Love or hate the character, it's hard to imagine anyone other than Jared Padalecki playing Gilmore Girls' Dean Forester. But in an unaired pilot Seventeen uncovered, there's a totally different Dean in Stars Hollow. (The video was uploaded in 2012, but it's making its way around the internet this week.)
It's not totally unusual for pilots to feature different actors than the ones who end up starring in the show. Sometimes, actors have previous commitments that keep them from shooting a new series, like when Damon Wayans Jr. filmed New Girl's pilot before Happy Endings was renewed. In other cases, the network that's airing a show might voice concerns about the pilot's plot or stars before it ever hits the small screen.
That said, this Gilmore Girls pilot features Nathan Wetherington as a blond-haired Dean. It's not clear why Wetherington didn't end up playing the character. But considering we watched Padalecki play Dean for 63 Gilmore Girls episodes — plus one episode of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life on Netflix — we think the producers made the right call.
As Seventeen points out, Wetherington's Dean is totally different from Padalecki's portrayal of the character. He's more nervous and less confident — and at least in this clip, it makes the other Dean a more likable character than he eventually was.
Since being replaced by Padalecki, Wetherington has gone on to act in episodes of NCIS, CSI, and The Genesis Files. His IMDB page does credit him as appearing in the unaired pilot of Gilmore Girls, too.
The full unaired pilot isn't on YouTube, but BuzzFeed notes that Dean's recasting isn't the only change between the two versions. Sookie St. James was played by Alex Borstein, instead of Melissa McCarthy. Borstein did appear as harp player Drella in Gilmore Girls, but BuzzFeed explains that her contract with MadTV kept her from starring as Sookie in the show.
We're sure Wetherington and Borstein would have been great — but we're also super grateful for the Dean and Sookie we all know and love.