alternative casting

Can You Imagine a Six Feet Under With Christopher Meloni? The Show’s Creator Did

Six Feet Under. Photo: HBO

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of Six Feet Under’s series finale, Rolling Stone has published a new comprehensive oral history about the legendary HBO show. To be expected, the piece is full of fun-fact ephemera: Six Feet’s cast and creator Alan Ball talk about everything from creating the family (“I never thought of [the dad] as a ghost”) and HBO critiquing the pilot (“It feels kind of safe. Could you make it more fucked up?”) to internalizing the episodes (“I remember it like a life I lived”) and nailing the end (“Somebody in the room said, ’We should just kill everybody.’ And I was like, yeah, that’s funny“).

There’s also talk of interesting (but definitely game-changing) alternate casting, which, according to Ball, involved Law & Order: SVU’s Chris Meloni, as well as anecdotes about how key characters nabbed their parts:

Ball: I don’t really write characters with specific actors in mind. Once I started considering casting after the script was finished, I was thinking about Chris Meloni and Justin Theroux as being the two brothers, because I thought they looked like siblings and they were both two actors who I really admired. But Chris got the SVU thing before we went into production.

And I did have Freddy Rodríguez in mind because he’d done a couple of guest spots on Oh, Grow Up and there was something about him and his intensity that I just thought was great. But I didn’t offer roles to anybody. Everybody came in to read. We did some casting out here in L.A.; Rachel was in Australia, but came to L.A. for it. Then I went to New York, which is where Michael Hall, Mathew St. Patrick [who played Keith, David’s boyfriend], Frannie Conroy, and Richard Jenkins were.

Freddy Rodríguez (“Federico ‘Rico’ Diaz”): I just remember getting an invitation to a party at Alan’s house and we chatted a bit. And about a week later a got the script for Six Feet Under in the mail, and I was like, ‘That’s interesting. I was just at a party at his house and he didn’t mention it.” So I met with him and [executive producer] Alan Poul and the HBO folks to audition. And I got it.

During the first week of shooting, he pulled me to the side and said, “You know, I wrote this with you in mind.” I was so floored when he said that. He had just won an Oscar, and now’s he’s trusting me so much with this character. So I felt a deep, deep sense of responsibility to deliver. It paid off: I was nominated for an Emmy, and the rest is history. But I always kept that sense of 110% work ethic about me because of what Alan did.

You can read Rolling Stone’s whole oral history here, and check out our own, specifically about the finale’s death montage, here.

Can You Imagine Chris Meloni in Six Feet Under?