Created By: Earnest on August 10, 2011 Last Edited By: Earnest on August 18, 2011
Troped

Lost In Character

A method actor falls so completely into their role they forget who they are.

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Trope
"I don't drop character 'til I've done the DVD commentary."
-- Kirk Lazarus, Tropic Thunder

This is when a character who is an actor (not an actor in Real Life who plays a character) goes so deep into their role that they end up temporarily forgetting their original self. They become so immersed in the role out of extreme professionalism in their method acting that they stop being themselves. While in this state the character may act against their own or their allies' interests, though a good slap may fix them, or forcing an issue their normal self would take issue with.

If a psychological disorder is involved it may result in temporary Loss of Identity or even forming one or more Split Personalities.

Compare with Becoming the Mask, where con men or The Mole who grow to like their assumed identity more than their original one.

Examples:

Comic Books
  • Batman
    • Back when The Joker had his own comic series in the 1970s, one of the opponents he faced was an actor who had started to believe he actually was Sherlock Holmes.
    • The post-Zero Hour! version of the second Two-Face, Paul Sloane, was reimagined as an actor so involved in method acting that he ended up turning himself into one of Batman's deformed, psychotic rogues while researching a part.
  • In recent interpretations, Spider-Man enemy the Chameleon sometimes has trouble discarding his assumed identities without some mental issues.
  • In a 1970s story, a combination of psychological conditioning and PTSD left Marvel Comics Super Spy the Black Widow mentally "stuck" in her cover identity as mousy schoolteacher Nancy Rushman.

Film
  • This concept is a metaphorical interpretation of Black Swan. Nina, sweet and a perfect representation of the White Swan, tries so hard to become the Black Swan that she loses herself.
  • The Film Noir movie A Double Life is all about this, where an actor playing Othello on broadway finds his life being taken over by the role and eventually follows in the part's footsteps when he murders his mistress.
  • Deconstructed and parodied in in Tropic Thunder by Robert Downey, Jr.'s character.

Literature
  • Kurt Vonnegut's "Who Am I This Time?", later adapted to an excellent made-for-TV movie starring Christopher Walken and Susan Sarandon, and directed by Jonathan Demme.

Live-Action TV
  • In an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Drusilla uses her psychic talents to appear to Giles as his former lover Jenny Calendar in order to seduce some information from him. She gets so carried away in the role that she continues making out with him for some time after learning what she was after.
  • This was parodied in an episode of Community, when Abed told the story of creating and then becoming a character for his walk-on role in Cougar Town.
  • This is arguably the super power of Echo, the protagonist of Dollhouse. Despite repeated memory wipes, she always retains the "imprints" the other personalities she's assumed.
  • Possibly Sophie Devereaux in Leverage. She mentions before her sabbatical that she's created so many fake personas she's not really sure what's really her anymore and leaves to bury each of them. This extends so far that we're not sure what her real name is.
  • This was the plot point in an episode of Monk.
  • Sort of happened in real life with Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes; he became so obsessed with the character that he only referred to him as "You-Know-Who", and later became ill and died.

Newspaper Comics
  • This was also parodied in a 2009 Garfield strip, with the dialogue as follows;
    General on TV: Holy bovines, Corporal! There's a giant monster invading the city!
    Soldier on TV: That's not a monster, sir.
    General: What are you talking about? Call out the artillery!
    Soldier: It's just a bad actor in a rubber suit.
    General: Oh, it is not! It's a monster!
    Soldier: Come on... I can see the zipper.
    General: Egad! A zipper monster! That's the worst kind!
    Soldier: And that's not a real city.
    General: Insolence! I'll have you court-martialed!!
    Soldier: These are just tiny little model buildings.
    Garfield: General Cordwood seems to have buried himself in the part.
    Soldier: See?
    General: PUT MY HOUSE DOWN!!

Theater
  • Hamlet is sometimes interpreted this way, with Hamlet's feigned insanity leading to him actually losing his grip on reality.

Video Games

Community Feedback Replies: 21
  • August 10, 2011
    Acebrock
    slpa? You mean slap?

    I remember this being a plot point in an episode of Monk
  • August 10, 2011
    Falco
    Deconstructed and parodied in Tropic Thunder
  • August 10, 2011
    KevinKlawitter
    The Film Noir movie A Double Life is all about this, where an actor playing Othello on broadway finds his life being taken over by the role and eventually follows in the part's footsteps when he murders his mistress.
  • August 10, 2011
    suedenim
    Robert Downey, Jr.'s character in Tropic Thunder is all about this: "I don't drop character 'til I've done the DVD commentary."
  • August 10, 2011
    Micah
    • Hamlet is sometimes interpreted this way, with Hamlet's feigned insanity leading to him actually losing his grip on reality.
  • August 10, 2011
    peccantis
  • August 11, 2011
    Heatherly
    This was parodied in an episode of Community, when Abed told the story of creating and then becoming a character for his walk-on role in Cougar Town.
  • August 11, 2011
    ajmint
    Sort of happened in real life with Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes; he became so obsessed with the character that he only referred to him as "You-Know-Who", and later became ill and died.
  • August 11, 2011
    OmarKarindu
    Comic Books
    • The post-Zero Hour version of the second Two-Face, Paul Sloane, was reimagined as an actor so involved in method acting that he ended up turning himself into one of Batman's deformed, psychotic rogues while researching a part.
    • In recent interpretations, Spider-Man enemy the Chameleon sometimes has trouble discarding his assumed identities without some mental issues.
    • In a 1970s story, a combination of psychological conditioning and PTSD left Marvel Comics Super Spy the Black Widow mentally "stuck" in her cover identity as mousy schoolteacher Nancy Rushman.

    Live Action TV
    • In an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer Drusilla uses her psychic talents to appear to Giles as his former lover Jenny Calendar in order to seduce some information from him. She gets so carried away in the role that she continues making out with him for some time after learning what she was after.
    • This is arguably the super power of Echo, the protagonist of Dollhouse. Despite repeated memory wipes, she always retains the "imprints" the other personalities she's assumed.

    Video Games
  • August 11, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    This concept is a metaphorical interpretation of Black Swan. Nina, sweet and a perfect representation of the White Swan, tries so hard to become the Black Swan that she loses herself.
  • August 11, 2011
    foxley
    Back when The Joker had his own comic series in the 1970s, one of the opponents he faced was an actor who had started to believe he actually was Sherlock Holmes.
  • August 11, 2011
    alecmyers
    Literature
    • Kurt Vonnegut's "Who Am I This Time?", later adapted to an excellent made-for-TV movie starring Christopher Walken and Susan Sarandon, and directed by Jonathan Demme.
  • August 11, 2011
    CaveCat
    This was also parodied in a 2009 Garfield strip, with the dialogue as follows;
    General on TV: Holy bovines, Corporal! There's a giant monster invading the city!
    Soldier on TV: That's not a monster, sir.
    General: What are you talking about? Call out the artillery!
    Soldier: It's just a bad actor in a rubber suit.
    General: Oh, it is not! It's a monster!
    Soldier: Come on... I can see the zipper.
    General: Egad! A zipper monster! That's the worst kind!
    Soldier: And that's not a real city.
    General: Insolence! I'll have you court-martialed!!
    Soldier: These are just tiny little model buildings.
    Garfield: General Cordwood seems to have buried himself in the part.
    Soldier: See?
    General: PUT MY HOUSE DOWN!!
  • August 11, 2011
    jaytee
    I think this is maybe The Same But More.

    Most of the examples so far are just Becoming The Mask...
  • August 14, 2011
    eviltwin531
    Possibly Sophie Devereaux in Leverage. She mentions before her sabbatical that she's created so many fake personas she's not really sure what's really her anymore and leaves to bury each of them. This extends so far that we're not sure what her real name is.
  • August 17, 2011
    Earnest
    ^^Becoming The Mask is more specific than this in a different way, it's about The Mole or a con man, this is about actors. Essentially, these are sister tropes under the banner of "become who you pretend to be", it's just that Becoming The Mask gets used as that supertrope interchangeably with its normal function.
  • August 17, 2011
    jaytee
    ^Ok, I see it now. This one also seems to imply more of an involuntary switch than Becoming The Mask, yeah?
  • August 17, 2011
    Earnest
    Yep, the actor doesn't mean to get stuck (and they may not even necessarily like being the character over themselves), it's just that they get so caught up in the action that they literally lose themselves. It's more of a problem of being hyper-professional than emotionally attached.
  • August 17, 2011
    ThePope
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh Zexal, Fuya Okudaira, a child actor, is pressured by his Stage Mom to not speak with other children and to focus on his role as D.D. ES Per Robin. While Fuya wants to be friends with other kids, he doesn't want to disappoint his mother. Upon coming across a Numbers card (which amplifies the user's desires, usually to a sinister extent) that takes a form similar to his mother, he begins to believe that he really is D.D. ES Per Robin, and vows to protect his card, No. 83: Galaxy Queen, as he would his own mother.
  • August 17, 2011
    PaulA
  • August 17, 2011
    Nocturna
    I think you need to make it clearer in the description that this is not (primarily) about real life actors getting lost in their roles, but about fictional characters getting lost in an acting role. Adjusting the terminology used ("the actor" usually refers to a real life actor) might be sufficient to clarify things.
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