Recast 'Stumptown' Actor Blasts ABC Over "Degrading" Dismissal

Mark Webber was poised to be the No. 3 on the call sheet on the Disney-owned network's drama based on the 'Stumptown' comics and starring Cobie Smulders.
Austin Hargrave
Mark Webber

Actor Mark Webber is speaking out after being dismissed from ABC's recently ordered series based on the Stumptown comics and starring Cobie Smulders.

The pilot, based on the Oni Press title of the same name, was the first drama the Disney-owned broadcast network picked up to series this past week and had been a frontrunner for the past few weeks. Sources say producers are going in a different direction for the role.

Webber wrote that he was informed he was being recast in the series from Jason Richman (Detroit 187) because he wasn't "handsome enough for the executives" and went on to say in a series of tweets that the way he was treated was "so degrading."

"Look, I'm a straight white male so I know my journey has been way less painful in this warped industry, but I’m being recast in a network television show because I’m not handsome enough for the executives," he wrote Tuesday, the night before Stumptown (working title) was picked up to series. "It's important for me to share the real pain we endure in this industry."

Webber went on to receive — and retweet — feedback from the acting community. Many offered support, including John Ross Bowie (Speechless), Josh Charles and Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies, A Discovery of Witches), the latter of whom shared her own experience being recast: "When I was 19 I was fired from a job because A. I wasn’t famous enough and B. When pressured to hook up with the lead guy by the producers to have more 'chemistry' with him I said no and was promptly replaced by someone else," she wrote, using the #industrytruths hashtag.

An hour later, Webber had some choice words about the experience: "I'm so curious how they’re going to frame this in their upfront announcement. What the spin will be? Probably none as I’ve already been deemed insignificant by them. The way I was treated was so degrading. These 'executive' decisions are why network tv is dying," he wrote, adding: "The wonderful woman doing makeup, who like me had came up from the film world, had never dealt with a 'network' before. She was so strong with me in the trailer as the executive determined my look on the show."

In Stumptown, How I Met Your Mother grad Smulders plays Dex Parios, a strong, assertive and sharp-witted army veteran with a complicated love life, a gambling debt and a brother (Cole Sibus) to take care of in Portland, Oregon. Webber was poised to play the best friend to Smulders' character and her love interest. The actor's credits include Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and the indies Explicit Ills andThe Place of No Words. Last year, he filmed the CBS pilot L.A. Confidential. The drama did not move forward and attempts to find a new home for the project were unsuccessful.

Webber continued to voice his disdain for the industry well into the night Tuesday.

"The way this industry has contributed to women hating their bodies is just ONE of the many things I’ve abhorred for so long. I know a lot of us men generally stay silent with our challenges in this arena," the actor wrote before taking a swing at the indie film world.

"Also the independent film world has been poisoned for a long time too. Artists scrambling, to package their films in a way that’s “commercial”, because we live in a world where the almighty dollar rules. Thankfully there is a movement of us saying FUCK THAT NOISE," he added.

Two days later — after ABC officially picked up Stumptown to series, Webber took another shot: "Contrived 'diverse' female empowerment shows by stale white men, created for the sole purpose of making them money and giving them more power. Contributes nothing to the cultural development of the world." A few hours later, he added: "I was raised by a single teenage mom. We were poor. We were homeless. We lived in the streets. She became a radical revolutionary leader. I give zero fucks what filthy rich executives at huge corporations think about me. Never have. Never will."

ABC declined comment.

Recastings are common this time of year, when networks refine pilots following audience testing and network and studio feedback. Webber is the third high-profile recasting this pilot season. On ABC's Black-ish spinoff Mixed-ish, male lead Anders Holm is being recast, and The CW's Nancy Drew replaced Freddie Prinze Jr. with Scott Wolf.

Webber is not the first actor to open up about the experience of being replaced on a TV series. Last year, veteran TV actor Dave Annable (Heartbeat, Red Band Society, 666 Park Avenue and Brothers & Sisters) shared the pain of being recast in a moving essay in which he looked for the lesson in the experience. "I’ve never been fired before and certainly not publicly.… Learning to deal with failure is one of the most important lessons you’ll deal with in your life. Guess what? Failure is mandatory. It’s growth. It’ll never stop. It’s where all the good shit happens that makes you a better person when you are open to seeing the right perspective," he wrote in the post, which went viral.

Webber's comments arrive the same week that Constance Wu expressed disappointment after ABC renewed her comedy series Fresh Off the Boat for another season. The actress added in a statement early Saturday that the renewal prevented her from taking on another project she was interested in pursuing. ABC's new executive regime will field questions from the press Tuesday ahead of the network's upfront presentation to Madison Avenue ad buyers in New York.

Keep track of all the renewals, cancellations and new show orders with THR's scorecards for ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW and with all the latest pilot pickups and passes with our handy guide. For complete coverage, bookmark THR.com/upfronts.