Created By: RobotechMaster on May 10, 2012 Last Edited By: Arivne on yesterday

Spoiled By The Cast List

Knowing the cast list spoils The Reveal.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
(Wiki-policy on spoilers being discussed yet again) Spoiler Policy - for reference. —~crazysamaritan


Cast Lists are used to give credit to the professionals and creators responsible for the production. In an ongoing work, audiences can draw a connection between characters and their actors, which can reveal a Plot Twist when the cast list is shown. This is frequently related to the life or death of characters, but can be related to Two Aliases, One Character and many other surprises as well.

Note that both opening credits and ending credits apply for this trope. Cast lists from outside sources like IMDB contribute to the spoiler effect, revealing Plot Twists to people not watching the work, and are why this concept is marked as a Trivia item. The actor may be a complete unknown outside of the work, because it is the presence/absence of their name that communicates a spoiler to the audience.

See also Chronically Killed Actor (we know a character will die because the actor always plays dead characters), Contractual Immortality (we know an actor's character survives because of the contracts the actor signed), Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize (the character has to be important because the actor is well-known), and Type Casting / Meta Casting (actors are known by their roles, and the work plays with those known roles).

Warning: because of the nature of this trope, spoilers below are unmarked.


     Playing With / Spoiled By The Cast List 

  • Played Straight: The arrival of a (previously dead) character is spoiled by the name of the actor playing them.

  • Averted Trope:
    • Characters are not listed in the cast list to avoid spoilers.
    • Rather than being resurrected, the deceased character shows up in a flashback, or as a ghost, or the actor is listed as playing the deceased character's twin (or Identical Grandson).
    • The Ensemble cast lists all actors known to be part of the group, even the Absentee Actors of the episode.

  • Enforced Trope: Prominent characters have their actors listed in the opening credits.

  • Downplayed Trope: Characters are listed in the end credits after The Reveal of their actor.


Examples

Film
  • Downplayed by Kevin Spacey, who requested that he not be included in the opening credits to Se7en, because his character does not appear until two-thirds of the way into the film and he wanted his appearance to be a surprise to the audience (also averting Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize in the process). He is listed first in the end credits to the film.

Live-Action TV
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer featured Tara's actor (Amber Benson) in the opening credits, but Subverting audience expectations by killing her off.
  • In the Power Rangers universe, particularly the original MMPR series, if a new student begins showing up regularly, it's a safe bet that a cast member is being replaced. Which one? Easy to tell. Look at the clothes the new student is wearing, and match the color. They'll also be listed in the closing credits of the episode.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Some episodes noticeably omitted guest star Salome Jens from the opening credits, because her appearance as a villain in those episodes would have spoiled the plot. As a tradeoff, her name was prominently displayed first in the closing credits, before the main cast credits.
  • Supernatural fans memorize the actor names for recurring characters, so when they watch the opening credits and see a familiar name, they already know that the associated character will be showing up later in the episode.

Multimedia Franchises

Video Game


Aversions

Film
  • Jack Palance played Curly in City Slickers, but Curly died. In the sequel, Jack returns as the twin brother.
  • During the Fifth Doctor era, when the Doctor Who production team wished to hide the Master's involvement in a story, they credited the actor under an anagrammatic character alias such as "Neil Toynay" (Tony Ainley) or "James Stoker" (Master's Joke).
  • The Search For Spock featured Leonard Nimoy in the opening credits as a director (not an actor) because his character (Spock) had died in the previous film.
  • Star Wars: The Phantom Menace averted the It Was His Sled spoiler of who Darth Sidious is by not putting that name in the closing credits. The actor still received credit because they played both roles of the Two Aliases, One Character.

Live-Action TV
  • When House had a group of 30+ doctors following around Dr. House, the permanent characters were not listed in the opening credits of Season 4 episodes.

Community Feedback Replies: 88
  • May 10, 2012
    BradyLady
    I'd like to add an aversion. Similarly, Jack Palance played Curly in City Slickers. The fact that Curly died didn't stop Palance from coming back in the sequel, as Curly's twin brother.
  • May 10, 2012
    BradyLady
    An an example: In the Power Rangers universe, particularly in the original MMPR series. If a new student begins showing up regularly, you can bet pretty safely that a ranger is going to be replaced soon. Which one? Easy to tell. Just look at the clothing the new student wears, and match the color.
  • May 10, 2012
    BradyLady
    Then I figured out how to add the examples and just added them. I think this one is ready for a hat.
  • May 10, 2012
    chicagomel
    Live Action TV can have a variation of this, where if the actor's signed on for the next season, you know the character will survive whatever end-of-season trauma he's left in during a finale cliffhanger or he'll be back even if he's threatened to leave. This has been the case on CSI. It's a fair bet Nick isn't actually going through with quitting as Geroge Eads is already signed for next season. The inverse shows up too-everyone knew Warrick was not surviving being shot when it was announced that Gary Dourdan was leaving. CSI NY-no one thought Danny or Lindsay would actually die in the season 6 finale cliffhanger because both actors were already known to be returning.
  • May 10, 2012
    Jordan
    At least right now, it sounds like Coulson in The Avengers actually was Killed Off For Real- or so say the director and actor in an Io9 interview. I'd say the character is probably dead for good and the future movie appearances have been jossed.
  • May 10, 2012
    peccantis
    This being a spoiler trope, it would make a lot of sense to unmark all of the spoiler mark-up upon launch. And add the relevant warning on the top.
  • May 10, 2012
    Robotech_Master
    And yet in an interview before the movie came out, that actor said:
    No, no, no. I talked to Joss Whedon early on. I said "Hey, why is everyone saying this?" And he said, "Yeah, I've done that before. Don't worry. You're safe."
    And I haven't been able to find this io9 interview in Googling.
  • May 10, 2012
    Robotech_Master
    Further, from this post:
    And while he hasn't been approached for any of the films I named he did confirm that he's had discussions about appearing in one or more of Marvel's upcoming films. All in all, I'd have to say it's a good chance that Agent Coulson's role in the Marvel Universe is not over.
    I think it counts.
  • May 11, 2012
    sgamer82
    • The Saw series is a subversion in one aspect. Tobin Bell, the actor who plays John "Jigsaw" Kramer, has been in every movie in the series. However, Jigsaw himself was Killed Off For Real at the end of the third movie. All subsequent appearances and castings have been via flashback or video will.
  • May 11, 2012
    Jordan
    Here should be a link to the io9 article.
  • May 11, 2012
    Robotech_Master
    Shrug. Don't see anything in there that says the character is going to stay dead. Just that he had to be killed off for that movie. Besides, it's really kind of a side issue to the main thrust of the discussion here, which is about the trope under proposal.
  • May 11, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy The Vampire Slayer: season 5 saw Buffy die at the end of the last episode. Joss promised that she was really dead, "rotting in the ground," but said that she would be appearing the next season, not as a ghost or an alternate-universe version. She gets resurrected in the season 6 opener.
  • May 13, 2012
    Dacilriel
    Averted in The Lord Of The Rings movies. Boromir died at the end of the first one, but the actor did return in the next movie (at least in the extended edition). The appearance in question was a flashback to before the series started.
  • May 29, 2012
    darkjezter
    Clark Gregg, who plays SHIELD Agent Coulson has reportedly been in talks to appear in Iron Man 3, desipite their character being killed off in an earlier Marvel movie.
  • May 29, 2012
    IsaacSapphire
    Fans of Supernatural know the names of the actors for recurring characters, so when they watch the opening credits and see a familiar name, they already know that Bobby or Castiel or whomever will be showing up later in the episode.

    Averted in the Star Trek movie, The Search for Spock. They deliberately did not have Leonard Nemoy's name in the opening credits as an actor, only the director.
  • November 22, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    One should also beware if you buy multiple seasons of a show on DVD at one time (without having watched the original airing), because you may see a (presumed dead) character on the cover of the next season's DVD. For example, seeing Sheridan on Babylon 5's Season 4 cover, after he appeared to almost certainly have died after a long fall on Z'ha'dum in the Season 3 cliffhanger.

    And then there's seeing what the transformed Delenn looks like on the Season 2 cover....

    Since Babylon 5 aired in the 90s before the Internet was too pervasive, not sure how well these secrets were kept then.
  • November 23, 2012
    Folamh3
  • November 23, 2012
    Prfnoff
    This sounds a lot like Contractual Immortality.
  • November 23, 2012
    DRCEQ
    ^ This trope has enough merit to be a separate trope because it's talking about actors, not the fictional characters themselves.

    Lets see. I feel that Spoiled By The Format should be compared or related somehow.
  • November 25, 2012
    acrobox
    is this a Trope proper or Trivia?
  • November 25, 2012
    Prfnoff
    ^^ Contractual Immortality does talk about actors, and the OP talks about characters as well.
  • November 25, 2012
    FELH2
    It would be a very interesting twist if they cast the actor for the next movie... but for a different role.
  • November 26, 2012
    Robotech_Master
    Contractual Immortality isn't quite the same thing. It's maybe part of it, but this is meant to cover any surprise that could be spoiled by casting, such as the typecasting example I added in my most recent edit of it--not just a particular character being alive. It's meant to rhyme with the other "spoiled by..." tropes in that way.
  • November 28, 2012
    SharleeD
    Moreover, it also spoils whether or not a character is being Put On A Bus, not just whether they're being killed off.
  • November 28, 2012
    elwoz
    Second @acrobox's question whether this is a trope or just trivia. I suppose making it YMMV would be consistent with Spoiled By The Format.
  • November 28, 2012
    Thatguy15
    Averted in the dark knight: heath ledger died in real life essentially ending the joker in the Nolan films.
  • November 28, 2012
    Robotech_Master
    What are the criteria for if it's a trope, trivia, or YMMV? There are lots of Spoilered Rotten tropes that are not considered trivia or YMMV.
  • December 14, 2012
    GreatHylianKing
    Averted in the Dark Knight Trilogy; Ra's Al Ghul died in the first movie, but returns in the third as a hallucination.

    What "played with" is this?
  • January 18, 2013
    elwoz
    Bump. Still wondering where this goes.
  • February 15, 2013
    Gitman
    Isn't there one similar to this, where you can tell that a seemingly unimportant character must have plot significance, because he's played by an A-list actor?
  • February 15, 2013
    Koveras
    ^ I can only think about Dead Star Walking.

  • February 15, 2013
    arromdee
    I am not sure Coulson from the Avengers counts, since it was announced in NYCC October 2012 that he would be in the SHIELD TV series.

    Also, as for the Power Rangers example, I recall a series (I *think* it was Dino Thunder or Mystic Force but I may be wrong) where there was a female character who constantly wore pink to the point where you'd think she'd be a Sixth Ranger. She wasn't.
  • February 15, 2013
    arromdee
  • February 15, 2013
    jamespolk
    • Dan Stevens announced his departure from Downton Abbey before the third-season Christmas special aired in Britain and before the third season even premiered in the United States.
  • February 16, 2013
    randomsurfer

    When a TV series is put "on hiatus" it's already 95% cancelled, but when the star of the series is reported to have been cast in another series you can bet the first series won't be returning.
  • February 16, 2013
    MasamiPhoenix
    • Averted in Pirates Of The Carribean, where Geoffrey Rush insisted that his name not be listed on any casting documents, as to not ruin the surprise.
  • January 21, 2015
    DAN004
    Some of these examples can be found in the ending credits, especially for those who tend to jump to the credits when watching DVD.
  • January 21, 2015
    Folamh3
    Two aversions:

    • Amber Heard was not listed in the opening credits of several episodes of House, instead being listed first in the end credits.
    • Kevin Spacey requested that he not be included in the opening credits to Se7en, because his character does not appear until two-thirds of the way into the film and he wanted his appearance to be a surprise to the audience (also averting Narrowed It Down To The Guy I Recognize in the process). He is likewise listed first in the end credits to the film.
  • January 21, 2015
    SolipSchism
    "The aforementioned Doctor Who example" is a ZCE. The description may change independent of any given example, and things on the page shouldn't reference other things on the page ("The other example above", "the page image", "the page quote", etc.).
  • January 21, 2015
    henke37
    This can be used for comedy in the rare situation of the characters reading the cast list out loud, yet the role clearly haven't been there yet. Some MLP audio dramas have done exactly this, placing the credits before The Stinger.
  • January 22, 2015
    Arivne
    • Added a Spoiler Warning to Description.
    • Examples section
  • January 22, 2015
    robinjohnson
    But also played straight in the second The Lord Of The Rings film, with the billing of Sir Ian McKellen giving away Gandalf's return.
  • January 22, 2015
    Chabal2
  • January 22, 2015
    Laevatein
  • January 22, 2015
    SolipSchism
    ^ I'm not sure about this, but it does fit the description. I guess what it draws my attention to is I feel like there are actually two separate but related tropes here:
    • Alice apparently died in the Prequel. Her actress is cast in the Sequel, which suggests that she didn't actually die (although it's possible that she appears in flashbacks).
    • Alice is known for playing cunning psychopaths. She is cast as an ostensibly nice and fluffy protagonist, but Type Casting suggests that the character will turn out evil.

    Also, unrelated, but based on the examples provided in the comments, we really need to decide if "Character died and appears in the next movie, but only via flashback" is an aversion or a subversion, because I see that type of example stated as both here. It can't be both.
  • January 22, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ that's a subversion.

    But still, it's not limited to deaths, right?
  • January 24, 2015
    randomsurfer
    I think that the The Avengers spoiler can be de-spoiled since the character in question is the main character in Agents Of SHIELD, showing up about 55 seconds into the first episode.
  • January 24, 2015
    DAN004
    I think Blaz Blue does an aversion of this with Jin Kisaragi/Hakumen's voice actor.
  • January 28, 2015
    SolipSchism
    ^^ I disagree. That's knowledge you'd only have if you were familiar with the work.

    Although since they apparently take place within the same continuity, Agents could be another example of the trope using the same character.
  • January 28, 2015
    FerrousFaucet
    Okay I thought I had seen a trope before that was called Spoiled By The Credits or something but I don't have time to look for it now so here's my example:

    • Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Some episodes noticeably omitted guest star Salome Jens from the opening credits, because her appearance as a villain in those episodes would have spoiled the plot. As a tradeoff, her name was prominently displayed first in the closing credits, before the main cast credits.
  • January 29, 2015
    hbi2k
    A Sub Trope of Spoiled By The Format? Chronically Killed Actor could be considered a Sub Trope of this, since (for example) if you see that a character is played by Sean Bean, you can make a pretty safe bet that that character is doomed.
  • January 29, 2015
    DAN004
    Trope or trivia?
  • January 29, 2015
    SolipSchism
    ^^ I agree with this being a Sub Trope of SBTF.

    I'm still not convinced that "Typecasting reveals information about a character's personality based on who was selected to play them" is the same trope as "Alice died in the Prequel but is cast to appear in the Sequel and thus probably didn't actually die," and nobody has addressed that question yet.
  • January 29, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ They're both part of the broader trope: knowing who's being cast gives away information about the story.
  • January 30, 2015
    Arivne
    ^^^ This is definitely Trivia because it occurs in the real world, not In Universe.
  • January 30, 2015
    ClockStopping
    • When Puella Magi Madoka Magica was first announced, the official image was simply that of an ordinary happy Magical Girl show. However, before it started airing, it was leaked that one of the people working on it was Gen Urobuchi, who is known for writing very dark storylines. Urobuchi tried to avert the trope by claiming that this time he was planning on writing a heart-warming story, but it wasn't enough to convince everyone, and those skeptics turned out to be right - Puella Magi Madoka Magica is not your typical Magical Girl story.
  • January 30, 2015
    SolipSchism
    ^ I think that should be "Urobuchi tried to defy the trope," but I'm not sure. Playing With Tropes is not my strong suit.

    ^^^ Fair enough.
  • January 31, 2015
    crazysamaritan
    I'm still not convinced that "Typecasting reveals information about a character's personality based on who was selected to play them" is the same trope as "Alice died in the Prequel but is cast to appear in the Sequel and thus probably didn't actually die," and nobody has addressed that question yet.
    I addressed it: examples of the former were purged already. SBTF is a related case for this trope, but credits aren't a physical reality. I have time this afternoon to give this another workover, including writing the Playing With subpage. Thanks for the cleaning, ~Arivne.
  • February 1, 2015
    Arivne
  • February 1, 2015
    DAN004
    ^^ So I see that you're limiting this to cases of character deaths. Why?
  • February 1, 2015
    crazysamaritan
    I'm not limiting this to character death.
  • February 1, 2015
    Skylite
    Certain actors carry this with them so much so that if their name is in the credits you know what they're there for.

    • F. Murray Abraham almost exclusively plays villains.
    • Sean Bean plays characters who die, so much so that there are Running Gags about it in Hollywood and among fandom. One such goes "Sean Bean's characters die so often because the universe is trying to balance out the fact that his name should rhyme, but doesn't."
    • Ben Kingsley also plays villains so often that if his name turns up in the credits, you pretty much know he's playing a bad guy.

  • February 1, 2015
    CatAna
    I'm not sure, but I think
    • When the first season of Glee was given its back nine, the show announced that it had cast Idina Menzel. Given that actress' similarities to Lea Michele, most of the fans guessed that she would be Rachel's mom, something meant to be a surprise reveal after teasing a relationship with Will. From this, it wasn't a stretch for the fans to then guess who would adopt Beth once Terri was dropped.
  • February 1, 2015
    CatAna
    Oh, and this may be some form of playing with maybe?
    • When Amber Benson's name appeared in the opening credits of Buffy The Vampire Slayer for the first time, it was assumed that she would properly be joining the cast full time from then on. Instead, Tara is killed and never seen again, the cast list intentionally not spoiling the events of the episode by trying to give off the exact opposite impression for the viewers.
  • February 1, 2015
    DAN004
    @crazysamaritan: good to hear that.
  • February 1, 2015
    crazysamaritan
    Red Link restored as policy: "they'll automatically shift to blue when the page is created, so don't be afraid to link to works this way".

    ^^^ That information is a WMG, and related to her face instead of her name.
  • February 1, 2015
    Hodor2
    • The cast of Agent Carter includes Lyndsy Fonesca and Bridget Regan in "harmless civilian" roles. However, because both actresses have played Action Girl characters, many people immediately assumed that both were playing spies/assassins posing as civilians. As of episode 4, that has been confirmed with Regan's character.
  • February 1, 2015
    StarSword
    TV:
    • The pilot of Firefly has Wash discover that there's an Alliance spy aboard Serenity, resulting in a brief mole hunt. However the main cast are all shown in the opening credits, which not only reveals who the mole is based on who isn't present (Dobson), but also spoils what's inside Simon's mysterious crate (River).
  • February 1, 2015
    crazysamaritan
    ^^ Adding Type Casting and Meta Casting to the "see also" paragraph. This is about established characters in a work, not established actors in a culture.

    ^ Spoilers Off, the page is named "spoiled" and there's a warning that examples contain spoilers.
  • February 2, 2015
    randomsurfer
    In the first episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer all the main characters' actors are in the opening credits except Eric Balfour as Xander & Willow's best friend Jesse, who is killed about halfway through and never mentioned again.
  • July 28, 2015
    eroock
    Compare Walking Spoiler.
  • July 28, 2015
    lakingsif
    ^^ Also in Buffy, there's an... inversion? Joss Whedon being Joss Whedon added Amber Benson to the title cast list for season six episode "Seeing Red". Viewers took this to mean that she'd be appearing more frequently, but within the first few minutes of the episodes, her character Tara gets killed.
  • July 28, 2015
    chicagomel
    This might count...CSI NY tried to maintain the suspense over whether Mac's girlfriend Christine would escape her kidnappers or not by not having her listed in the cast list for the second part of the crossover with CSI. However, when the cast list for the episode following that one came out, she was listed, which kind of defeated the purpose.

    Also yet another Buffy one was the twist with Giles returning in the end of season 6...they deliberately kept Anthony Head's name out of the cast list and opening credits.
  • July 29, 2015
    randomsurfer
    ^^That's already been mentioned several times in this thread and is already listed in the writeup.
  • July 29, 2015
    WalterSmith
    The (almost) universally despised Tom And Jerry:The Movie shows the cast list in the very first minutes of the movie. If you (still) have not watched the movie, you'll probably be thinking it will focus on the main two characters. A few splapstick gags are shown with an awesome Leitmotiv from Henry Mancini, when suddenly a few strange names pop out from nowhere on the screen:

    Needless to say, they form a Spotlight Stealing Squad that turns the entire movie (and many of its home-video posters) in a humongous fraud.

  • July 29, 2015
    lakingsif
    ^^sorry, didn't see it in the write-up because it's in the played straight examples section. And I only read the new comments since last time, which didn't include it.
  • July 29, 2015
    eroock
    A way to prevent his is Not Named In Opening Credits.
  • July 29, 2015
    LondonKdS
    • Babylon Five had a notorious case of this during broadcast, before DVD releases, when the appearance of Caitlin Brown's name in the opening credits of "A Tragedy of Telepaths" spoiled the episode's revelation that her character Na'Toth had not, as everybody assumed, been killed in the bombardment of the Narn homeworld three seasons earlier.
  • July 29, 2015
    chicagomel
    oh ok. Well, at least CSI NY is still good I think.
  • July 29, 2015
    FerrousFaucet
    Earlier, I mentioned that I thought I had seen this trope before. It appears that this is already covered by both Not Named In Opening Credits and Spoiler Opening. In fact, my example from Deep Space Nine is already there at Spoiler Opening. That's probably where I saw this before.

    This already has five hats, but before launching it might be prudent to decide if this is necessary since we already have those two tropes that seem to cover everything.
  • July 29, 2015
    Tuckerscreator
    but the actor's name, Sebastian Stan, shows up in the opening credits to the sequel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

    The Winter Solder doesn't have opening credits. It only has closing ones.
  • July 30, 2015
    Snicka

    A non-death example:
    • In The Lego Movie, you can see in the credits that Will Ferrell plays both Lord Business and the Man Upstairs, indicating a relationship between the two. The Man Upstairs is actually the father of the child acting out the story, who modelled Lord Business after his father.
  • July 30, 2015
    lakingsif
    If this goes ahead, it's related to Sir Not Appearing In This Trailer
  • August 3, 2015
    Tuomas
    • The 1972 film version of Sleuth subverts this. The movie has a Minimalist Cast, and the exact number of characters appearing in it is actually a spoiler, so the opening credits list some made-up actors to make the cast seem bigger. Even some reviewers have decided to play along with this, mentioning those fake names as actors appearing in the movie. The 2007 remake plays it straight, though: the opening credits show only the names of the actors who appear in the movie.
  • August 4, 2015
    StrixObscuro
    Western Animation
    • Parodied in a cutaway gag on Family Guy, with a detective procedural where the entire premise is that the most famous person listed in the opening "guest starring" credits is the perp. When that name appears, the two detectives onscreen suddenly pause their conversation and give the audience a knowing nod.
  • August 4, 2015
    ClockStopping
    • Supernatural: Due to a mishap, IMDB ended up listing that Lee Majdoub was to play Hannah before he appeared on the show, spoiling the fact that Hannah found another vessel to inhabit - and a quite different, male vessel at that.
      • There have also been several times where the opening credits revealed surprise characters - for instance, Misha was listed as a guest star in season 7 episode Born Again Identity, in which Castiel is seen for the first time seen his apparent death at the beginning of the season. This is probably because, at the time it aired, it was well known that Misha was returning to the show, which was likely a deliberate choice as the character's death had not been popular with the fans and the ratings were showing it.
  • August 4, 2015
    randomsurfer
    ^^Narrowed It Down To The Guy I Recognize

    • In the play Sherlock's Last Case there are two actors listed in the cast list and have bios, neither of which are in the actual play, in order to avoid certain spoilers.
    • In one of several plays called The Butler Did It there is no butler character, but a butler is listed in the cast in order to not spoil the reveal that the maid did it.
  • yesterday
    Berrenta
    Was this really ready for launch? This was involved in a mass launch, and I want to make sure it was truly ready.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=4j8j7eu0wcbrydg1dnbmfpfy