McDonald In, Dungey Out for Private Practice

The recasting couch is getting a lot of usage this development season as the networks continue to retool newly ordered series before their fall launches.

The latest has Audra McDonald (Bedford Diaries) scrubbing in for ABC's new drama series Private Practice. This Grey's Anatomy spin-off focuses on Kate Walsh's Addison Montgomery who leaves Seattle Grace for sunny Santa Monica and the dubious charms of a private medical practice/medical cooperative run by her married medical school friends.

McDonald will play Naomi Bennett, the female half of that couple who have recently (and unknowningly to Addison) divorced; her husband Sam will be played by Taye Diggs.

But didn't Alias' poor murdered Francie, Merrin Dungey, play Naomi in the two-hour Private Practice backdoor pilot ("The Other Side of This Life") that aired on Grey's Anatomy in June? You are correct, sirs and madams.

With no explanation from the studio or network (other than the usual retooling) McDonald will replace Dungey on the series. Poor Merrin can't seem to catch a break; on Alias, she was blabbing about opening a restaurant only to get killed off, and then brought back to play a character who looked like her old character, and now she's been replaced after originating the character on-air.

In other recasting news, word on the street has Mae Whitman (Arrested Development) getting gutted from NBC's sci-fi drama Bionic Woman; she played Jaime's deaf younger sister. It's thought that the part will be rewritten once again to restore the sister back to a hearing character (as in the first two drafts of the pilot script). No announcement yet on who will replace Whitman.

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Jace is an LA-based television development and acquisitions exec who watches way too much television for his own good and would love a TiVo for every room in the house. (He’s halfway there.) His blog, Televisionary, can be found at televisionaryblog.com.