You Look Familiar

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Although there are multiple sections of examples, their contents are inconsistently organized with occasional duplicates. Either the examples should be more carefully sorted and organized, or they should be consolidated into a single list.


Haven't I seen you somewhere before, Michael Sheard?

"You look familiar"
"Like your dead girlfriend?"

Rent

A guest actor who returns to play more than one character in the same continuity.

As usual, Star Trek is particularly guilty (although perhaps somewhat understandable, with over 700 episodes across the various incarnations plus 11 movies). Alien makeup helps them get away with this, and using the same actors is actually advantageous. After all, if they've made a Ferengi prosthetic for you before, they don't have to go to quite as much effort to do so again...

The use of the same actor for different characters is typically intended to go unnoticed or at least unremarked. Ed Wasser played Shadow minion Morden in Babylon 5 but also appeared in the series pilot as a character credited as Guerra. Since that series was so intricately plotted, fans wondered if the Shadows were influencing events as far back as the pilot. No, said series creator J. Michael Straczynski, they just liked the actor's work in the pilot and cast him in a recurring role.

Spin-off shows will often encounter this, as the producers find actors they like for the new show.

This is such a common occurrence amongst the various incarnations of Law and Order, that fans of that show have come to call those who look familiar "Repeat Offenders". Primary cast members the late Jerry Orbach and S. Epatha Merkerson both played small one-off roles prior to being cast in the series. Other examples: Diane Neal, who played ADA Casey Novak in seasons 5-9 of SVU, previously appeared as a Wall Street broker who joined two more women in the gang rape of a male dancer during a party (see Double Standard Rape (Female on Male)), then killed one of those women, because she was going to come clean to the police about the rape.

When it is done for a purpose, you have an Identical Stranger, an Identical Grandson, or an Uncanny Family Resemblance.

Compare Celebrity Paradox, Hey, It's That Guy!, Hey, It's That Voice!, You Might Remember Me From. Contrast with The Other Darrin. Can be Handwaved by the Literary Agent Hypothesis.

You All Look Familiar is not related, unless character sprites and models can be considered "guest actors."

Examples of You Look Familiar include:

Actors who appear as guest actors in multiple roles[edit | hide | hide all]

  • As mentioned above, the Star Trek franchise does this all the time:
    • Mark Lenard has had speaking roles as a Romulan, a Vulcan (Spock's father), and a Klingon. Most notably, he was the first Romulan to be completely seen on screen and he was one of the first Klingons with the forehead ridges.
    • Majel Barrett played 'Number One' in the original Star Trek: The Original Series pilot, Nurse Chapel during the series, and Lwaxana Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation, plus as the voice of various starship computers from The Original Series up until a posthumous role in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movie. Nobody seems to notice their voices are essentially identical, including Commander Data. Barrett's dual-role as computer voice and Mrs. Troi was referenced tongue-in-cheek in one episode when Mrs. Troi, an apparent technical Luddite, frustratedly accesses the holodeck computer, and argues with it. Due to her many roles, especially that of on-board computer, she is the only actor to have played in every single episode of TNG.
      • Plus she played 13 different characters during the Animated Series. This was because she and James Doohan pretty much voiced all the minor roles so the studio didn't have to hire more actors.
      • A non-canon pre-Original series novel (The Rift by Peter David) involves Barrett's character "Number One," who is a computer engineer, recording her voice as a template for a new voice-interactive computer interface, which would explain her appearance as the ship's computer voice in TOS as well as later series.
      • Lampshaded in the book series New Frontier which introduced the character Morgan Primus, an immortal woman that author Peter David suggested had actually been Number One, changed identities to Christine Chapel, and was Robin Lefler's mother. Looking like Lwaxana Troi was a coincidence...though Morgan does send her Lwaxana a letter at one point, and calls her a "niece", in quotation marks, suggesting they were close but not actually related. Nevertheless, both Captain Picard and Montgomery Scott were astounded when they met her in "the present".
    • Speaking of Commander Data, Brent Spiner actually played five different characters across the Treks, three of whom had android makeup (Data, Lore, and B-4), one of whom had old-guy makeup (Noonien Soong), and one where he didn't need any makeup at all (Arik Soong). (Really a variant case of Identical Grandson, as Arik Soong is Noonien Soong's great-grandfather and the three androids are Noonien Soong's "children".) Not to mention all the one-off holodeck characters he played as sort-of-Data. Spiner also played a young version of Noonien Soong, looking much like a younger version of Arik Soong, not surprisingly.
    • Character actor James Sloyan appeared in at least four different roles across The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.
    • Suzie Plakson also has four different Trek roles, most notably as K'Ehleyr, Worf's brief love interest and mother of Alexander. She also played the Vulcan doctor Selar and Q (but not that Q).
    • Margot Rose played Picard's wife in "The Inner Light" and also showed up in Deep Space Nine's "Hard Time".
    • With the aid of makeup, Jeffrey Combs had recurring roles as Weyoun and Brunt on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (once playing both in the same episode although unfortunately the characters didn't share any scenes), Shran on Enterprise, and several characters in single episodes of various Star Treks. Total count (including a cameo in the Deep Space Nine finale): eight—one Andorian, one Vorta, two Ferengi, two humans, and two characters of (different) unnamed species.
      • And things get really complicated when you remember that there was actually a series of Weyouns (clones with pre-loaded personalities). One episode featured two Weyoun clones interacting, albeit through a viewscreen.
    • In a rare double-YLF, Merritt Butrick and Judson Scott both appeared in both Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the Next Generation episode "Symbiosis."
    • Marc Alaimo, best known as Deep Space Nine's Gul Dukat, is one of the few Trek guest actors to have appeared as a bunch of aliens and as a human (in "Time's Arrow").
    • Vaughn Armstrong is probably the record-holder here. He's appeared in every modern Trek series and been a member of eight alien races. He finally landed a recurring role—and a makeup-free one at that—as Enterprise's Admiral Forrest.
    • J.G. Hertzler is another repeat Star Trek performer. He played several roles on Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. His most well known role is the Klingon General, Martok on Deep Space Nine - when he made a one-off appearance as an unrelated character between appearances in this role, he was credited as Garman Hertzler.
      • He played a Klingon Lawyer in Enterprise making it a YLF in full Klingon make-up.
    • David Warner appeared as Federation ambassador St. John Talbot in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, as Klingon Chancellor Gorkon in the very next movie, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and a year later as the Cardassian Gul Madred in Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Chain of Command"
    • Stuntman Tom Morga has appeared in every Star Trek program since the last of the original series movies, playing everything from Borg to Cardassians to Romulans, not to mention quite few Red Shirt humans. He's developed a small following, despite having almost no spoken dialogue.
    • Another actor who played a large number of roles (particularly notable as these were usually without make-up and thus make him readily identifiable) is Tim Russ, who played an Enterprise-B crewmember in Star Trek Generations, a criminal in the "Starship Mine" episode of The Next Generation, and a Klingon named T'kar in Deep Space Nine's "Invasive Procedures," and finally became a primary cast member as Tuvok on Voyager - a role ironically requiring make-up, although to a very minor degree. Made somewhat more ironic in that, in one episode, a Tuvok impostor would appear portrayed by yet another reoccurring actor.
    • Morn, played by Mark Allen Shepherd, was one of the most beloved characters on Deep Space Nine and appeared in almost every episode despite never having a line of dialogue. In an episode where he apparently dies (he actually staged his own death) Quark holds a memorial service in the bar and grabs a random patron to sit in Morn's chair to 'keep it warm'...a random patron played by Mark Allen Shepherd.
    • Eddie Paskey played a variety of characters in at least 51 episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series. They include his main character Mr. Leslie, a technician named "Conners", a bridge crewman named "Ryan", a citizen of the planet Eminiar 7, and a resistance fighter on the Nazi planet Ekos. He has been an unnamed member of the bridge crew, Security, Engineering, a helmsman/weapons officer, navigator, and transporter chief. Though unseen, he even drove the truck that killed Kirk's true love Edith Keeler. Mr. Leslie actually died in the episode "Obsession" but he continued appearing afterward (including in the same episode).
    • Tony Todd who played Worf's brother Kurn in TNG, an elderly Jake Sisko in Deep Space Nine, and the Hirogen Alpha in Voyager's "Prey".
    • James Cromwell played two aliens on TNG and another on Deep Space Nine before playing Zefram Cochrane in First Contact.
    • Rene Auberjonois, known as Odo on Deep Space Nine, may have looked familiar to viewers if his role as the villainous human, Colonel West, in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,, hadn't ended up on the cutting room floor. His scenes were later restored in the extended edition of the film. Auberjonois would also later appear in the Enterprise episode "Oasis", which has the exact same plot as the Odo-heavy Deep Space Nine episode "Shadowplay", something he is said to have noted on set.
    • Susanna Thompson played the Borg Queen (taking over for an unavailable Alice Krige) in four episodes of Star Trek: Voyager and also played Jadzia Dax's one-off love interest Dr Lenara Kahn in the episode "Rejoined" of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In addition, she portrayed a Romulan and a Tilonian in (different episodes of) The Next Generation.
    • Joseph Ruskin has had "only" six roles, but he is the only actor other than Majel Barrett to act with all five casts (appearing with the Next Generation crew in Star Trek: Insurrection).
    • Denise Crosby has had two roles on Star Trek: The Next Generation: Tasha Yar, and Sela (the daughter of Yar from an alternate timeline and a Romulan man).
    • One interesting example from Deep Space Nine is the episode "Far Beyond The Stars". The entire regular cast show up as humans in Sisko's vision of the 1950s on Earth. Many of the cast who usually appear in heavy alien makeup here appear almost unrecognisable without their prosthetics, leading to a weird "you look/sound/act familiar..." deja vu feeling until you match up the actors with the characters they usually play.
  • Highlander the Series commonly re-used guest actors in different roles. For instance, fight choreographer Anthony de Longis played two different villainous roles (in keeping with the series premise, both characters were beheaded by the protagonist).
    • In Highlander fandom, this was known as the '42 actors in all of Canada' rule for the show's tendency to recycle some actors 3-4 times in different roles on the show.
    • Jeremy Brudenell played an insane immortal killed by MacLeod during the second season... then came back two seasons (and a haircut) later to play one of MacLeod's best friends.
  • Also popular in the Xena-verse, for example Karl Urban played both Julius Caesar and Cupid, and Lucy Lawless played two parts in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys before being cast as Xena. Lampshaded in an episode where several characters remarked how much the character played by Lucy Lawless looked like Xena
    • And then they took this and ran with it. Several other episodes featured Lucy Lawless playing multiple characters in the same episode...it got to a point where three different characters appeared, with a fourth referenced!
    • Marton Csoskas played Borias, Belach (Borias' son), and Khrafstar.
    • Iphicles and Ares were both played by Kevin Smith; they're not related to each other but they're both Hercules's half-brothers! (Iphicles is the son of Alcmene and her husband; Ares is the son of Zeus and Hera.)
    • And let us not forget Ted Raimi playing the triplets Joxer, Jett and Jace.
    • Before Ceasar & Cupid Karl Urban was in the episode Altared States & in a late series episode called Lifeblood, which was a reuse of an unsold Pilot Episode. Also in Lifeblood were Danielle Cormack, who played Ephiny, & Claudia Black, who was Cassandra in two Hercules episodes.
  • Francesca Buller (Ben Browder's wife) has played at least four different characters on Farscape. Since most of them involved significant effort from the prosthetics department, this is not readily apparent.
  • Jonathan M. Woodward first played a vampire named Holden in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He was killed at the end of his single episode. Shortly thereafter, the actor turned up on the spinoff Angel as Knox, and stuck around for seven episodes. He became a "hat trick" (an actor appearing in all three of Joss Whedon's shows) with his guest star appearance as Tracey on Firefly.
    • Woodward is actually one of four Joss Whedon hat-trick actors - Andy Umberger had both a recurring role as D'Hoffryn on Buffy, and an early one-shot villain role on Angel in "I Fall To Pieces" (with a small role as an Alliance Captain in Firefly), Carlos Jacott played villain Ken on Buffy and hilarious villain Richard on Angel (before playing an important villain role in the Firefly pilot), and Jeff Ricketts played both the character Weatherby in Buffy and Angel in a crossover arc, and a spider monster in Angel (along with one of Firefly's memorable Blue Gloves).
    • Tom Lenk, known for playing Andrew in the evil geek trio during Buffy's sixth season (and beyond), originally appeared in a bit part as one of Harmony's vampire minions.
    • A well-known example from Buffy is Kali Rocha, who first appeared on the show in a minor role in a flashback, playing Cecily, Spike's hopeless crush from his time as a human. Later on she was re-hired in a completely different role as Halfrek, Anya's fellow vengeance demon. Keen-eyed fans, of course, immediately spotted that they were the same actor, and a lot of Fanon built up over how Cecily could have become Halfrek in the intervening century—so much so that Joss Whedon finally decided to acknowledge it and establish Cecily = Halfrek as canon. (Halfrek finally encounters Spike in person, and it becomes obvious that the two of them know each other and have a history, with Halfrek addressing Spike by his original name, "William".)
      • Since this was a retcon due to fans noticing Kali Rocha playing dual roles rather than planned continuity, Cecily = Halfrek created some issues with timing—Halfrek's offhand references to her own age establish her as having been a demon long before the time period when William met Cecily. A non-canon comic, Spike: Old Times, reinterprets the flashback episode from Cecily's perspective, revealing that she was already a demon at that time and "Cecily" was a long-term undercover identity.
    • Jeff Kober played the psycho vamp Kralik in the third season episode "Helpless", and later played Rack, the magic pusher who hooked Willow on dark magic during Season Six.
    • Brian Thompson played the vampire Luke in the first two episodes, then showed up again in Season 2 as The Judge.
    • Andy Hallett, best known as Lorne from Angel, was originally an extra in the Buffy episode "Hush."
    • Kal Penn of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle fame appeared in Buffy as one of the obnoxious students in the much-maligned "Beer Bad" then in Angel as a psychic with an exposed brain.
    • Carlos Jacott (who is also known for his role as Lawrence Dobson in the first two episodes of Firefly) appeared as the demon Ken in the Buffy Season 3 opener, "Anne", and later appeared as another demon, Richard, in the Angel Season 1 episode "Bachelor Party".
  • Lance LeGault appeared as Delta Agent John W. Newton on Magnum PI, then returned as recurring character Colonel Buck Greene for several episodes. Also on Magnum, Kathleen Lloyd played a client of Magnum's then returned as recurring character D.A. Carol Baldwin for several seasons.
  • Elyssa Davalos must set some kind of record for rapid re-appearance. She appears as a (presumably) Baltic love interest of MacGyver in that show's two-part S3 opener. Less than a month later, she appears again as Nikki Carpenter and appears in four further episodes.
    • MacGyver also had another good one in Tia Carrere. She first appears as a loving big sister to a boy in trouble. Then a season later she reappears and assassinates some poor chap. It is only by watching the rest of the episode the viewer can deduce that the two characters are not supposed to be the same.
    • Dana Elcar (The guy who plays Mac's boss, Pete) appeared in the opening pilot episode, as a different character named Andy Colson. Later on, no recognition was shown between him and Mac.
  • On CHiPS, Ponch & Jon had to rescue "Cousin Oliver" quite often, once as Jeff, once as Brian, once as Russell.
  • Dragnet, the 1950s-1970s Police Procedural, routinely had actors and actresses play multiple non-recurring roles during the series. In one of the movies, a man is a rapist and serial killer, who ends up becoming a police chemist in the series. Virgina Gregg, one of Jack Webb's friends, was routinely cast in many episodes as a typical woman victim of crime, or in some cases, as the perpetrator. Generally, Jack Webb (as Sergeant Joe Friday), his partner and his boss were the only recurring characters from week to week, with one very special exception. In the 1950s, the program did a Christmas Episode, in which a baby Jesus was missing from the manger scene at a Catholic church. The police officers interviewed the Padre, a pawn broker, an altar boy, and eventually meet the little boy who took the doll, because he promised it that if he got a wagon for Christmas, he would give it the first ride. About fifteen years later in the 1970s, they did a Remake of that episode, with the same (now much older) man as pawnbroker, the young man who played the altar boy was now the Padre, and the little boy who had taken the doll in the first show was now an altar boy, with a new little boy moving the doll in his little red wagon. In both cases, the little boy was not prosecuted, one of the only times that Sergeant Friday ever let a known perpetrator get away
  • Stargate is a prime example of this trope, thanks to the relatively small Vancouver acting pool.
    • Garwin Sanford played Narim, Carter's Tollan love interest, in SG-1 before being cast in Atlantis as Dr. Weir's husband Simon.
    • Anne Marie DeLuise (wife of Peter DeLuise who directed and cameoed in several episodes, but then SG-1 sometimes resembles the DeLuise family reunion) as Amy Vandenberg in "Bounty" and Farrell in "The Other Side", for example.
    • Christopher Heyerdahl played the Wraith Todd and the leader of the Athosian on Stargate Atlantis. On SG-1, he played role as a human on a planet controlled by a computer.
    • Courtenay J. Stevens, plays Lieutenat Elliot in a couple of SG-1 episodes and Leader of a plant of children in Atlantis
    • And of course, James Lafazanos and Andee Frizzell play most of the unmasked wraiths (the males and the queens respectively)
  • In Season 1 Episode 5 of Lois and Clark, a nebbish scientist played by Leslie Jordan who created an invisibility suit was used as a one-shot character. The same actor appeared as Resplendant Man in Season 2 Episode 8, changing absolutely none of his mannerisms.
  • Taggart, not surprisingly for a series that has lasted over 25 years, constantly features this trope. A particular blatant example is Colin McCredie who played three different characters in three consecutive episodes, the last one being a recurring character.
  • In the earlier seasons of Smallville, Jor-El was played by Terrence "General Zod" Stamp, leading to no end of Epileptic Trees theories by the fans.
    • Not a straight example, but the twin brother of the actor that plays Jimmy Olsen on later seasons played a Meteor-Freak of the week In season one, one of the many that were Clark's classmates. Nobody seems to notice the uncanny resemblance.
  • In Season 2 of Veronica Mars, James Jordan appeared as the mentally unstable janitor Tommy "Lucky" Dohanic for a few episodes, then reappeared in Season 3 as recurring character Tim Foyle, the graduate student of Dr. Landry.
  • While this is so common in the Law and Order franchise that listing every example would require an entire page of its own, Jennifer Van Dyck has played eight different characters in the franchise over the course of nine episodes. Not surprisingly, she is very good at what she does.
  • Same goes for the CSI franchise. All of them are set in the same reality, still they constantly interchange actors. Seamus Dever for example was a beguiled architect on CSI: NY, a rich boy who threw his drug-dealing brother overboard on CSI: Miami and an airline executive AND a TV producer who liked having sex with underaged talent-show contestants on CSI.
  • The Adventures of Superman, owing to its shoestring budget, did this all the time. On any given episode, you could expect the mob-boss of the week to be played by one of about a dozen guys.
  • Tony Todd appeared in 24 season 3 as a detective investigating the death of the millionaire extorting Pres. Palmer then he reappears in season 7 as Sangala president Benjamin Juma the only character in the series to successfully lead an attack on the White House.
    • Faran Tahir appeared in season 2 as a friendly mosque greeter, and then in season 4 as a fearsome terrorist.
  • The same actress that played a patient in an episode of Private Practice went on to play the (Completely unrelated) regular role of April Kepner in the Grey's Anatomy, the show that spawned the former.
  • In Young Blades, Phillip Mitchell plays a Cardinal's guard who gets killed before the opening credits of the first episode. He returns five episodes later... as a Cardinal's guard who gets killed in the series finale by the same person who killed his original character.
    • Another actor, Andrew McIlroy, played a criminal in the second episode and returned in a recurring minor role as a servant starting in the very next episode. A third, Christos Shaw, was a guest star in the third episode, then reappeared for a later episode in a different, minor role in a cut scene.
  • Starsky and Hutch did this many times. A few notable examples:
    • Richard Ward played the original Captain Dobey in the pilot episode, and returned in one of the final episodes as Huggy Bear's mentor.
    • Veronica Hamel appeared in a second-season episode as the relative of a victim, and then appeared a season later as Hutch's ex-wife.
    • Kristy McNichol played three separate child characters, and then weirdly inverted the trope; when one of those characters came back for a second appearance, she was played by a different actress.
  • Nana Visitor played two different characters on Matlock Both times she was guilty.
  • Tony Shaloub's real-life wife Brooke Adams appeared in several episodes of Monk. For example in season 1 she played a airline stewardess who is driven crazy by Monk's actions and later made a brief cameo in the 100th episode, while in season 5 she played a local sheriff.
  • A&E's A Nero Wolfe Mystery employs a repertory cast to play non-recurring roles.
  • Space: 1999 had Brian Blessed play two different characters in two different seasons.

Actors who play roles as guest actors, then return in other roles as regular actors[edit | hide]

  • Star Trek does it some more:
    • Both Tim Russ and Robert Duncan McNeill appeared in TNG before becoming Voyager regulars. However, McNeill's character was originally intended to be a reprisal of his original role, but Locarno was decided to be irredeemable, so he's made into a different character... who gets the very same backstory that supposedly made Locarno irredeemable (with one minor change: three people died in the incident instead of one. Ooo-kay...) Another theory that's been put forth is they didn't want to pay royalties to the writer of Locarno's episode.
      • Other common explanations for the change in character are copyright concerns over the original story, and Robert Duncan McNeill's rumored unavailability before a last-minute change allowed him into the series, too late to revert to the original backstory/character.
      • Well, also it was stated that it was Paris who eventually came clean about the incident, whereas Locarno just wanted to cover it up and it was Wesley who decided to tell the truth. So Paris does seem a bit more redeemable.
      • As for Tim Russ, ironically, his first character is a villain who suffers the Vulcan Nerve Pinch (at the hands of Picard, who'd once mind-melded with Ambassador Sarek.) Russ would return in Voyager as the Vulcan security chief Tuvok (though not before playing the human security chief of the Enterprise-B in Generations).
      • Tim Russ has also played a Klingon. He went by the name of T'kar in Deep Space Nine's "Invasive Procedures".
      • Tim Russ also played an (apparently human) bridge officer on the Excelsior in Star Trek VI, which becomes quite amusing when they expand Tuvok's background to make him a low-ranking crewman on the same ship at the same time.
    • Armin Shimerman played a Betazoid gift box and two Ferengi in Next Gen before becoming Quark in Deep Space Nine.
      • And Max Grodenchik, best known for playing Quark's brother Rom, also played a couple of Ferengi in Next Gen, as well as a Trill in a deleted scene from The Movie Star Trek: Insurrection, and an unnamed human in the Deep Space Nine finale.
      • Shimerman himself wrote the obligitory Lampshade Hanging; in his book The 34th Rule, much is made of the inability of humans to tell Ferengi apart, and a character insults Quark by saying a Betazoid gift box resembles him. Both of Shimerman's earlier Ferengi characters also appear in the novel.
    • Diana Muldaur played two one-shot characters in The Original Series before returning to play TNG's Recurrer Dr. Pulaski.
    • Ethan Phillips played a Ferengi in an episode of The Next Generation before playing Voyager's Neelix. In the episode, "False Profits", Neelix disguises himself as a Ferengi. Gee, wonder where they got that idea.
      • Don't forget that he also played (in an uncredited role) a holographic maitre d' in Star Trek: First Contact
        • That's the reverse of this trope, though. He already was Neelix when First Contact came out.
          • Then he played a Ferengi again in an episode of Enterprise.
    • When Wesley takes the Academy admission test, one of his fellow students is a blue vaguely catfish-like alien with a special apparatus to supplement his air. Some time later, another member of this race boards the Enterprise, played by the same actor, and Wesley mistakes him for the other. This is given the Hand Wave that the species has very similar bone structures and are hard to tell apart.
  • Doctor Who has eight examples of guest actors returning as regular cast:
    • Colin Baker played a minor unrelated character before coming back as the sixth Doctor.
    • Peter Purves played two different characters in the same serial ("The Chase") - Fake American Morton Dill and new companion Steven Taylor.
    • Jean Marsh played Richard the Lionheart's sister in "The Crusades" before becoming one of the Doctor's travelling companions in "The Daleks' Master Plan".
    • Nicholas Courtney played a space security agent in "The Daleks' Master Plan" before taking on his recurring role as Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. Courtney has acted among six of the first seven Doctors on television, and the Sixth and Eighth in audio dramas.
    • Ian Marter played Lieutenant Andrews in "Carnival of Monsters" before joining the regular cast as Harry Sullivan in "Robot".
    • Lalla Ward played an alien princess whom Romana liked so much that she modelled her next regeneration on her. Apparently this was because she was one of the few actresses who Tom Baker actually liked. (Enough to marry, in fact.)
    • Freema Agyeman played Adeola Oshodi, a Torchwood member under Cyberman control in "Army of Ghosts", and later returned as the Doctor's companion Martha Jones in series three, starting with "Smith and Jones". In that episode, Martha refers to Adeola as her cousin.
    • Karen Gillan played a soothsayer in "The Fires of Pompeii" before being cast as Amy Pond, the Eleventh Doctor's first companion.
  • Furthermore, Doctor Who has three examples of regular cast coming back, years later, as different guest characters:
    • Jacqueline Hill, who was one of the original cast, reappeared years later as an alien priestess.
    • Jean Marsh appeared as two characters in the 1960s (one of them frequently considered to be a companion) and then returned in the 1989 serial "Battlefield" as the villain.
    • John Leeson voiced five versions of K-9 across three different Whoniverse shows from 1977 onwards, and later voiced the operator of the Dalek Battle Computer in Remembrance of the Daleks after Mark II departed from the Fourth Doctor and Mark III's spinoff show wasn't picked up from the pilot stage. In The Power of Kroll, a story where the K-9 prop couldn't function, he appeared as Dugeen.
  • Not surprisingly given how long it's run, Doctor Who has an extensive list of guest actors who reappeared in other guest roles. Just a few highlights:
    • In 1965-1966 serial The Daleks' Master Plan, the Doctor comments he has seen an elderly Englishman seen filing a complaint at a police station before, "at that marketplace in Jaffa." Which he had: in an earlier serial, "The Crusade", the same actor had played an extra in a marketplace in Jaffa!
    • Speaking of The Crusade, who can forget one of the more famous guest stars they got on the show during the early years, Julian Glover! He played King Richard the Lionheart in that serial, then returned in 1979, during the Tom Baker years, to play Count Scarlioni in "City of Death".
    • David Troughton, son of Second Doctor Patrick Troughton, has guest starred four times over the years. During his father's time on the show, he was an uncredited extra in The Enemy of the World, then played the Civil War soldier Moor in "The War Games". He then went on to play King Peladon in The Curse of Peladon alongside Jon Pertwee. Most recently, portrayed Professor Hobbes in the 2008 series episode "Midnight".
    • The king of returning guest spots on Doctor Who is Michael Sheard, the page image. Sheard appeared in six different stories over the course of more than twenty years, playing a different character each time. If you include the audio drama he did, the number goes up to seven.
    • As the Sontarans are a clone race, it's not too surprising that three different Sontarans, usually from completely different eras, share actors. Kevin Lindsay, who played Lynx in The Time Warrior as well as Styre and the Marshal in The Sontaran Experiment, also played Cho Je in Planet of the Spiders and Christopher Ryan, who played Staal in "The Sontaran Stratagem"/"The Poison Sky" and Stark in "The Pandorica Opens", also played Kiv in Mindwarp.
    • Neve McIntosh played Silurian sisters Alaya and Restac in series 5. A year later she played Victorian Silurian Madame Vastra, this time an ally of the Doctor.
    • Bernard Horsfall played Lemuel Gulliver in The Mind Robber, a Time Lord that oversaw the Doctor's trial in The War Games, Chancellor Goth in The Deadly Assassin and Taron in Planet of the Daleks.
    • Kevin Stoney played Mavic Chen in The Daleks' Master Plan, Tobias Vaughn in The Invasion and Tyrum in Revenge of the Cybermen.
    • Lynda Baron played Captain Wrack in Enlightenment and Val in "Closing Time".
    • Mark Gatiss played Richard Lazarus in "The Lazarus Experiment", Gantok in "The Wedding of River Song" (under a pseudonym), and had an uncredited cameo in "Victory of the Daleks" and "A Good Man Goes to War" as a space spitfire pilot.
    • Chipo Chung played Chantho in "Utopia" and the Shan Shen fortune teller in "Turn Left".
  • Opening it up to spin-offs and Expanded Universe stories:
    • Eve Myles appeared as Gwyneth in "The Unquiet Dead", and is starring as Gwen in the Spin-Off Torchwood, who crossed over in "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End". The Tenth Doctor and Rose noted the family resemblance.
    • A little girl watching the coronation in "The Idiot's Lantern" later reappeared in a much larger role as the fairy child in Torchwood's "Small Worlds."
    • In an unusual example of former lead characters taking up guest roles, various Doctors and companions played unrelated characters in the Doctorless spin-off videos of the 1990s. Most notable in PROBE: The Zero Imperative when Liz Shaw, former companion of the Third Doctor, failed to notice that Dr O'Kane looked exactly like him.
    • David Tennant played several characters in the Big Finish audios, amongst them UNIT's Colonel Brimmicombe-Wood in the spin-off series U.N.I.T., Galanar in Dalek Empire, and a Time Lord in the non-canonical story "Exile", before becoming the Tenth Doctor onscreen. Tennant also had a single line appearance in the webcast Scream of the Shalka with Richard E. Grant as the Ninth Doctor.
    • Bernard Cribbins appeared in '60s movie Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. as a companion of Peter Cushing's Doctor Who. Forty years later, he popped up in Big Finish's Eighth Doctor audios as a music manager, before finally making it into the TV series as Wilfred Mott, Donna's granddad and a two-episode companion to the Doctor.
    • The Minister of Chance is a Doctor-less audiodrama featuring Paul McGann and Sylvester McCoy (not to mention Paul "Tekker" Darrow). Ironically, the link to the Whoniverse is a character who isn't played by a returning actor: the titular Minister, played in Death Comes To Time by Stephen Fry, and here by Julian Wadham.
    • Suranne Jones played a manifest Mona Lisa in The Sarah Jane Adventures' third series. Two years later, she played the TARDIS in the parent show.
    • Jeff Rawle played Plantaganet in the Doctor Who serial Frontios, before taking the role of a museum curator in The Sarah Jane Adventures.
    • William Thomas played the undertaker for the Hand of Omega's casket in Remembrance of the Daleks and a nuclear advisor in "Boom Town" 17 years later. He later had a recurring role on Torchwood as Geraint Cooper, Gwen's father.
    • Sophie Okonedo played companion to an alternate Ninth Doctor in the special Scream of the Shalka. She later played Liz X in the episode "The Beast Below" on the show proper.
    • Yasmin Bannerman played Jabe in "The End of the World", before playing a police officer in the Torchwood episode "They Keep Killing Suzie".
    • Nigel Havers played Nick in the Eighth Doctor audio drama No More Lives, before playing Sarah Jane's fiancé Peter Dalton in The Sarah Jane Adventures story The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith.
    • Dan Starkey played various Sontarans on the Doctor Who TV series, as well as the Sontaran Field Major Kaarsh in The Adventure Games. He also played a Skullion in The Sarah Jane Adventures and Kravnet in the Big Finish audio Robophobia.
    • Peter Capaldi played Caecilius in The Fires of Pompeii before playing John Frobisher in Torchwood: Children of Earth. In addition, Frobisher's daughter Holly was played by Julia Joyce, who previously played a young Rose Tyler in Father's Day.
  • Dennis Franz came in as a very memorable several-episode character on Hill Street Blues, then was cast as Buntz the next season.
  • Garret Dillahunt played the coward Jack McCall on the first season of Deadwood, then came back the next season to play Francis Woolcott. McCall was, however, featured in five episodes, and was a very memorable character, which is probably why Dillahunt grew a beard for playing Wolcott, to lessen the visual similiarities between the two characters.
  • Main cast members of Reno 911!! frequently play one or more supporting roles in the same episode in which their main character also appears. This is accomplished by having the actor appear as a suspect with his or her face blurred out.
  • Nicholas Lea appeared in an early X-Files episode "Gender Bender" playing a character named Michael, then returned later as series regular Alex Krycek.
    • However, Terry O'Quinn trumps this, playing Lt. Brian Tillman in the episode "Aubrey", then Special Agent Darius Michaud in the first X-Files movie, and finally a mysterious contact and super soldier in the final season's "Trust No 1".
      • If Crossovers with other Chris Carter shows are considered, there are another two characters walking around with Terry O'Quinn's face: the cast regular Peter Watts from Millennium, and Omar Santiago in Harsh Realm. Are you sure he isn't an alien clone?
    • Chris Owens plays three different characters on the show: a young Cigarette-Smoking Man, Jeffrey Spender, and the Great Mutato. Justified in that the Cigarette-Smoking Man is Jeffrey Spender's father. Also, the Great Mutato is under so much make-up that you can't really tell who's playing him.
    • Also, before he played Eddie Van Blundht in "Small Potatoes", Darin Morgan made an unrecognisable appearance as the Flukeman in "The Host".
    • "Quagmire" and "War of the Coprophages" both feature a trio of actors playing teenage stoners, though the characters are not the same in both episodes.
  • Catherine Bell was originally cast as Harmon Rabb's girlfriend who is murdered in a first-season episode of JAG, which never aired during the U.S. network run due to cancellation of the show by NBC. When CBS picked up the series, Bell was cast as the new female lead Sarah "Mac" Mackenzie. Harmon Rabb acts like he's seen a ghost when she is introduced to him, and we later learn why in a Whole-Episode Flashback incorporating the original episode.
    • Donald P. Bellisario is known for bringing back actors he likes as this was done on his other shows as well. Sean Murray had a six-episode arc as Danny Walden on JAG. A few years later, he joined its spinoff NCIS as Special Agent Timothy McGee.[1]
      • The family casting doesn't stop there. Son Michael Bellisario played two minor roles on JAG before being cast as major recurrer Mikey Roberts, then also appeared on 4 episodes of NCIS as Chip Sterling, Abby's assistant who just took the job because he has it in for DiNozzo.
    • Likewise, Alicia Coppola played Lt. Cmdr. Faith Coleman on both JAG and NCIS, then later guest starred as FBI agent Lisa Rand on NCIS: Los Angeles.
  • Both Jerry Orbach and S. Epatha Merkerson played guest characters on Law and Order before being cast as regulars. Epatha as a cleaning lady, and Jerry Orbach as a defense lawyer.
    • A tradition continued by the two newest cops: Jeremy Sisto played a defense attorney, while Anthony Anderson appeared as a different cop on Law and Order Special Victims Unit.
    • Also, Annie Parisse and Milena Govich were each on the show once before being cast as series regulars.
    • Jim Gaffigan appeared on Law and Order: Criminal Intent as Russell Matthews and Mart Palin, and in original flavor as George Rozakis and Larry Johnson.
    • Annabella Sciorra played a defense lawyer in Law and Order Trial By Jury before being cast as Carolyn Barek on Law and Order: Criminal Intent.
    • Bebe Neuwirth appeared as a one-shot character in Law and Order SVU. Six years later she was cast as EADA Tracey Kibre, the lead character on Law and Order Trial By Jury.
    • And in Law and Order SVU, Casey Novak's actress, Diane Neal, was previously a scary high-powered murderer/rapist. If you join the show late and watch the reruns after getting used to Novak, it's very difficult to resist yelling, "But she's Casey Novak! You all love her!" at the televison when Benson and UnStabler are ripping her to shreds. On the upside, we do get to see Alex prosecuting her replacement, which is amusing.
    • Courtney B. Vance appeared in the original series as a murder suspect who used the race card to justify his actions then played ADA Carver in Law and Order: Criminal Intent.
    • Gina Torres appeared twice in L&O first as a witness in the Cold Opening then as another witness questioned in court.
    • Alfred Molina, who currently plays Ricardo Morales on Law and Order LA, had previosly played the suspect in the Law and Order Special Victims Unit/Law and Order Trial By Jury crossover.
    • Jay O. Sanders played a Killer-Of-The-Week in one episode of Criminal Intent before playing Cpt. Hannah in the final season.
  • In a sorta-You-Look-Familiar category, Shawn Ashmore played a villain in Seasons 1 and 3 of Smallville, but his identical twin brother Aaron plays sidekick Jimmy Olsen in Season 6.
  • As might be expected Stargate falls into this type of the trope as well.
    • Paul McGillion, who played the main/reoccuring character Carson Beckett on Atlantis, had previously played the younger version of a scientist, the first 20th century human to use the Stargate, in SG-1's first season.
    • In Stargate Atlantis, Firefly actress Jewel Staite plays a Wraith in season 2's "Instinct". In season 4 she returns as Dr. Keller.
    • Peter Kelamis played a scientist and an alien news anchor, Mark Burgess played Wraith's victim before they became recurring Stargate Universe characters.
  • In Babylon 5, Ed Wasser played a crewman named Guerra in the pilot movie before returning as the regular guest character Mr Morden throughout the series.
    • Another note, check the Narn and the Drazi whenever one of them gets a speaking part. There's one guy who appears almost EVERY time, best known as Drazi Green, Narn from Shattered Dreams who mocks Londo, amongst others. William forward, alias Lord Refa, had the possibility of one but apparently didn't get it.
      • Also John Vickery as Neroon the Minbari warrior in several episodes, and as a completely human Mr. Welles in one - with his role as Welles falling in the middle of his appearances as Neroon. Welles later reappeared in an episode of Crusade.
    • Wayne Alexander had such a brilliant performance as the inquisitor Sebastian (aka Jack the Ripper) that he returned in several Rubber Forehead Alien roles, such as Sheridan's Obi Wan Lorien and the main Drakh Shiv'kala.
  • ER, despite being on forever, has surprisingly few of these. One of the very few is with J.P. Manoux, who played an unnamed mime in a 1996 episode, then was cast as Dr. Crenshaw a full decade later.
    • Vondie Curtis Hall appeared as a transvestite in S1. He reappeared a few seasons later as a recast version of Roger, stepfather to Benton's son.
    • They actually had a rule about this, that they would never cast the same actor twice. They flubbed it a few times, though (including Jenette Goldstein, who was on twice).
    • And Justina Machado appeared as a one-off character in a 1997 episode ("Ambush"). Twelve years later, she returned as recurring character Claudia Diaz, who ends up dating (and, it is stated, eventually marrying) Dr. Archie Morris.
    • Ken Lerner also appeared as two different characters, both patients, over 8 years apart.
    • And Troy Evans appeared as an unnamed cop being treated by Carter in the pilot episode, before returning in a recurring role as desk clerk Frank from Series 6 onwards. It was established that Frank was an ex-cop, so they could conceivably have been the same person.
  • In the '60s Batman show, James Brolin appeared three times as three different characters.
    • Anne Baxter appeared as two different villians.
  • Animated example: on Batman: The Animated Series, before playing the Joker, Mark Hamill played the role of the Corrupt Corporate Executive that was responsible for Victor Fries's accident.
    • And brilliantly referenced in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. Hamill plays the Joker, as well as a corrupt corporate executive with a similar voice, in order to make the Red Herring of that executive be more believable
  • Similarly, on Avatar: The Last Airbender, before voicing main character Toph, Jessie Flower voiced Meng from "The Fortuneteller".
  • Another animated examples is Simon in the epilogue of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, who in both the original and the dub had the same voice actor as the narrator, or possibly was the narrator.
  • The Bill is notable for several of its villains returning as regulars, due to the Hey, It's That Guy! factor.
  • In the Discworld TV movies, Alberto Malich, the greatest wizard in Discworld history bears a striking resemblence to Rincewind, the worst wizard in Discworld history.
  • The dub of Naruto does this a lot: the voice actor for Zabuza, the villain from the first story arc, later voiced Orochimaru, the main villain for most of the series. Deidara's voice actor is the one that voiced two Filler character (Idate and Raiga) and Tsunade's death boyfriend Dan, the voice actors for Sasori's two forms previously voiced Pakkun and borderline background character Genma Shiranui, and Itachi's voice actor (after his short first appearance) was previously Ebisu's. This is probably because the show's cast is so huge nearly every voice actor who would ever work on it has done at least one role by now.
  • Many of the actors who became regulars on Matlock initially appeared before in different episodes.
  • On Hogan's Heroes Howard Caine played a couple of one-off German officers before settling in as the recurring Major Hochstetter. And since he played them all exactly like Major Hochstetter, it again became a bit confusing.
  • Rebecca Breeds plays Cassie Cometti in season 3 of Blue Water High, but she made her first appearance in season 2, episode 3 as Tina.
  • CHiPs. Randi Oaks played a car thief named "Kim" in the Season 2 episode "Down Time" and joined the cast as officer Bonnie Clark at the beginning of Season 3.
  • Patrick Newell had brief roles in The Avengers episodes "The Town of No Return" and "Something Nasty in the Nursery" before playing Mother in the show's final season.
  • John Larroquette guest starred several times on The Practice as Magnificent Bastard Joey Heric. A few years later, he became a regular on the show's spin-off, Boston Legal, playing senior partner Carl Sack.
  • A notable CSI variation was Carmine Giovinazzo, who appeared on the original CSI in the season 3 episode "Revenge is Best Served Cold" about two years before being cast as Danny Messer on the spin-off CSI: NY.
  • Martin Milner appeared as a high school drug user in the '50s version of Dragnet, then in the color '60s version, he frequently appeared as his Adam-12 character Pete Malloy. Ditto with Kent McCord, who appeared first as a cop accused in robbing a liquor store in a case of mistaken identity, and occasionally as a nameless uniform cop, then later as his Adam-12 character Officer Reid.
  • Catherine Schell played the Servant of the Guardian in Space: 1999‍'‍s first-season episode "Guardian of Piri". She would return to play Maya in every episode of the second season.

Sitcom examples include:[edit | hide]

  • Three's Company had many, many instances of this, though the most notable was Jeffrey Tambor, who appeared three times as different characters. Syndication makes it four different characters, as two episodes of spinoff The Ropers (on which Tambor was a regular) have been added to the Three's Company rotation.
  • An earlier version of the 'repeat offender' on Law and Order occurred on Barney Miller; many of the one-shot petty criminals and crime victims were played by repeat actors. Before joining the main cast of cops as Sergeant Dietrich, Steve Landesberg had played a criminal-of-the-week.
  • I Love Lucy reused almost all of its character actors throughout its run—some were reused dozens of times.
  • All of the supporting cast on Good Eats play multiple characters. As this is essentially a Cooking Show crossed with low-budget Sketch Comedy, that is not surprising.
  • Martin Trenaman appears as three different characters in as many episodes of Britcom '15 Storeys High'.
  • Although many of the cast members of Blackadder played different versions of the same characters over the course of the show, some of them played completely unrelated characters. Hugh Laurie appeared in a minor role as one of Edmund's drinking buddies in an episode of Blackadder II, before playing Prince Ludwig in the very next episode. He became a regular cast member in the two subsequent series, as a third character, George (or arguably two different characters called George).
    • On a related note, Tim McInnerny played versions of Percy in The Blackadder and Blackadder II, before playing Le Comte de Frou Frou in an episode of Blackadder The Third, and the regular role of Captain Kevin Darling in the final series, Blackadder Goes Forth.
    • Similarly, Miranda Richardson who played Queenie in Blackadder II makes a guest appearance as Miss Hardwood in an episode of Blackadder The Third and as Nurse Mary in Blackadder Goes Forth.
  • Father Ted: Irish comedian Jon Kenny played a cinema owner in "The Passion of St Tibulus" and a Eurosong MC in "Song for Europe" (in the latter role, he was filling in for Steve Coogan who pulled out at the last minute). Pauline McLynn played main character Mrs Doyle, and also appeared as a nun in "Flight Into Terror" (because Mrs Doyle only had one scene in that episode).
    • Also in Father Ted, the fortune teller from the first episode ("Just give me a pound!") is one of the old ladies who go to see The Passion of St. Tibulus ("He got his lad out and everything!").
  • Tahj Mowry played three different characters on his sisters' show, Sister, Sister, including a character from his own show, Smart Guy (making this a YLF, Old Friend, and Crossover all in one.)
  • Jon Lovitz appeared on News Radio as two different characters before coming in permanently as the Suspiciously Similar Substitute to Phil Hartman's character, following the latter's death.
  • Thanks to Executive Meddling, Tina Fey couldn't get her friend Rachel Dratch a major role on her show 30 Rock. She retaliated by casting Dratch in all kinds of minor roles, with zero effort made to hide that it's her. Dratch was dropped from the show entirely after the first season, though.
  • Friends had Giovanni Ribisi playing a teenager who accidentally dropped a condom in Phoebe's guitar case, about half a season before he was cast as Phoebe's half-brother. Arguably, they are the same character (they have very similar mannerisms), but he claimed he has never actually been in Manhattan.
    • Joey also brought Adam Goldberg and Jennifer Coolidge as regulars, both of whom had appeared as completely different characters in Friends.
    • June Gable played a nurse in episode 23 before picking up a recurring role as Joey's agent Estelle. There were also some one-off characters, e.g. Doug Looperr played a fireman in 3.23 and a paramedic in 5.08.
      • The Estelle character actually appeared in an earlier episode, but her scenes were cut from the televised version. (They can be viewed on the DVD version, however.) The producers then cast her as the nurse to make it up to her before bringing back Estelle the following season.
    • Lisa Kudrow had played Ursula the waitress on Mad About You prior to joining Friends; this was subsequently played with by making Ursula Phoebe's Evil Twin and having Kudrow play both characters in episodes of the latter show.
  • Monte Landis showed up in seven episodes of The Monkees playing seven different characters. They were all major roles, too... in six of the seven shows in which he appeared, he played the episode's villain.
    • Rose Marie also guest starred twice as different characters.
  • In a rare animated example, Futurama would often intentionally (or lazily) reuse background character prototypes, giving the same design, voice, and attitude to them, in completely different roles and situations. The lazy fat-guy tattooed-art trucker, or the old lady stockholder who loved her cat, for example. One such background character, a bald man with a "9" on his shirt, became a major character in the fourth direct-to-DVD movie.
    • So much so, that they have their own names and backstories. The trucker is Sal and the old lady is Hattie.
  • Married... with Children - Ted McGinley appeared in the Season 4 Christmas Episode "It's a Bundyful Life", which parodies It's a Wonderful Life, as Peggy's "alternate history" husband, before joining the regular cast as Jefferson D'Arcy the following season.
  • The Andy Griffith Show - Jack Dodson appeared in one Season 6 episode as an insurance agent before taking on the role of county clerk Howard Sprague the following season.
  • John Mahoney, later Frasier Crane's father Martin in Frasier, appeared as a piano player in a Cheers episode.
    • Peri Gilpin also appeared in the final season of Cheers before being cast on Frasier.
  • Conchata Ferrell played the main character's ex-wife's lesbian lover in one episode of the first season of Hearts Afire, but she joined the series as a regular in the second season, playing straight-as-an-arrow Madeline. Both characters were therapists, but otherwise had no connection. Similarly, Beth Broderick, who played Dee Dee Starr in the first season, appeared as Dee Dee's twin sister Lee Ann in two episodes of the second season. It's stated that Lee Ann grew up there in the Midwest, but it had previously been said that Dee Dee grew up in Texas. The explanation never made sense and they shouldn't have even bothered to attempt to Hand Wave the stunning resemblance away.
  • Hogan's Heroes did this quite a bit. Noam Pitlik played seven one-shot characters over the course of the show, including a German spy in the first episode of the series. Many of them were German officers with similar personalities, which could get a bit confusing.
  • M*A*S*H did this repeatedly, especially with Korean or Chinese characters, and also with nurses, especially in the early seasons where the nurses were referred to randomly as "Nurse Able" or "Nurse Baker".
    • Richard Lee-Sung appeared in ten M*A*S*H episodes between 1974 and 1982, and in two episodes of the spinoff series Trapper John MD in 1979 and 1982. In most of the episodes his name appears in the credits as "Second Korean", "Farmer", or "Korean Man" - a local who enters the 4077th base for trading. In the season 4 episode "Dear Mildred" he is Cho, in the season 5 episode "Bug Out" he is "Cho Man Chin". But in the season 6 episode "The Smell of Music" he is Sang Nu and in the season 8 episode "A Night at Rosie's" he is Ham Kim.
    • Soon-Tek Oh appeared in five M*A*S*H episodes between 1975 and 1982, each time playing a different person. (His name is variously spelled Soon-Teck Oh and Soon-Taik Oh in credits: this editor has preferred the spelling that appears on IMDB.) In the season 3 episode "Love and Marriage" he is Mr Kwang, an O.R. orderly. In the season 4 episode "The Bus" he reappears as a North Korean soldier. By the season 5 episode "The Korean Surgeon" he is Dr. Syn Paik, a wounded North Korean prisoner of war. In the season 8 episode "The Yalu Brick Road" he recapitulates his role in s4 as a North Korean soldier anxious to be captured by Hawkeye and BJ. In the season 11 episode "Foreign Affairs", he is Joon-Sung, a South Korean interpreter working for the Americans.
    • Mako appeared in four episodes between 1974 and 1980, each time playing a different person. (His birth name is Mako Iwamatsu.) In the season 3 episode "Rainbow Bridge", he is Dr. Lin Tam, a Chinese military doctor. In the season 5 episode "Hawkeye Get Your Gun", he is Major Choi, in charge of a South Korean aid station. In the season 8 episode "Guerrilla of My Dreams" he is Lt. Hung Lee Park, a South Korean officer. In the season 9 episode "The Best of Enemies", he is Li Han, a Chinese soldier who captures Hawkeye.
    • Eldon Quick appeared as Captain Sloan in season 2's "The Incubator" and season 3's "Payday", then as Captain Pratt in season 4's "The Late Captain Pierce".
    • Edward Winter first appeared as Captain Halloran in the season 2 episode "Deal Me Out", before returning for many guest appearances as Lt. Colonel Flagg. Halloran was later retconned into a cover identity for Flagg.
    • John Orchard was a semi-regular in season 1 as anesthesiologist Ugly John, a holdover from the novel and feature film who was subsequently Demoted to Extra and then written out of the show entirely. Years later in the season 8 episode "Captains Outrageous", Orchard returned for a guest appearance as a visiting Australian MP.
    • Each of the two men who voiced the camp's P.A. Announcer appeared as a different character in one episode apiece. (Admittedly, this may not quite count as "You Look Familiar", since said P.A. Announcer was never shown onscreen).
    • Harry Morgan had a guest role as Maj. Gen. Bartford Hamilton Steele in one episode before joining the cast full-time as Colonel Sherman T. Potter.
    • Sab Shimono has appeared at least twice in the series, each as a different character. Once as Winchester's house boy that was really a spy, and another time as one of three Korean doctors that shadowed the very same Winchester.
  • Seinfeld featured Suzanne Snyder appearing as two completely different one-shot characters: First, as a Neo-Nazi in "The Limo", and later as Jerry's latest girlfriend in "The Pie".
    • Seinfeld also featured Christa Miller as two different characters: First as a boss in a Bra company in "The Sniffing Accountant" and later as a love interest to George in "The Doodle" In both cases the plot thread implicated George Costanza.
  • In the first two seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond Kevin James played Ray's friend Kevin. In the third season, after Kevin was Put on a Bus, he played Doug Heffernan in a few crossover episodes.
  • In the All in The Family episode "Lionel Moves Into the Neighborhood", Vincent Gardenia plays Archie's neighbor who sells his house to the Jeffersons. In "The Bunkers and the Swingers", a swinger couple is played by Gardenia and Rue McClanahan. Gardenia would appear in the recurring role of Frank Lorenzo from the next season. McClanahan would later appear as Maude's friend, Vivian in Maude, which was a Spin-Off of All in the Family.
  • Actor Jack Riley appeared on seven episodes of Night Court playing five different characters.
    • Also, Will Utay & John Astin each played a different character in episodes of season 2 (although Astin's character, named Kenny, was quite similar to Buddy) before appearing as Phil & Buddy, respectively.
  • According to Jim used the same guest actor to play Jim's son in Imagine Spots of the future and for various other random roles throughout the series, including a waiter and a lonely guy at the bar.
  • In The George Lopez Show, Hilary Duff plays one of Carmen's friends and later on, Angie's mentor when she starts selling La Marie cosmetics. Lampshaded when Max says, "You look like one of Carmen's friends."
    • Actually, the one where Hilary Duff plays the mentor came out two years before the one where she plays Carmen's friend, so it's more Hilarious in Hindsight.
  • A first-season episode of The Golden Girls featured Harold Gould as Rose's date, Arnie, long before he became a recurring character as Rose's steady boyfriend Miles.
  • Two instances on Happy Days: Lynda Goodfriend was cast as Richie's date Kim a good while before being brought back as his girlfriend-turned-wife Lori Beth Allen in season five. Linda Purl, meanwhile, actually appeared before Lynda Goodfriend as Richie's girlfriend Gloria in a couple of second season episodes; she returned nearly a decade later as Fonzie's steady Ashley Pfister in the penultimate season.
    • And if we're also counting spinoffs, Goodfriend also appeared on Happy Days' forgettable spin-off Blansky's Beauties, alongside a considerably more familiar face -- Scott Baio, who later joined Happy Days as Fonzie's cousin Chachi.
  • On Bewitched, before he became better known as Dr. Bombay, Bernard Fox played Osgood Rightmire, a witch hunter; and Paul Lynde—Uncle Arthur—guest starred as Samantha's driving instructor.
  • Jonathan Winters played Mindy's aunt on Mork and Mindy a couple of years before joining the cast as Mearth.
  • Made in Canada
    • A Film/Theater professor in an earlier episode later is seen as reoccurring character as the gay actor who plays the parson from Beaver Creek.
    • Gordon Pinsent appears as Walter Franklin, the lead actor of Beaver Creek who dies in season 1, and the business owner who buys and shuts down Pyramid in the very last episode.
  • On Home Improvement, Debbe Dunning played a one-off role in the season two episode "Overactive Glance" before she started playing Heidi in season three.
  • Boy Meets World had many cases of this, some more noticeable than others. For example, the actor who played Angela's dad in season 7 also played a college professor in one episode of season 5.
  • Joe Walsh appears As Himself in the Drew Carey Show episode "Drewstock" where he's one of the thousands of guests at Drew's house party. The next year he appeared in six episodes as Ed, a not very talented guitarist Drew hires to be in his band.
  • Israeli sitcom Ha Pijamot, which is noted for having No Fourth Wall, uses this thoroughly and lampshades this with one extra. When Yamit mocks extras and insults the one other patron in the Hamburgary at that point, Gary tells her that he was the one extra they keep using over and over, followed by a flashback showing him in the various roles they cast him as over the years. Later on, when Kobi, Ilan, and ‘Oded tell her they want to try finding a job as extras, Yamit makes sure no extras are around, and then says, ‘Extras? That’s the peak of your aspirations?’


Other examples:[edit | hide]

  • Sketch Shows in which most of the comedy characters are played by the same small group of actors live off this trope. Little Britain and The Catherine Tate Show require the viewer to believe that there are people all over Britain that look just like Matt Lucas, David Walliams and Catherine Tate.
    • Played with in a Catherine Tate Show sketch in which David Tennant guest stars as Lauren Cooper's teacher. She asks "Are you the Doctor?"
    • The League of Gentlemen stretches it further: almost everyone in a single town looks like Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton or Reece Shearsmith.
  • Jesse McCartney played J.R. Chandler on All My Children from 1998 to 2001. Eventually his character was SORAS'ed as McCartney went on to a career as a pop singer. In 2006 McCartney appeared on the show as himself, singing at a party. (When he was introduced to his prior character's father and his own SORAS'ed character, now played by Jacob Young, all commented that each other seemed very familiar and speculated they'd met in a past life. See Actor Allusion.)
  • Sarah Brown originated the character of Carly in General Hospital. Since she left, the character has been played by three other actresses, and was still on the show when Sarah Brown re-entered GH as Claudia in early 2008.
    • Similarly, the fact that Natalia Livingston's new character Rebecca looks just like Natalia Livingston's old character Emily (deceased) is Rebecca's debut plot point.
  • In the Spaghetti Western For a Few Dollars More, Lee Van Cleef played the Bounty Hunter Colonel Douglas Mortimer, who worked as the protagonist's ally. In the prequel/sequel, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, he played the villain Angel-Eyes. (The director originally wanted to use another actor - possibly Charles Bronson - for the latter, but was turned down. He then reportedly decided it would be fun to cast Van Cleef as a Smug Snake, since he'd already used him as a heroic character.)
    • Of course, whether those movies are even in the same continuity remains ambiguous at best.
  • There are at least two examples from the James Bond films, with Charles Gray playing a British agent in You Only Live Twice before returning as the arch-villain Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever, and Maud Adams appearing as Bond Girl Andrea in The Man with the Golden Gun before returning as the titular Octopussy. The James Bond series is, of course, also full of examples of The Other Darrin.
  • Since Power Rangers switched filming locations from California to New Zealand, this started happening more often. It's listed in other examples, however, because it's done guest to regular and regular to regular both. Commonly caused by Only So Many Equity Members. Examples include:
    • Katrina Devine played Marah, a bumbling villain regular, in Ninja Storm, and Cassidy, an annoying reporter regular, in Dino Thunder. A Shout-Out was done in the Reunion Show of the two seasons, with both characters passing each other briefly and commenting on each other's beauty, then (in a Split Screen) claiming that they are moreso.
    • James Napier played a guest star one-shot in the finale of Ninja Storm, and went on to become The Hero in the following season. Justified though; the two characters are twin brothers.
      • Ironically, seeing as the group of late students that turn up in Ninja Academy are supposed to be Expies to the three main heroes, Napier's character there would be an analogue to the Yellow Ranger, while as Conner, he was the Red Ranger.
    • Kelson Henderson was a guest star record producer in Dino Thunder, and then followed that with regular roles (two ally, two enemy, all bumbling) in the next four seasons.
    • Dwayne Cameron, who played a school bully guest star in Dino Thunder and a Monster of the Week alien criminal with a temporary human form in S.P.D., ended up becoming Tyzonn, the Mercury Ranger, in Operation Overdrive.
    • John Tui was the Sixth Ranger in both S.P.D. (Cmdr. Cruger, the Shadow Ranger) and Mystic Force (Daggeron, the Solaris Knight), but the S.P.D. version was a case of being in a rubber suit, which somewhat justified this. It didn't help his voice clearly not being any different between the two characters, though.
    • Nic Sampson played Chip, the Yellow Ranger, in Mystic Force, and the Sentinel Knight, a combined Sixth Ranger / Humongous Mecha / Upgrade Artifact / Plot Coupon in Operation Overdrive. This too is justified because the latter one is only a vocal performance.
    • Holly Shanahan played Leelee, a villain's daughter who switches sides in Mystic Force, before showing up again as a proper villain, Camille, in Jungle Fury (though she ultimately switches sides too). While she's immediately recognizable to previous fans, her penchant for deviousness, cruelty, and a sexy brocade made her role change disconcerting to some.
    • Sarah Thomson played a sneaky Monster of the Week alien criminal (again with a temporary human form) in S.P.D., and Fran, a bumbling pizzeria regular customer/employee, in Jungle Fury.
    • Samurai gives us three actors from previous seasons: Rene Naufahu played Emperor Gruumm, the Big Bad of S.P.D., and now is the Rangers' mentor Ji (though, like with the aforementioned John Tui, he wore a full body suit in S.P.D., except for one episode); Ricardo Medina, Jr. played Cole, the Red Ranger of Wild Force, and now is the renegade immortal swordsman Deker; and in a two-parter we had Grant McFarland, who played Lothor, the Big Bad of Ninja Storm, as well as voicing the Rangers' mentor in that season for most of it, playing Daisuke, the elderly monk/caretaker of a Shinto temple.
  • As they were non-union actors, the Playing With Time Acting Repository, the group of actors who performed in Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High, are the only actors on the show. Minor characters who had starring roles in some episodes would be seen standing around or acting in the background during different episodes, and the cast rotated around to allow everyone the chance to have episodes focused on them.
    • However, the first episode plays the trope straight: One of the Diesach twins appears in the role of "Stacey". The twins would play the roles of Heather and Erica Farrell in later episodes.
  • The Pink Panther movie series had Graham Stark, an extremely close friend/frequent co-star of Peter Sellers', play several different roles over the years:
    • In A Shot In the Dark and Trail of the Pink Panther, he was Clouseau's assistant Hercule.
    • In The Return of..., he was the Phantom's unlucky contact Pepi.
    • In The Pink Panther Strikes Again he was the hotel clerk in Austria (originally, his part was a German hotel clerk with a resemblance to Hitler, but this proved so funny that Sellers could not keep a straight face during shooting, so it was dropped and replaced),
    • In Revenge of... and Son of... he was Clouseau's costumer Auguste Balls (see The Other Darrin for why he didn't always play this role).
    • And he has a cameo as a waiter in Curse of...
  • It is sort of weird this page has gone this long without a mention of Professional Wrestling, as Gimmicks are essentially different roles in the same organization.
    • You remember Isaac Yankem, D.D.S.? That's Kane.
    • How about Terra Rysing? You know him now as Triple H.
    • This is such a fact of life in the business that the only aversion that springs to mind (if there are any others) is Mark Calaway, who did have a couple of different gimmicks in his early days, but you'd be hard pressed to find someone who knows him as anything but the Undertaker for almost twenty years. And even then, he's not immune to this, though the American Badass wasn't a separate gimmick so much as a re-tooling, as he was still called "The Undertaker" and was implied, depending on the writers' mood, to be either de-powered or an ordinary guy all along who just threw away the makeup.
      • There is one other...real American aversion...
      • What about Ric Flair? Sequined robes, "Woo!", and Also sprach Zarathutra since the 1970s.
  • This happened a few times on Coronation Street; probably common in the Soap Opera genre.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 is an odd case in that several actors have made repeat "guest" appearances, but not by choice - the same actors simply crop up in different movies being riffed.
    • Featured movies aside, it's worth mentioning that in Mystery Science Theater 3000's host segments (the scenes not taking place in the Theater during the movies) the regular cast and most of the one-shot characters were played by the show's writer/actors, other writers, or other crewmembers. With a few exceptions, everyone who ever appeared in the Satellite of Love, Deep 13, Deep Ape, or Castle Forrester over the years Looked Familiar.
      • The fact that the puppets were performed by one or more of the Mads (Crow in all seasons, Servo in seasons 1 and 8-10) meant that every episode featured someone Talking to Himself.
    • Peter Graves may be the reigning king, having appeared in It Conquered The World, The Beginning of the End, and parts: the clonus horror. He also had a voiceover in Attack of the The Eye Creatures.
    • This is debatable: Richard Kiel appeared in four Mystery Science Theater 3000 films (Eegah, The Human Duplicators, The Magic Sword and The Phantom Planet), though you can consider it a tie since in the latter film, he's dressed in a alien costume and completely unrecognizable.
    • Tied with Graves is William Sylvester who appeared in Riding With Death, Devil Doll and Gorgo. In the latter episode, this was lampshaded by a host segment involving a "William Sylvester Edition" of Trivial Pursuit.
    • Russell Johnson (aka The Professor) appeared in The Space Children and in This Island Earth.
    • Peggy Webber played a pinch-faced lady in The Screaming Skull and The Space Children.
    • Ed Nelson starred as "Steve" in Night of the Blood Beast and the elusive Robert Denby in Riding With Death.
    • Bryant Haliday played the main villain in both Devil Doll and The Projected Man.
    • John Phillip Law played both Elijah Kalgan in Space Mutiny and the titular character in Diabolik.
    • Joe Don Baker played the title character in Mitchell, which was the final episode starring Joel, and later starred in a second movie during the show's final season titled Final Justice, in which he played the Sheriff Geronimo. Mike is disappointed to learn that "You get to escape after watching a bad Joe Don Baker movie" is not a matter of SoL policy.
    • Beverly Garland, who starred in Gun Slinger, Swamp Diamonds and It Counquered The World, was a favorite of the MST crew, and would even appear with them at some conventions.
    • According to this website (scroll down), Roger Corman regular Jonathan Haze is the record-holder, appearing in 5 movies (6 if you count The Day The World Ended, the movie that Sci-Fi used for its "Mystery Science Theater 3000-The Home Game" special).
    • The episode featuring The Indestructible Man has a rare case; Lon Chaney Jr. featured as Captain Hakur in the short, chapter 2 of Undersea Kingdom, and starred as the title character in the main film.
  • Silas Carson and Jerome Blake each played a whole bunch of minor characters in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
  • In the Quintessential Phase of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, an erratic Zaphod says that The Bird has the voice of "That archaeologist." Rula Lenska, who voiced The Bird, had also voiced Lintilla, three of several million cloned archaeologists in the Secondary Phase. It is rather remarkable that someone as self-obsessed as Zaphod would remember her, as they only met briefly, and that entire phase of the series had been retconned into something Zaphod had dreamed during a particularly bad hangover.
  • Jerry Adler played a police sergeant early in season 2 of Mad About You, before taking on the recurring role of Mr. Wicker.
  • Boston Legal, despite being a spinoff from The Practice, featured John Laroquette in its last season. John Laroquette also played the serial killer Joey Heric in The Practice.
  • Andy Griffith appeared in an episode of Diagnosis: Murder as Ben Matlock, claiming that he & Dr. Sloan have been very good friends for quite some time. If that is true, how come he never noticed that "the evil" Judge Carter Addison looked exactly like his old friend?
  • The Forgetting Sarah Marshall spin-off/SpiritualSequel Get Him to The Greek is set in the same universe and once again features Russell Brand as Aldous Snow...yet he co-stars with Jonah Hill, playing a completely different character than the one he played in the first film.
  • Peter Jackson's kids, Billy and Katie, can be seen in all three Lord of the Rings movies.
  • Ben Healy's bitchy wife in Problem Child and his love interest in Problem Child 2 are played by the same actress. Oddly, no-one points out the resemblance.
    • It's probably not a coincidence that said actress, Amy Yasbeck, happened to be John Ritter's (who played Ben) real life wife...
  • Nearly subverted by the Disney Channel, which is odd considering their habit of reusing every actor in at least one series and one TV movie. The reason it isn't a subversion is that Selena Gomez had guest roles in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody (and by extension, its spin-off/sequel Suite Life On Deck) and Hannah Montana before landing the lead role on Wizards of Waverly Place. The three shows eventually crossed over during the Wizards On Deck with Hannah Montana event. This means that three Selena Gomezes exist in the Disney Channel-verse.
    • Another Wizards of Waverly Place example is Amanda Tepe, who played eight different characters over the first two seasons, most of whom speak in a monotone.
  • The Dan Schneider series of shows contains a shared universe between iCarly, Victorious and Zoey 101 as well as an indication that Drake and Josh is a fictional TV show in that universe:
  • Kevin Smith reuses actors so much—sometimes even in a single film—that, over six movies, the View Askewniverse has six Scott Mosiers, five Walt Flanagans, four Brian O'Hallorans (all cousins), two Jeff Andersons, four Vincent Pereiras, three Ernest O'Donnells, two John Williyungs (three if you include deleted scenes), five David Kleins, two Virginia Smiths, two Joey Lauren Adamses, four Jason Lees, four Ben Afflecks, three onscreen Ethan Suplees, two Malcolm Ingrams, two Dwight Ewells, two Matt Damons, two Dan Etheridges, two Chris Rocks, two George Carlins and two Jennifer Schwalbach Smiths. To include instances of actors playing themselves would add an additional Affleck and Damon, not to mention create two Shannon Dohertys. Thank you, The Other Wiki.
    • There's even more Walt Flanagans, Scott Mosiers and Dave Kleins when you consider that they all played multiple roles in Clerks - four for Flanagan, three for Mosier and five for Klein.
  • That Guy With The Glasses. While most of the contributors to the site have one main character and a few recurrers, That Guy (Doug Walker) has four series running, each of which stars himself as a different character, plus any number of stand-alone shorts which star him as someone completely different. Most of the characters played by Doug have interacted with at least one other.
    • Site admin Bhargav Dronamraju played "Ma-Ti", alongside appearing as himself in a one-off sketch and a perverted leerer in the Mortal Kombat film review.
    • In The Nostalgia Chick's "Inside the NChick Labs" video, Nella plays both the organiser of the meeting of recurring characters, but also played a scientist from the "Playing God" video in the audience. One of Lindsay's other real-life friends plays both a Makeover Fairy and a "babe scientist". Beforehand, it was uncertain if the pairs of characters were actually the same person.
  • Hawaii Five-O had a lot of recurring one-off characters and one-off characters whose actors returned in a recurring role. In fact, one might say that aside from the main characters, the entire cast was made up of these. Probably due to the combination of its extremely long run and the tiny casting pool in Hawaii. It would be interesting to document all the roles various actors have had on the show.
    • Moving on to guest stars, meanwhile, pilot guests Lew Ayres (as the governor, played by Richard Denning in the series), Andrew Duggan and Leslie Nielsen all returned in guest roles in later episodes, setting a tradition maintained by, among others, Bruce Boxleitner (who played two different characters in season seven's "We Hang Our Own" (featuring the aforementioned Leslie Nielsen) and "And The Horse Jumped Over The Moon" - and was killed off in the former!).
  • The Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movie The Challenge got bizarrely meta at the end when the girl's Love Interests in the film fight over the twins. It turns out that four of the guys in that movie had played the girl's love interests in their previous movies, and they proudly announced it straight to the camera.
  • Happens occasionally in live theatre, with long-running shows.
    • For example, several actors including Tim Martin Gleason, Brad Little, John Cudia and Ramin Karimloo first played Raoul before playing The Phantom of the Opera himself.
    • In Les Misérables, Lea Michele played young Cossette and later returned as Eponine, Nick Jonas (yes him) played Gavroche and later Marius and Lea Salonga played Eponine and later Fantine.
  • In Miss Saigon, Ruthie Henshall was one of the nameless bar girls during the initial London production before eventually being cast in the role of Ellen (the wife of the titular character's lover). In fact, many of the actresses playing the bar girls where eventually cast as Kim or Ellen. Similarly, many of the actors playing the numerous GIs eventually played Chris or John.
  • Reading the cast list of any Broadway show will demonstrate this trope in spades. Actors tend to not only have many shows to their credits, but many roles in common--Les Misérables Marius and Miss Saigon Chris, Miss Saigon Kim and Les Misérables Eponine, Miss Saigon Ellen and Les Misérables Fantine, etc.
  • Pick a movie directed by Sam Raimi, any movie. Odds are pretty good his brother Ted will show up somewhere as one of the minor characters, and in some cases several.
  • Dario Fo's play 'Can't Pay? Won't pay!" plays with this by having a cast consisting of two couples and four other characters-all to be played by the same actor. (The script has numerous references to the couples recognising this).
  • As mentioned above, The X-Files was quite fond of re-using actors. Nicholas Lea, known for his role as Alex Krycek, first appeared in "Genderbender" as a minor character. Terry O'Quinn appeared on the show three times ("Aubrey", "Fight the Future", and "Trustno1"), all three times playing a different character. Chris Owens, known for his role as Agent Spender, first appeared as a young CSM in "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man"; he later played the Great Mutado in "Post Modern Prometheus" before being cast as Agent Spender.
  • The various cameos of Stan Lee in the films that made up the Marvel Cinematic Universe, imply there are several identical looking individuals running around in the verse. Either that or "Stan the Man" gets around.
  • Nia Long from Fresh Prince of Bel Air played two different characters. In her first appearance she played the role of a psychotic girlfriend in universe in an attempt to terrify Will. In her second appearance she played Lisa, Will's longest lasting relationship.
  • Similarly Andrew McFarland on My Wife and Kids amusingly played the daughter Claire's first on screen crush Roger, then came back and played her boyfriend Tony as a regular for the rest of the series. Claire on the other hand switched actresses in-between these events.
  • There's an episode of The Simpsons where every character that reoccurring guest star Jon Lovitz voiced turn up as patrons of Moe's Tavern, including Jay Sherman from The Critic. The Simpsons comic book similarly had Troy McClure meeting Phil Hartman's other Simpsons character, Lionel Hutz.
  • The Legend of Dick and Dom is very loyal to Ian Kirby and Dave Chapman as supporting actors. Loads and Loads of Roles loyal, Once an Episode loyal. Dave ends up getting a recurring character in season three, but until then, they both play a different part every week- or even two each. (Other actors and extras show up as well. It's a Shout-Out to their sidekick roles in Dick and Dom in da Bungalow more than anything.)
  • In Men in Black, David Cross played the morgue attendant who was hilariously killed by the Bug. In Men In Black II, he plays Newton, the video store owner who has the clue to restore Kay's memory. Sadly, he is not in Men In Black III.

Meta Examples:[edit | hide]

  • The titular character of The Truman Show, not knowing his whole life has been a reality show, begins to suspect things are weird when the actor who played his now-dead father sneaks back in town as a homeless man.
    • Also, in a Deleted Scene, Truman runs into a jogger played by the same actor who played a homeless man in a wheelchair two days earlier.
  1. Sean Murray is Belisario's stepson.