Variety notes, to repeat that episode, or even air a cut down version of it, in the first of Private Practice this fall.

But now that Audra McDonald (pictured, right) is taking over the role of Naomi Bennett, the college pal of Kate Walsh's Addison Montgomery, that is unlikely.

There'll be no re-shooting of anything done this spring, Variety reports.

Private Practice will start with a fresh episode that finds Addison Montgomery in L.A. and into her new life at the Santa Monica wellness center inhabited by her new host of quirky co-workers. Any needed back story can be filled in with dialogue in the opening moments.

Merrin Dungey: Out of Practice
Audra McDonald Picture

So why the Merrin Dungey-Audra McDonald swap?

It has been speculated that the chemistry between Dungey and Kate Walsh was not up to par, but Variety reports that it was also a chemistry matter - between Dungey and Taye Diggs, who plays Naomi's estranged husband Sam.

Some were having trouble buying them as a couple.

Audra McDonald, a four-time Tony winner and a Juilliard-trained singer, is known for exuding a natural strength common to great stage actresses.

But the decision to make the switch couldn't have been easy for Shonda Rhimes, creator-exec producer of Grey's Anatomy and its spinoff.

Merrin Dungey is the sister of Channing Dungey, an ABC Studios executive who oversees Grey's Anatomy for the studio and is close to Rhimes.

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


(I´m from Corrientes, Argentina: SORRY my english). I didn´t knew neither Merrin nor Audra, but the first episode I saw was with Audra and I didn´t like her. Now that I saw the pilot I realized that she wasn´t the first choice, and I wondering why did they change her. I´m disagree with this choice.


Huge mistake. I am a Alias fan and was so happy to see Merrin in something again. Also, a bad move not to have some kind of explanation. I started watching and was like.. who is she supposed to be? I agree with the other person that said it's less believable about surfer boy and her character now.


Look, Audra elevates anything she is involved with and Private Practice sorely NEEDS to be given something more than it now has. ALL the characters are happening from the outside IN. It is really hard to get into and now with this strike it probably needs to be gracefully forgotten with Audra returning to the theatre where she belongs and Kate returning to Seattle and Taye becoming a tour guide at ABC.


I LOVE MERRIN, the Grey's/ PP episode just aired in South Africa (we're behind), and was really looking forward to Private Practice eventually hitting our shores, mostly due to the dynamic force that is Merrin Dungey!!! I love what she brought to the table AND the "chemistry" between her and Taye Diggs. Cheat that I am, I watched an episode clip on the PP website, saw the drastic visual change in Naomi (Really not buying the whole Dell crush thing) and immediately found the site that could tell me WHY??? No offence to other actress lady, but Merrin was definitely better suited for the role of Dr. Naomi Bennet. Suddenly I'm looking forward to Private Practice coming to South Africa a whole lot less...


i like the new naomi,, i love the show too and im not really that bothered cos i didnt even realise there was a switch.. Shows how much of an impression Merrin left on me!!!


I loved Merrin in the role, she was the reason I was even remotely interested in watching. I've watched an episode with MacDonald, and though of course she is a wonderful actress, the role really calls for the zing of Merrin. She's a fabulous actress, very alive and present. Real. I loved her on King Of Queens. I think the show is going to suffer a great deal without her. Big Mistake.


It was a terrible mistake to recast the role. Merrin had such better chemistry with Addison and no offense to Audra, who I'm sure is a great singer, but I actually kind of hate the Naomi character now. Just another in a long line of mistakes Shonda has made since writing last season's Grey's finale.


I really love Merrin, dont see the spicey hot character that would be the best friend of Addison and the wife of Diggs in Audra. I love her as a singer, but not for this role


This was a horrible call. I think Taye Diggs and Merrin Dungey had better chemistry. Perhaps, they should think of dumping Diggs for another actor.


DISAPPOINTED! The switch really changed my outlook on the show. I think Merrin was phenemonal! We were really looking forward to watching the show because of her. We loved "King of Queens". Her and Diggs was more believable as a couple, not so much with Audra. The character seems so dull now. I agree that Walsh & Merrin had great chemistry in the pilot. Maybe they should listen/read to what us viewers have to say. We are the ones who make or break a show! I think we'll give it a few more episodes, maybe Audra will be able to fill the shoes of Addie's former best friend. :-( HORRIBLE DECISION ON ABC'S PART!!!


Private Practice Quotes

Charlotte: My mom always says God doesn't give with both hands. You're young, beautiful, brilliant. There has to be something you can't have.
Amelia: Some days I'd give that all up.
Charlotte: That's just the craving talking. The longer you go without a drink...
Amelia: I drank at your wedding. I thought it was ginger ale. I spit it out.
Charlotte: OK, since then?
Amelia: Nothing, but I can't stop thinking about it.
Charlotte: It was an accident. Don't let a slip turn into a fall. Get your butt to a meeting.

Having a conscience is brutal.


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