For both the '90s teen girls who grew up in the time of Sassy as well as the hordes of millennials with DVD or Netflix access who followed years later, My So-Called Life was a beacon of angst-ridden realism. Similar in era and topic but not exactly in tone, Clueless (which premiered the same year) didn't exactly aim for realism but still landed solidly in the land of teen relatability. It's been almost 20 years since both made their debut to the vulnerable adolescent world, but news Alicia Silverstone almost had the chance to play both Cher Horowitz and Angela Chase still has the power to rock our world.
Angela Chase — the moody, introspective, and emotional 16-year-old embodied by Claire Danes — was almost somebody else. My So-Called Life producers Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz recently opened up about the casting process of The Most Important Teen Show of the Grunge Era, specifically in relation to Chase, who had to play complicated, sometimes selfish, and definitely confused main character.
The producers were immediately wowed by Silverstone's take on the part — Zwick responded to the audition with with an almost immediate "just cast her" — but Herkovitz deemed her "too pretty" to sell the story they'd had written for the character.
Alicia is so beautiful that that would have affected her experience of the world ... People would have been telling her she was beautiful since she was six years old. You can't put that face in what's been written for this girl.
And so they brought in Danes, who, while also undoubtedly beautiful, brought that special something to the character — believability, essentially. Basically, she contained all the multitudes that made Angela Chase and My So-Called Life so beloved. Linda Lowy, the show's casting director, explained:
From the minute she walked in the room, Claire was chilling, astounding, and silent. There was so much power coming out of her without her doing much.
As series creator Winnie Holzman recalled of Danes' presence, "[she was] sexy and not sexy, free and bound up, open and closed, funny and frighteningly serious."
We have no doubt Silverstone would have captured the role and made it her own, had she landed it — as we saw in Clueless and My So-Called Life, both she and Danes had that same deep-seated understanding of the teenage soul. It's what made their respective works so popular (and eternal) in the first place.
Nevertheless, it's hard to imagine a world in which Angela Chase was any different.