Why Was Darrin Stephens Replaced on ‘Bewitched’?

The 1960s sitcom, Bewitched, is one of the most beloved shows in television history. Originally starring Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York, the series went through a bit of a metamorphosis during its eight-season run. The biggest change to the series was the replacement of York with Dick Sargent. Sargent stepped into York’s role of Darrin Stephens toward the end of the show’s run and would forever be considered “the new Darrin” by fans. Why was York replaced in the first place, though?

Dick York left Bewitched after suffering a seizure on the set

York filmed his final episode of Bewitched during the show’s fifth season. His last moment on set was a medical emergency. According to the Los Angeles Times, York had a seizure onset and woke up in the hospital. A visit from Bill Asher, the producer of Bewitched, sealed his fate. York was no longer a part of the cast.

Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stevens and Dick York as Darrin Stevens
Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens and Dick York as Darrin Stephens| Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

York’s seizure stemmed from a long history of painkiller use. Long before he appeared on Bewitched, York had been injured on the set of a film. The injury led to a chronic and debilitating back condition that York managed with a mix of painkillers, sleeping aids, and cortisone shots. The seizure may have ended his time on Bewitched, but industry insiders claim the ousting was a long time coming. York was in too much pain, most of the time, to continue in the role. York eventually kicked his addiction to painkillers and dedicated the latter part of his life to charity work.

Dick Sargent replaced Dick York in the show’s sixth season

Sargent took over the role of Darrin during the show’s sixth season after York was no longer able to continue on. The replacement wasn’t a bad one, insist show experts. The initial awkwardness eventually subsided, and Sargent came into his own in the role.

Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick Sargent in 'Bewitched'
Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick Sargent in ‘Bewitched’ | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

RELATED: ‘Bewitched’: There Was a Real-Life Affair on the Set of the Show

Herbie Pilato, the author of Twitch Upon a Star, argues that Sargent was first directed to act just as York would. Eventually, Sargent was allowed to bring his acting style to the role, which felt more natural. Still, fans of the series insist that Sargent and Montgomery didn’t have a ton of chemistry. York and Montgomery indeed had instant chemistry. Rumor has it that York was infatuated with Montgomery; Sargent was not nearly as taken with her.

Dick Sargent insisted he was offered the part of Darrin Stephens before Dick York

Sargent might have seemed like a sudden and jarring addition to the show to some fans, but he long insisted that he was the actor that Asher had intended to play Darrin all along. To hear Sargent tell it, Asher offered him the part during the show’s initial casting. He said he had to turn it down because he was already under contract. It’s a believable story, but Asher insisted that wasn’t the case.

Elizabeth Montgomery, Dick York, and Agnes Moorehead in a promotional photo for 'Bewitched'
Elizabeth Montgomery, Dick York, and Agnes Moorehead | FILES/AFP via Getty Images

According to Medium, Asher cleared up the issue back in 1999. He revealed that York had been the first choice for the part. Still, Asher didn’t deny that Sargent was originally up for the role. However, Sargent’s former co-star, Tammy Grimes, apparently was the first choice for Samantha Stephens on Bewitched. Then married to Asher, Montgomery won out and portrayed the iconic character for all eight seasons of the show.