- I Am Not Spock, which refers to an actor who's unable to get any part other than the character for which he or she is known.
- I Am Not Shazam, which refers to the confusion of a character with the title of a work or with the character's Catch-Phrase.
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Anime and Manga
- In the second Sakura Wars OAV, Kohran is mistaken by a group of kids for Shounen Red, a character she plays on a radio drama — and then attacked by the baddies-of-the-episode. The rest of the team has to come up with a way to rescue her without breaking the illusion and "shattering the children's dreams."
- In Super Gals the main children characters (Sayo & co) mistake the actor from the series of Odaiba Shark as the real character, even when they see it filmed. Every time they meet he pretends to be the character to protect their dreams. Said actor was written out of the show for one episode and appeared in a kid's show as an exercise coach. Sayo believes it's by chance they look similar.
- Muteki Kanban Musume: Deconstructed when a little Girl confuses Kanban Musume Megumi with Hell Bunny, the villain from Star Rangers. To fool a little girl with that lie is treated In-Universe as a Moral Event Horizon.
- One Astro City story featured an actor who played the superhero "Crimson Cougar" on a soap opera. After he foils a convenience-store robbery while in costume, people start treating him like a real superhero... including supervillains out to kill him.
- Leads to trouble in one Lucky Luke album which involves a troupe of actors. Lucky is accused of a crime, and when the actor of a Dastardly Whiplash-like villain defends Luke, the settlers only get angrier.
- Spider-Man's former wife Mary Jane met two fans like this on two separate occasions when she was an actress for the soap opera Secret Hospital:
- The first was an old woman who, confusing her for her vixen character on the show, slapped her and called her a tramp. While the old woman was no threat to Mary Jane, the fan was, minutes later, run down and killed by a hit-and-run driver, later revealed to be a Yandere pursuing MJ and trying to "protect" her.
- The second time was more dangerous. This time a mentally unbalanced woman who mistook her for her character (and who was apparently in love with "Troy" the male character who had been jilted by MJ's character) actually tried to shoot MJ. She missed and was subdued by a police officer, but MJ was frightened for a while, wondering if this was what Peter had to go through every day.
- The Powerpuff Girls go into squee mode when they hear their favorite TV heroine Tess Turbine will be appearing at Townsville Mall ("To Be Or Not TV," DC issue #38). When a monster invades and takes this Tess captive, the girls are devastated when she turns out to be an actress playing Tess for this live appearance and cannot defend herself or fight the monster. When the girls renounce their fandom of Tess, the Professor gives them a little lesson in what really matters.
- Subverted in American Flagg!, where Reuben Flagg, famous for playing a Plexus Ranger on TV, actually becomes a real one (though not by choice).
- In Wanted, the supervillains of the world basically rewrote history, not by killing off the superheroes but by turning them into Muggles via brainwashing. Two Batman & Robin analogues were killed by their nemesis by being lowered into an acid vat, still screaming that it was only a role they had played on TV.
Films — Animated
- The movie Bolt is about a canine television star who mistakes himself for the superhero he plays on TV. Not that he was ever given reason to believe otherwise. Rhino the Hamster suffers from the same confusion.
- The first Toy Story sees Woody's exasperation with Buzz Lightyear who fails to realize he is, in fact, a toy, and not a Space Ranger. In the sequel, he gets to convince another Buzz Lightyear figure of the same thing.
- A Bug's Life: The circus troupe's acting is mistaken for real heroics.
- In Yellow Submarine, Old Fred warns Ringo to not press a specific button. Ringo accidentally presses it anyway and gets ejected out of the sub and into the middle of the Sea of Monsters. Children would later approach Ringo himself and ask "Why did you press the button?"
Films — Live-Action
- In Galaxy Quest, the washed-up actors from a Star Trek Expy are believed to be real spacefaring heroes by a race of cable-stealing aliens whose culture has no concept of any kind of untruth, including fiction. Of course, they eventually rise to the challenge.
- And it isn't just the fans from outer space who conflate the two; their die-hard human fans on Earth sometimes have the same problem:
Brandon: But I want you to know that I'm not a complete brain case, okay? I understand completely that it's just a TV show. I know there's no beryllium sphere, no digital conveyor, no ship...
Nesmith: It's all real.
Brandon: Oh my God, I knew it. I knew it! I KNEW IT!
- And it isn't just the fans from outer space who conflate the two; their die-hard human fans on Earth sometimes have the same problem:
- The basis of the plot of íThree Amigos! when some poor and desperate Mexican villagers mistake three (down on their luck) movie stars for the heroes they play on-screen and hire them to protect their town from real bandits. For their part, the actors are also quite desperate and reverse the trope, mistaking the real bandits for actors.
- My Name Is Bruce mirrors the Three Amigos with a young man who thinks that Bruce Campbell really is as heroic and awesome as the characters he plays. Except he's a drunken lech, about to get evicted from his trailer home and not at all prepared to deal with the real murderous ghost that is plaguing the town.
- After seeing him cheated out of winning a fixed match in Ready to Rumble, two unbelievably stupid wrestling fans track down (fictional) WCW wrestler "Jimmy King" and are shocked to find that he's a pathetic drunk and not a hero. Fortunately, over the course of the movie they manage to turn him into a hero.
- Played with in Airplane! with co-pilot Roger Murdock. A kid insists he's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar over his denials - until the kid tells how his dad thinks Kareem isn't trying on the court, then it gets personal.
- Idiocracy features a TV show called Ow, My Balls! with a character constantly getting situations where he gets hit in the balls by something. When Joe meets the show's actor later, he finds that people commonly run up to the actor and kick him in the balls because they saw it on TV.
- In Philip Roth's novel Zuckerman Unbound, writer Nathan Zuckerman encounters fans who call him "Carnovsky," mistaking him for the title character of his book.
- In Moving Pictures, when the Holy Wood monsters start manifesting in the real world, everyone expects clicks star Victor Maraschino to do something about it. He protests that he's never actually done any heroing, but nobody listens; they've all seen him.
- In One Hundred Years of Solitude, the opening of Macondo's first cinema causes a few problems because of this: when the actor that played a dying character in one movie appears as an Arab in the next one, the locals riot.
- In one episode of Friends, Joey does a print PSA for STD awareness, and then has trouble getting dates afterwards, while his own family bans him from coming home for Thanksgiving dinner for fear of getting sick.
- In the pilot of The Beverly Hillbillies, Jed asks if Tom Mix is in Beverly Hills, only to be told that Mix is dead (the actor died in 1940). Jed then says "Oh, yeah! What's the matter with me? Remember Peril? He got shot at the end of that picture."
- In Drake & Josh, Josh was hired to play a criminal as part of a Crime Reconstruction. He was thereafter arrested several times by people confusing him for the actual criminal.
- In a 30 Rock episode, the mother of Jack's Puerto Rican girlfriend hates him because he looks exactly like the villain of a Mexican telenovela she watches. (Both are played by Alec Baldwin, of course.)
- Extras plays with this, in that an Adam Westing Shaun Williamson is so typecast as Barry (a character he played for ten years on British soap Eastenders) that even the credits identify him as "Barry".
- In the 1970's sitcom Alice, when George Burns happens to drop by the diner, ditzy waitress Vera thinks he's God (from his film Oh, God!) paying a visit. She identifies him as George Burns at the end of the show; when asked why, she replies God would never flirt with Flo.
- In the Psych episode "Lights! Camera! Homicidio!", the killer was a rabid telenovela fan who had confused the show with real life. She was killing actors whose characters had been cruel to the lead actress' character.
- That might be an homage to an episode of Hawaii Five-O where a mentally ill boy kills men who resemble characters menacing the female protagonist of his favorite comic strip.
- In the NCIS episode "Cover Story", a Loony Fan of McGee's books thinks that they're true stories, and goes on a rampage killing the people that McGee based his villains on. He eventually tries to kill Abby because "Amy" broke up with "McGregor," but is stopped (and then arrested) when McGee tells him that "Amy" and "McGregor" are getting married.
- Parodied by The Chaser's War on Everything: Appearing in Government Ads, Australia says no.
- In an episode of The Famous Jett Jackson, Jett meets a kid who thinks he really is Silverstone, the cool spy he plays on TV.
- Of course, the wrap-up movie reveals that Silverstone is real in a parallel universe, when Jett and Silverstone accidentally swap places.
- In the Quantum Leap episode "Moments to Live," Sam leaps into the star of a medical soap opera, and is kidnapped by a fan who wants the fictional doctor to be the father of her child.
- In one episode of The Brady Bunch, Peter tries out for the school play and gets the role of Benedict Arnold. Whenever he tells anyone whom he's playing, they inevitably respond with, "Traitor!"
- This is the set-up for Legend. Ernest Pratt, a dime-store novelist in the old west, lives with his scientist friend Professor Janos Bartok in the small town of Sheridan, Colorado. The people of Sheridan mistakenly believe that Pratt—a drinker, gambler, and womanizer—is the audacious and pure hero of his novels, Nicodemus Legend. Bartok and his associate, Ramos, convince Pratt to assume the Legend persona while supplying him with Legend-like futuristic gadgets that they invent.
- In an episode of Forever Knight, the only witness to a murder is a retarded person who saw a masked wrestler do the deed. But all other evidence suggests that the man who plays the masked wrestler was innocent. Eventually the detectives realize that the witness considered anyone wearing the mask to be the wrestler in question, and thus didn't realize that someone else was wearing the costume.
- The Sopranos: Tony Soprano idolizes Gary Cooper, who in his mind epitomizes "the strong silent type", the ideal kind of American from a long-gone era. He's called on this by his number two, who points out he's mixing the real life person with the characters that he played. Tony still argues that the icon is what matters.
- In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Actor", Adrian Monk gets shadowed by stage actor David Ruskin (played by Stanley Tucci). Ruskin immerses himself so much in the role that he has a nervous breakdown after he takes a car dealership owner hostage, thinking the guy is Trudy's killer.
- Inverted in "Supernatural" episode The French Mistake where Sam and Dean are thrown into an alternate reality where their life is a tv show. People treat Sam and Dean like their alternate reality actors, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, and are confused when they insist they really are the fictional characters, Sam and Dean.
- How I Met Your Mother has William Zabka Adam Westing himself in a recurring role, as all the jerk and villain roles he's played (primarily the main bully in The Karate Kid) has resulted in every single person he's met confusing him for his roles and will automatically boo him on sight, even his own mother. He's touched that Barney sees him as a hero, though admittedly that's because Barney has a case of Rooting for the Empire and always feels the villain roles were the real protagonists and the heroes are actually villains.
- Adam West himself handwaved this on The Big Bang Theory when his status as the best Batman over Val Kilmer (who apparently made saying "I'm Batman" into an art form) is questioned.
Adam West: I don't have to say "I'm Batman." I just walk into a room and everyone already knows I'm Batman.
- Parodied in an episode of Stargate SG-1. A nervous villager points out that Teal'c is a Jaffa. O'Neill then replies in his typical fashion that...
O'Neill: No. But he plays one on TV.
- On the Season One finale of Party Down, Roman harasses George Takei concerning his take on the Vulcan Mind-Meld - which, of course, was not Sulu's area of expertise.
- In Friends, this is shown to be one of the repercussions of Joey playing a physician in Days of Our Lives: he gets temporarily hitched with a Loony Fan who believes he really is Dr. Drake Ramoray. As loony as she was, she was also stunning, so Joey didn't find it in himself to break it to her until things came to bite him in the ass.
- Seinfeld has an inverted example when Jerry and George go see Kramer's holistic healer buddy Tor Eckman.
Tor: It's in the best interest of the medical profession that you remain sick. You see, that insures good business. You're not a patient. You're a customer.
Jerry: (thinking) And you're not a doctor, but you play one in real life.
- William Shatner's spoken-word song "Real" address this:
I have saved the world in the movies/So naturally there's folks who think I must know what to do
- Eminem addresses this in his song "Sing For The Moment", from The Eminem Show.
If it's all politicaland my music is literaland I'm a criminalHow the FUCK can I raise a little girl?
- In 2015, Stardust started mocking and harassing Stephen Amell, the star of Arrow, convinced he really is his character, and insisting on addressing him as "Oliver Queen" or "Green Arrow". Stardust then started styling himself as a supervillain who would destroy Green Arrow. This led to a tag team match of Stardust and Wade Barrett vs Amell and Adrian Neville, which Amell's team won.
- In Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, both the President Of The Galaxy and Big Bad Dr. Nefarious apparently believe Clank's Secret Agent Clank holovid role to be real and that Ratchet is merely his valet.
- Somewhat justified in that they are both aware Clank was involved with actually saving the galaxy twice before, along with Ratchet, and assumed the guy they've seen being badass is the actual badass of the two.
- Zork: Grand Inquisitor with the actor Antharia Jack, who plays an adventurer on TV and plays a lot of adventure computer games. He does manage to act a bit like an adventurer during the rescue scene in the Grand Inquisitor's prison complex.
- Early in Mortal Kombat 9's story mode, this is Johnny Cage's reaction when Liu Kang and Raiden try to recruit him for the fight against Shao Kahn. While Johnny does have actual superpowers, he thinks Liu and Raiden are just roleplayers who are too in-character and that the tournament is just that, a tournament. he tells them, "I'm an ACTOR. I save people in the movies. If this 'Shao Kahn' is such a threat, get the military."
- Parodied in the Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series'' video "Marik's Evil Council 3"
Marik: Also joining us is celebrity voice actor Dan Green!
Dan Green: Hi. I'm Dan Green.
Bakura: What the bloody hell is he doing here? He's not a villain!
Dan Green: No, but I played a villain in one of the Pokemon movies.
- The Simpsons:
- Inverted in an episode where Patty and Selma kidnap Richard Dean Anderson due to their obsession with MacGyver. After he macgyvers an escape from the room they've locked him in, he gets such a kick that he stays with them in spite of the kidnapping, eventually calling himself MacGyver and trying to imitate his fictional persona. He ends up becoming so annoying that they drive him off with boring vacation slides.
- In "Homer to the Max", a new police drama airs, starring a maverick cop named Homer Simpson.
Homer: Wow. They captured my personality perfectly! Did you see the way Daddy caught that bullet?
Lisa: That's not really you, Dad, he's just a fictional character who happens to have the same name.
Homer: Don't confuse Daddy, Lisa.
- When the character is later retooled as a bumbling Plucky Comic Relief moron, the guys at Moe's torment the "real" Homer by demanding he do something stupid like his namesake character.
- In one of the Treehouse of Horror episodes, Lucy Lawless is constantly being referred to as Xena, leaving her to exclaim more exhortedly each time "I'm not Xena, I'm Lucy Lawless". Eventually she is captured by Comic Book Guy as part of a collection of live action actors frozen in
carboniteplastic. Bart and Lisa try to save her but fail and she has to fight him off with She-Fu moves, high kicks, back flips and ululating. She then grabs the children and flies off with them.Lisa: "Wait, Xena can't fly."
Lucy: "I told you I'm not Xena, I'm Lucy Lawless."
- Throughout the story, Lawless speaks in the Fake American accent she used for Xena rather than her native New Zealand accent.
- Something similar happened when she made a guest appearance on another show: the episode starts with one of the male leads thinking Xena was going to kill him.
- Homer himself is a particularly extreme example:
- In "Mr Plow", Barney goes one step further and confuses the actor with the wrong role as he bids a cheerful farewell to "Superman" and promises to protect his secret identity...to an Adam Westing Adam West. Actually, that's why the trope once was named Your Secret's Safe With Me, Superman.
- In an episode of Family Guy, Peter writes to Richard Dean Anderson, thinking he is MacGyver, asking him to save his dog from the pound with a rubber band, paper clip, and straw. He puts his eye out.
- Fanboy on Freakazoid!. The minute he sees Mark Hamill, his delusion that he's Luke Skywalker gets turned up to 11.
- The Looney Tunes Show: In "Off Duty Cop", Daffy is unable to understand that his favourite character Steve St. James is actually an actor named Leslie Hunt, so he decides to become Steve St. James himself.
- In a Robot Chicken sketch, Harrison Ford is chosen along with Aerosmith to stop a meteor from crashing into Earth because of his role in the Star Wars films.
Harrison Ford: Listen. I'm 62 years old, and I'm just an actor. You people are all insane.
Star Wars fan: Go get'em, Han Solo!
- Of course when Mark Hamill reminds everyone that he blew up the Death Star with his eyes closed, he's told "That was just a movie, dude", by the exact same Star Wars fanboy.
- A similar Star Wars example in a different episode has Billy Dee Williams (similar to the Real Life example below) explaining Lando's actions at a grocery store.
- The season 4 premiere opened with a sketch wherein Seth Green and Matt Senreich try to get jobs in Hollywood after the "cancellation" of Robot Chicken, first meeting up with Joss Whedon. That meeting very quickly devolves into an attempt on the duo's life because Whedon starts believing that Seth is a werewolf, just like his character in one of Whedon's shows was.
- Invoked in Celebrity Deathmatch; During the fight between the cast of Sex and the City, Johnny Gomez tells Nick Diamond that it's highly unprofessional to confuse an actor with the character they play.
- In the Imaginationland trilogy of South Park, Kurt Russell is chosen to lead the military invasion of Imaginationland because "he was in the movie that was sort of like this".
- One Totally Spies! villain was a crazed fan of a soap opera who kidnapped one of the actors, thinking he was his character, and tried to make him her boyfriend.
- In the Bob's Burgers episode "The Hormone-iums" after Tina gets the lead role in a hyperbolic school play about the dangers of mono, all the students start treating her as if she's her character.
- In Batman: The Animated Series, a certain Simon Trent played a Batman-like superhero named Gray Ghost in an immensely popular TV show which little Bruce was a big fan of. In the episode "Beware of the Gray Ghost", set decades later, Trent is facing poverty partly because he cannot get any roles because everyone still thinks of him as the Gray Ghost. Then Batman comes along on a case and ropes him in to assist him. Much to his own surprise, Trent make a passable superhero (and more importantly, learns that the Big Badass Batman is primarily inspired by his portrayal of one).
- Series one of Monkey Dust had a sketch where the comedian David Baddiel would frequently be called on to perform difficult specialist tasks (such as brain surgery or piloting a space shuttle) because as a famous comedian he should be able to adapt to any role, even off-stage.
- Tom Felton used to be mistaken for the real Malfoy by little kids. Not surprising, considering their age.
- Every actor will at one point encounter fans who don't seem to understand the difference between the role they play and who they really are. Some common examples:
- If an actor is seen with his real life partner instead of the actress who plays his wife in a TV series some people will think he's committing adultery.
- ...But I Play One on TV: An actor who performs a certain profession will be thought to be an expert in the matter himself.
- Actors who have accidents, divorces or other kinds of tragic occurrences in films and TV series will sometimes be addressed by complete strangers in the street who want to give them advice or help them out. A similar confusion appears when said actor plays a pitiful character.
- One of the most common examples of this trope occurs with actors who play villains or antagonists. Some people refuse to have anything to do with them or will even criticize them, insult them or get violent when they meet them in the street. Especially if their character is an exception to Evil Is Cool; a person playing a Magnificent Bastard or even a horror icon won't get this as badly as a Smug Snake or Hate Sink does.
- The phenomenon can even be witnessed in politics. Many actors have been elected to official governmental posts because voters liked them for the heroic roles they usually perform on screen: Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood,... Despite the fact that following a film script is a lot easier than handling Real Life situations.
- Reagan is a particularly interesting example, because his detractors often claimed that his mental state lead him to think that he was a Hollywood hero fighting against the "Evil Empire" in the Soviet Union. His entire "Star Wars" defense system was inspired by the eponymous film, despite not being a very realistic depiction of space in the first place. Other people have claimed that Reagan's supposed "charming confused grandpa" image was an act in itself that fooled both his supporters and critics into thinking that he was a mere puppet in the hands of his own government. (This became Harsher in Hindsight after President Reagan left office, when it was finally revealed that long-standing allegations, dating back to his Presidential campaign in 1984, that he suffered from Alzheimer's Disease were in fact true.)
- Rudolph Valentino, was a 1920s Hollywood actor famous for playing a handsome sheik who abducted women to his tent. When Valentino unexpectedly died at the height of his fame, mass hysteria broke out under his fans. Some women even committed suicide, seemingly not understanding that Valentino was an actor, not a real life amourous sheik.
- Rita Hayworth, famous for playing the femme fatale in Gilda, once said: "Everyone wants to go to bed with Gilda. Then they wake up with me."
- The Academy of Motion Pictures & Sciences also seems to suffer from this problem. Many actors have received Oscars over the years because they played a pitiful person who suffers from some kind of disease, handicap or problem in a high profile movie released that same year. Or because they played an admirable humanitarian activist or historical character. The award in those cases seems to be more a reward for the hardships or good deeds the character underwent or did in the movie than the performance itself.
- The Nostalgia Chick often acted as if her character was mean to her best friend Nella. Quite some viewers of her web video series took this abuse seriously and criticized Lindsay for not treating Nella better. It got to the point that Nella herself had to type a statement that they are just performing an act.
- In 2006, when Michael Richards got in trouble for a racist tirade towards some black hecklers, many news outlets referred to Richards as Kramer, with some headlines like "KKKramer". It reached the point that the Kramer character's namesake, Kenny Kramer, had to issue a public statement saying he himself wasn't racist.
- Michael J. Fox did this to himself during the making of The Frighteners. According to director Peter Jackson, whenever Michael tried to shout "Judge!", he'd shout "Doc!" instead. Some instances were shown in its Hilarious Outtakes.
- Louise Marwood, who plays Chrissy on Emmerdale, gets mistaken for her character, even though she's very much Mean Character, Nice Actor.
- Anna Gunn, who plays Skyler White on Breaking Bad, got this in spades. The intense hatred for Skyler ended up spreading to Gunn, with many people (particularly on Twitter) openly stating they would attack Gunn if they met her in real life. Gunn wrote in a New York Times opinion piece that she even received death threats from idiotic fans who couldn't separate her from her character.
- Billy Dee Williams, who played Lando Calrissian in Star Wars, recounted how after The Empire Strikes Back was released, whenever he'd drive his daughter to school, her schoolmates would go up to him saying "You betrayed Han Solo!", and he'd explain that Lando didn't have a choice.
- Masi Oka seems to deliberately encourage this. In interviews, he's explicitly compared himself to both Hiro and Max, saying there's a lot of himself in each of them. There have also been plenty of jokes about whether or not he's actually got time-bending powers himself or just a very intimate knowledge of space-time in a promotional video for Mobius Digital's Outer Wilds.
- This has become a particular problem in the Arrowverse, especially with Arrow where Ship-to-Ship Combat has escalated to harassing actors/actresses (and their significant others) for "ruining" their ships. In one worrying case, however, Stephen Amell was headbutted while out with his family by a crazy fan who wanted to fight the Green Arrow.
- Members of the Yogscast are frequently confused for the 'persona' that they put on when making videos, especially in their Minecraft series, where Rythian, Duncan Jones and Sjin were all mistakenly viewed as hating one another despite being friends in real life. This can partly be put down to the blurring of the line between 'character' and 'actor' in Let's Plays.
- Amy Adams jokes that she gets this from young Enchanted fans. As she's not wearing the Pimped-Out Dress, they're rather put-out, and she often puts on Giselle's voice to say "I'm in disguise."
"It's better than me getting down and going 'it's not real, honey'."
- Helen Mirren also jokes about this. Since playing Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen she's often treated as if she is the queen, and is treated as the Poor Man's Substitute if she's not around.
- Margaret Hamilton was a beloved kindergarten teacher before her iconic role as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz - and for years she had children coming up to her asking why she was so mean to Dorothy. She even had to guest star on an episode of Mr Rogers Neighbourhood to explain that the witch was just a character she played.
- James Michael Tyler claims that after the episode of Friends aired where Ross and Rachel break up - an angry woman came up to him to yell at him for telling Rachel that Ross cheated.
- In 1980 when the movie Fame came out and sprinkled its stardust in the eyes of young wannabes, parents would enroll their kids at the New York School for the Performing Arts and ask "Is this the school Coco (a fictional character in the film) attends?"
- There's an urban legend that Christopher Reeve was once threatened by a child with a gun, who wanted to test "Superman's" invulnerability. Reeve supposedly talked the child out of it by claiming the bullet would ricochet off him and could hurt the child or other bystanders.