I created a monster
Cuz nobody wants to see Marshall no more
They want Shady — I'm chopped liver
It can be said that some roles take on a life of their own, separate from the actor that plays them. Fox Mulder
lives more vividly in our collective imagination than David Duchovny; Leonard Nimoy was so eclipsed by his character in Star Trek
that he titled his autobiographies I Am Not Spock
and (once he'd made his peace with it) I Am Spock
However, some actors not only allow the character this existence, they actively cultivate them as a persona as real as any other person walking around. This is usually done in one of a couple of ways.
- The first way is to portray the individual as an entirely separate person, while acknowledging the existence of the actor. The character may refer to the actor in the third person, or vice versa.
- The second version is to entirely subsume the "real" actor in the role. In this case, the actor is never mentioned by the character and the actor almost never appears in "public".
- The third method is when the actor acknowledges the character is "them", but somehow a "different" them. This is the least frequently seen, most subtle version, and the mechanism of this change in personality is not consistent, further making it more difficult to recognize.
See also Adam Westing
, where a celebrity's public persona is a self-parody, but still uses their real name.
In a case of Real Life Writes the Plot
, Alter Ego Acting isn't limited to the actors themselves; many of the fans, especially with sci-fi or fantasy series (like the furry fandom
) use this trope to various levels in regards to their internet personas. In a reversal to the trope being applied to the actors, the third method is usually the most used, to the point where the fans refuse to respond to anything but their alter ego's name. Typically, though, the alter ego has enough personality quirks that only work within the confines of fantasy, the alter ego is unable to be fully emulated in the 'real world' during standard, off-line living and, thus, their real selves are markedly different, no matter how much they try.
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- Daft Punk never appear in public without helmets on and have not been photographed as themselves in ages. There are currently only one or two pictures of them without their helmets or another face obstructing item.
- The major cast of Trailer Park Boys appear in character almost constantly, even including "behind the scenes" commentary on the DVD for the show.
- Carroll Spinney, who portrays Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, supposedly refused to do Sesame Street-related interviews out of character.
- Company policy at Jim Henson Co. was that the actors and puppeteers who play the various Muppet characters are not allowed to engage anyone in an on camera interview.
- However both Henson and Spinney made separate appearances on the syndicated version of Whats My Line?
- Played with during the Muppet appearance on The West Wing. Nobody broke character or showed the puppeteers behind the puppets.
- The members of Finnish heavy metal band Lordi make all of their public appearances in the elaborate monster costumes they wear onstage, and have gone to unusual lengths to keep their real names secret from the public. (Indeed, the band's first demo video has never been released to the public because it shows the singer, "Mr. Lordi", with no mask.)
- When a gossip magazine showed a picture of Lordi without his mask (on the cover, no less), it created a massive backlash and tens of thousands of fans signing a petition of boycotting the magazine, eventually resulting in a public apology from it.
- Part of this is because all the members of the band are very private people, actually working in a normal job as well as being a monster rocker, or both. Amen, for instance, is a web designer, and at least one of the members is a music teacher.
- Sometimes GWAR appears out of costume as RAWG; other times, they appear in costume and in character on daytime TV, where Hilarity Ensues.
- Likewise, the Australian rock-band T.I.S.M. made a point of never appearing (on stage or for interviews) without wearing some sort of identity concealing outfit, and referred to each other only by their stage names (such as Ron Hitler-Barassi and Humphrey B. Flaubert).
- Experimental rock band The Residents have never been seen without their masks, never dropped out of character in public, and have never released their real names. They've managed to keep their identities a secret for 40 years. It is, however, long been suspected that "The Cryptic Corporation," a group of two "spokesmen" who speak for the band in all interviews, are actually the creative core of the band. The Cryptic Corporation admits to collaborating with the Residents, but always denies that they are actual bandmembers.
- When Jim Carrey was cast as Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon he stayed in character(s) for the duration of the shoot (see above and below); this included not responding to his own name. (In addition, after the shoot was completed, Tony Clifton was discussed in Type One terms by all the participants.)
- A really bizarre case was when "Kaufman" went auditioning for How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. The Dr. Seuss estate rejected him, but then Carrey broke out of that character and did a Grinch impersonation that got him the role.
- Mana from Moi Dix Mois (formerly Malice Mizer) is almost never seen out of costume, out of character (e.g. speaking), or out in public. When he has been, it's usually by accident/some sort of freakish fluke.
- And when he is photographed out of costume, nine times out of ten his face is mostly obscured by a large hat and sunglasses, and he's wearing bulky black clothing. He even appears like this when he's caught out suddenly by stray fans or photographers, which seems to suggest that this 'incognito' look is genuinely what he wears on a day to day basis.
- Jane Turner and Gina Riley rarely appear out of character as Kath and Kim.
- Larry the Cable Guy used to simply be a role Daniel Lawrence Whitney would use on stage in his comedy routine, but it eventually took over his entire persona in all work he did - film, television, interviews, et cetera. He even wrote a book in-character, littered with grammatical errors. Whitney will usually break character for a few seconds once or twice per show as part of a joke.
- Tom Baker kept up the persona of the fourth Doctor during his time on Doctor Who, and if fans met him in the street, he always tried to make sure they met the Doctor.
- Rob Potylo used to record albums, play concerts, and make appearances on radio shows or at comedy clubs as Robby Roadsteamer, a trashy Jerkass Guttural Growler initially inspired by the way he saw singers for local nu-metal bands carry themselves on stage. He did some interviews as himself where he'd acknowledge Robby Roadsteamer as a character, but for the most part he would never appear publicly as himself. The character eventually got retired because he was concerned that if he kept it up too long he'd be pigeonholed - nowadays he makes music as himself rather than the character. It's since been joked that Robby Roadsteamer still exists, he just hasn't been heard from in years because he and his band left the Boston music scene for Western Massachusetts.
- Comedian Leigh Francis has hardly ever appeared on TV as himself. He is currently known as Keith Lemon, but has previously been Avid Merrion, The Bear, and singer Craig David note .
- Daniel Day-Lewis has a major case of this, as he heavily researches his film roles to get into character - months before shooting even begins. When he's involved in the production process of films like Last of the Mohicans, Gangs of New York, There Will Be Blood and many others, he won't refer to himself as anything other than the name of his character on or off-set. One story mentions that this has caused at least one friendship to break down - Liam Neeson won't even talk to Day-Lewis anymore because, when they were exercising together during an off day while filming Gangs, Day-Lewis wouldn't respond to Neeson calling him his real name - he would only speak if he was referred to as "Bill The Butcher".
- In an unusual subversion, comedian Andrew Clay Silverstein has been practically forced into a sort of Type 2 version of this trope. His character, Andrew Dice Clay, is seen as such an over the top misogyist and homophobe; that fans and detractors alike are unable or unwilling to separate the actor from his character; despite the profound difference between his real and assumed personalities, and his more recent attempts to distance himself from "The Diceman". This hasn't been help by many other performers refusing to perform or appear with Silverstein, even out-of-character.
- The mistake he made was refusing to ever break character for so long that most people assumed the Diceman was a real guy.