Actors are prone to having their own personality... surprise! They may be gifted in being able to portray someone else, but often that baggage of their own distinct personality can cross over into the minds of the general public. There are also past roles they they will [[TypeCasting be eternally known for.]]

The use of Meta Casting is taking an actor and crafting a role that utilizes their known history to create a resonance between the performance and the audience that makes the whole thing far more dynamic than it could have been in any other way. As an example, take an actor who is famous for having altercations with obnoxious tabloid reporters. Take that same actor and cast them in a role of a famous businessman who kills a reporter for harassing him constantly. In some cases the actual role is almost an {{expy}} of themselves, as in they're playing an ''actor'' with a suspiciously similar history.

This can come in multiple ways:
* AdamWesting -- Using an actor's famous role in a form of self-parody. ContractualPurity often results in formerly child-friendly actors behaving in very much "family unfriendly" behavior.
* CastingGag -- Using their history with another actor or an older franchise incarnation. Possibly in a RemakeCameo they use TheHero of the original to be a mentor or give their blessing to the new crew.
* ActorSharedBackground -- The role is written with the actual (non-acting) history of the actor in place. A few former criminals with jail time have gained a history of playing hardened criminals.
* TheCastShowOff -- The skills and talents of the actor are integrated into the character, helping the actor feel more comfortable and giving the character more depth. An episode might be written to show a previously non-singing character to have the same vocal abilities as their actor.
* CastTheExpert -- Rather than hiring an actor to portray a professional in some field, they hire someone who actually ''is'' in that field, which gives the performance an additional air of credibility with ShownTheirWork. Martial artists are among the first people chosen to headline action movies, see BruceLee.

In many cases this can be SugarWiki/AndTheFandomRejoiced; the fans latch on to that resonance and appreciate it.

Compare ActorAllusion (a nod to other roles they played), InkSuitActor, CelebrityParadox, RealitySubtext, ActorInspiredElement and EnforcedMethodActing.

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!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Film]]
* Creator/RobertDowneyJr. was cast as ''Film/IronMan'' not only because he is a good actor, but has had problems in the past with drug abuse. That added extra weight to a man who is struggling to redeem himself for past mistakes; a man who is also known for having problems with alcohol. Robert Downey Jr. IS Tony Stark for most practical purposes.
** JeffBridges is also a great choice to play Obadiah Stane, because it plays against the roles he is normally typecast as. Stane comes across as friendly and likeable, albeit a bit of a smooth talker. And when we learn he was behind everything, we empathize with the betrayal Tony is feeling, because we're feeling it as well.
** Downey did it again in ''Film/SherlockHolmes'', playing the titular ace detective with drug and adjustment problems.
*** In fact, this seems to happen to Downey a lot. In ''CharlieBartlett'' he plays a high school principal with an alcohol problem.
*** ''Film/{{Zodiac}}'' as well.
*** ''Film/AScannerDarkly'', natch
*** ''Film/LessThanZero'' actually inverted the pattern, as Downey has stated that it was during shooting that he became a hardcore addict. To quote ''Website/{{Cracked}}'', knowing that as you watch ''Less Than Zero'', you are witnessing an actual addiction form, it's hard not to stay riveted.
--->''Until that movie, I took my drugs after work and on the weekends. That changed on ''Less Than Zero'', the role was like the ghost of Christmas future. The character was an exaggeration of myself. Then things changed and, in some ways, I became an exaggeration of the character.''
* Creator/SamuelLJackson was cast as NickFury because [[UltimateMarvel Ultimate]] Nick Fury's character design was based on him anyway, and as part of using his likeness he got the role in a live action film using the character.
* ''[[Film/CaptainAmericaTheWinterSoldier Captain America: The Winter Soldier]]'' has martial arts-themed mercenary Georges Batroc ([[ComicBookMoviesDontUseCodenames Batroc the Leaper in the comics]]) played by [[http://www.wrestling-titles.com/mma/ufc/ufc-wl.html UFC World Welterweight Champion]] Georges St.-Pierre.
* Creator/BruceWillis in ''Film/{{Unbreakable}}'' as a man who is struggling with the idea that he might be MadeOfIron and no one else is. Thinking about John [=McClane=] while watching the movie makes it that much [[{{Deconstruction}} more thoughtful.]]
** Subverted for great effect in ''TheSixthSense'' - the audience expects a Bruce Willis character to [[JustAFleshWound shrug off being shot]], so when TheReveal comes around, it's a big shock ([[ItWasHisSled if you manage to not be spoiled, anyway]]).
* Creator/JohnWayne in ''The Shootist'' playing an aging gunfighter dying of cancer in a world where he realises he's an anachronism. What's more is that most everyone expected this to be his last film, and it was, as he was indeed fighting cancer and his brand of western (and war) film hero had become an anachronism.
* Creator/KeanuReeves as a drug addicted cop in ''Film/AScannerDarkly''. He's just DullSurprise'd enough to seem plausible as a guy whose mind is slowly deteriorating from substance D.
** EVERYONE in ''Film/AScannerDarkly''. Not only does it have the aforementioned Reeves and Creator/RobertDowneyJr, but also Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder, Rory Cochrane. What a cast to play a bunch of stoners!
* [[LizzieMcGuire Hilary Duff]] in ''War, Inc'' where she plays a [[IdolSinger pop star]] who is overly saturated as a sex symbol, which while not exactly descriptive of Duff's life and career it does come fairly close to use this trope.
** Perhaps it is a CastingGag TakeThat to [[{{Madonna}} some]] [[BritneySpears of]] [[JessicaSimpson her]] [[JanetJackson raunchier]] [[ChristinaAguilera predecessors]].
* Christopher Reeve in the ''RearWindow'' remake.
* Audie Murphy. Enlisted in the US Army at 16 by falsifying his birth records, and proceeded to win more medals than he had places to put them in WWII. This included every single medal awarded by the US at the time, several more than once, along with medals from the French and Belgian governments. He then came home and starred in several war movies as a young recruit who performed heroic deeds on the battlefield, including ''TheRedBadgeOfCourage'' and a movie based on his own war experiences.
* ''Film/SchoolOfRock'' cast several child musicians, rather than child actors, to play the young musician characters. Creator/JackBlack himself is part of ''Music/TenaciousD''.
** Bonus points for the fact that the kid who played Larry (the pianist) had to go through the same classical-to-rock transition that the character did.
* ''Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star'' had the main character go for a role in a Rob Reiner film and he was considered perfect for the role in every regard except that he never had a normal childhood. So he goes off to quickly get a normal childhood. Essentially he is working to invoke this trope InUniverse to get a role.
* Creator/NicolasCage manages to convey a sense of being out of his depth in most of his roles, so he managed to do a marvelous job of portraying [[ActionSurvivor a chemical weapons expert dragged along on a SEAL mission]] in ''Film/TheRock''.
* Ben Stein as a high school economics teacher in ''Film/FerrisBuellersDayOff''.
* ''Film/TheWrestler'' casts Mickey Rourke, a down-on-his-luck actor looking for a comeback, as a down-on-his-luck wrestler looking for a comeback.
* JesseVentura in ''Film/TheRunningMan''. Retired hunter turns play by play commentator.
** And that's to say nothing of Richard Dawson playing an established game show host who was loved by the fans but was a real jerk when it came to backstage politics. Not surprisingly, Dawson made the film in a period during which he was ''not'' hosting ''FamilyFeud'' (though he later returned to the show).
* In-universe use: In ''Film/MrSaturdayNight'' there was a part in a film based on Buddy Young Jr. (the protagonist), but he didn't get the role because the writer/director thought he was dead so he cast Walter Matthau instead. Buddy auditions for another part, but stops and says "this isn't me."
* ''Franchise/{{Rocky}}'' films:
** Creator/MrT and HulkHogan in ''RockyIII''.
** Scandinavian double black belt Creator/DolphLundgren as Drago in ''RockyIV''.
** The casting of Tommy Morrison as Tommy "Machine" Gunn in ''Film/RockyV''.
** ''Film/RockyBalboa'' cast a real life boxer to play Mason Dixon because according to Stallone it is easier to teach a boxer how to act than to teach an actor how to box.
* RLeeErmey started as a consultant for ''Film/FullMetalJacket'' and was eventually cast in the role of [[DrillSergeantNasty Gunnery Sgt. Hartman]]. He was a Marine, after all. Legend has it Creator/StanleyKubrick didn't bother writing most of Ermey's iconic drill sergeant patter and let Emery be one of the few actors he ever allowed to go off-script.
* ''Film/TropicThunder'' runs entirely on this fuel, because it plays with the actual personalities of the actors portraying fictional actors. Robert Downey Jr plays an obsessive method actor who goes to extremes to play a role, to the detriment of his peers. Jack Black plays a comic who ''only'' plays obnoxious buffoons in ToiletHumor movies. In fact, some people expressed disappointment that Creator/BenStiller wasn't an {{expy}} of himself (A [[TheWoobie sympathetic]] [[TheEveryman everyman]] who is a CosmicPlaything) instead of the Stallone-like action hero he was in the movie. Jay Baruchel plays the little-known actor who isn't even mentioned on the poster, which is often what he is in real life.
** Stiller's part was originally going to go to Keanu Reeves. One of the plot points is that he has trouble expressing emotions, which would've made it this trope.
* Donald Sutherland's right hand man in ''Outbreak'', Dale Dye, was a captain in the Marine Corps. He has made a secondary career out of playing military officers.
** His tertiary career is teaching actors how to play military officers.
** In his spare time, he also acts as a military advisor for first-person shooters. ''MedalOfHonor'' names its HarderThanHard modes after him.
* Paris Hilton in ''RepoTheGeneticOpera'' appears to be this - she plays a bitchy, slutty, egotistical heiress, which matches at least her public image perfectly - but she was initially not even allowed to audition and had to fight to win the part. Still a case of WTHCastingAgency.
* The holographic operator of the Decepticon vehicles in Film/{{Transformers}}, "Moustache Man", is an actual pilot for the US military who was qualified to fly the various vehicles he appeared in. He even delayed his wedding to play [[CorruptCop Barricade's]] Moustache Man at the request of Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg.
* Creator/PeterSellers took this trope into his own hands and put a twist on it. He often commented in interviews that he had no real personality and was nothing beyond the [[Main/TheGoonShow many]] [[Main/ThePinkPanther colorful]] [[Main/DoctorStrangelove characters]] he played. After he read ''BeingThere'', he contacted author Jerzy Kosinski about getting a film adaptation made because he saw in it the role he was meant to play all along. That would be Chance the Gardener, a mentally-challenged man whose personality is so underdeveloped that he can only reflect other people's assumptions and desires, which makes each one of them see him as everything he or she ever wanted -- a passionate-yet-discreet lover, a brilliant thinker, etc. The resultant performance is regarded as one of the greatest, if not ''the'' greatest, of his career, even though it is worlds removed from most of his other work tonally.
* Creator/RobertRodriguez-favorite Creator/DannyTrejo, a Mexican ex-con who got into acting after leaving his past behind. As a result of his past, he almost always plays TheBrute-type characters, like in ''Film/{{Desperado}}, Film/{{Heat}}, Film/{{Predators}}, Film/FromDuskTillDawn'', and most recently, ''Film/{{Machete}}''.
** On one of his first jobs, the casting director asked, "Can you act like a convict?", to which Trejo responded [[DeadpanSnarker "Yeah, I think I can give it a shot."]]
*** [[NightmareFace There may be reasons other than his past]] for why Trejo is typecast this way.
** To a lesser extent, Charles S. Dutton, who took up acting while serving a prison sentence for a gang-related murder, is often cast as a murderer or tough guy.
* After her infamous Saks Fifth Avenue shoplifting debacle, Winona Ryder played in a movie called ''TheTen'', which was an AnthologyFilm that riffed on [[TheCommandments the Ten Commandments]]. The subject of Ryder's segment? [[ShouldntYouStopStealing "Thou Shalt Not Steal."]]
* ''Film/{{Memento}}'' required a SmugSnake type character for the antagonist, so they hired Joe Pantoliano, whose career is virtually nothing but. [[spoiler: Except, of course, that his character is innocent of the crime he's killed for in the film's opening. The role relies heavily on his typecasting to make the audience assume he's the bad guy, when he's the closest thing the protagonist has to a real friend. Virtually anyone but a typecast actor would have given the audience room to doubt.]]
* In the {{remake}} of ''Film/TheKarateKid'' a lot of people initially scoffed at casting Creator/JackieChan as the Mr. Miyagi counterpart, Mr. Han, largely because it sounded like a fanboy's wish list. But when the movie itself came out, people noted that Chan's reputation as a martial arts master gave a great deal more validity to him as a teacher and to the idea of 'Dre becoming so good in such a short period of time. InstantExpert? He was trained by Jackie Chan!
* T.I. took this route in his movie ''ATL'', in which he plays a struggling artist in {{Atlanta}}. He himself grew up in a poorer part of Atlanta.
* Creator/GeorgeClooney's character in ''Film/UpInTheAir'' is a charming bachelor with no plans of marriage. You'd think the part was specifically written for him.
* Music/MileyCyrus in ''LOL'', an American 2012 remake of a French BlackComedy. She plays the role of a BrattyTeenageDaughter who is seen by her mother as perfect and goody-two-shoes, but leads in private an active sex life, smokes, drinks, does drugs and has a raunchy mouth. The tables are turned as her mother reads her {{Facebook}} page and learns of her sordid sexual posts. Though the role was not written expressly for her, it has interesting subtext as Miley in RealLife has moved on to a degree from her HannahMontana days (though certainly not to such a degree) to the ire of MoralGuardians.
* In ''Film/SunsetBoulevard'', the character of Norma Desmond, a forgotten silent film star was played by Gloria Swanson, a forgotten silent film star. Her butler, Max von Mayerling who used to be a leading silent film director is played by Eric von Stroheim, who used to be a leading silent film director.
* In ''{{Theatre/Dreamgirls}}'', Music/{{Beyonce}} plays Deena, one of the members of a [[TheSixties '60s]] GirlGroup who ends up getting promoted more than the other band members (partially because of her relationship with the manager) and even leads to one member being fired from the band. In real life, Beyonce was the FaceOfTheBand for Music/DestinysChild and is the one who has had the most successful solo career afterwards. Some people feel that the only reason that's true is because Beyonce's father was the manager. What takes this to another level of meta is that Beyonce actually got top billing over Jennifer Hudson, even though Hudson's character is the main character of the story.
* In ''Flashback'', Dennis Hopper, who had played radical characters, most famously in ''Film/EasyRider'', plays a former 60's radical under arrest for crimes committed back then.
* Director Nicholas Roeg got the idea to cast rock musician Music/DavidBowie as the title character in ''TheManWhoFellToEarth'' after seeing the BBC documentary profile ''Cracked Actor''. The program followed Bowie on his 1974 U.S. tour, both on and offstage, and Roeg realized that the singer (who frequently incorporated science fiction elements and imagery into his work throughout his career) had exactly the stranger-in-a-strange-land aura the role of Thomas Jerome Newton -- an actual alien trying to save his dying race by masquerading as a human businessman and rising to the top of American industry -- required.
* Jack Palance, after playing MemeticBadass Wilson in ''{{Shane}}'', was cast as Curly Washburn in ''CitySlickers'' because of the mystique around his portrayal of the earlier character.
* During an interview on the ''Travis Smiley'' show, DenzelWashington admitted that his first villain role in the film ''TrainingDay'' (which got him a best male actor AcademyAward) was the easiest role he ever played. This was because the character he played: a corrupt cop named Alonzo, was based around his real off-screen personality. However, he made it clear that the evil deeds were solely movie based.
* In ''SpringBreakers'', SelenaGomez, one of the few remaining tween superstars of the 2000s not to have transformed into a raunch queen, need rehab, or otherwise spark controversy (other than dating Music/JustinBieber) was cast, appropriately as the innocent member of the female gang in the film. Most tellingly, her character disappears from the narrative when things get serious and the other girls start getting out of control. After all, we couldn't have Selena Gomez engaging in a three-way or killing people.
* The French film ''{{Grosse Fatigue}}'' (English subtitle: "Dead Tired") takes this all the way UpToEleven and then some more. All the leading actors, ''extremely'' well known in France, play themselves—still just as famous but in a fictitious scenario. The only character who ''isn't'' portrayed as the actor playing him is played by [[spoiler: the film's maker, Michel Blanc]], but that's only because said actor is playing two roles, himself and someone who isn't famous but looks exactly like him, a fact that provides the motor for a very clever plot.
* Creator/MichaelKeaton in ''{{Film/Birdman}}'' as Riggan Thomson, a washed-up actor remembered only for playing a superhero. Keaton's biggest and most remembered role is [[ComicBooks/{{Batman}} a certain superhero]], and he had difficulty finding high-profile roles afterwards.
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[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* Christopher Reeve in his role in ''Series/{{Smallville}}'' as Virgil Swann. The past Superman is telling the current Superman where he came from and who he is. Often considered the CrowningMomentOfAwesome for the show. Punctuated by the use of music from his Superman movies during his scenes. Margot Kidder also appeared in one of Reeve's episodes.
* In the third season of ''SlingsAndArrows'', William Hutt's character is enticed out of retirement to play at the New Burbage theater festival while dying of cancer. Hutt himself had several "retirements" from the Stratford Festival (on which New Burbage is based) and died of leukemia shortly after ''Slings And Arrows'' was filmed.
* ''{{Undeclared}}'' inverted this trope where the characters' personalities, and even their home city/country, were based on the actors they hired. The DVDCommentary would frequently point out that a recurring actor really did have that kind of slightly-off personality.
* Virtually every actor to have played the Doctor in ''Series/DoctorWho'' has incorporated a lot of their own personality quirks and idiosyncrasies into the role, although some more than others. The most extreme example is Tom Baker, who played the Fourth Doctor. He insists ([[TrollingCreator although there's ample evidence against it]]) that he just performed his lines as himself at first and was surprised that people kept sending him fanmail [[RealityIsUnrealistic praising his outrageous and over-the-top persona]]; when asked in an interview by Horror Channel to describe his Doctor in a word, answered "I can do it in two: Tom Baker". He was cast in the role due to Barry Letts being impressed by Baker's naturally loopy personality and, as neither Terrence Dicks nor Robert Holmes had much of an initial direction for the Fourth Doctor's personality, both of them admitted to having just written the character to be like the actor. This, combined with AlterEgoActing (he disliked appearing publicly as himself while playing the role and tried to stay in character as much as possible) did lead to him becoming LostInCharacter, so none of the others have done it to quite the same extent. The Eleventh Doctor's actor Matt Smith bought his own... astonishing physicality to the role, and Peter Capaldi (the Twelfth) has said that the Doctor has a lot more of his natural personality in him than his other famous role, [[Series/TheThickOfIt Malcolm Tucker]].
* Everyone's favorite goth girl, ''Series/{{NCIS}}'' lab tech Abby Sciuto, has a lot in common with her actress, Pauley Perrette. Not just the tattoos, but the story Abby tells Kate in the first episode, about poking around in an old junkyard being the start of her forensics path, is actually straight out of Perette's life.
** In another example from the same show, Michael Weatherly plays Tony [=DiNozzo=], who comes from a rich family but has been cut off. This is actually true of Weatherly's own family, as his own father cut him off when he dropped out of college and became an actor. Various other bits of his real life history have been used as gags (including how his family made their money and that he was once engaged to Jessica Alba) and Tony's movie references became a character element after a few too many of his ad-libs were movie-based.
*** A meta-meta example. RobertWagner has appeared in numerous episodes as Tony's father. Weatherly once portrayed Wagner in a TV movie and does an eerily accurate impression of the actor which has been posted to YouTube among outtakes from a CBS promo bumper he recorded.
** Sean Murry is also almost as much of a geek as [=McGee=].
* Dennis Farina usually plays cops and mobsters, which maybe isn't surprising considering he was a Chicago police officer for almost 20 years before taking up acting. His ''Series/LawAndOrder'' character is even mentioned as previously being a Chicago cop.
* MichaelJFox on ''Series/{{Scrubs}}'' was cast to play Dr. Kevin Casey, a double certified (medical/surgical) visiting doctor with ''extreme'' [[SuperOCD OCD]]. While he proceeded to show-up everyone in the cast with his skills, and despite his genius and generally positive outlook, his OCD is a very powerful demon that he can never truly ignore. Fox's bodily tics from Parkinson's added weight to the performance and the message.
** ''TheMichaelJFoxShow'' has even more of a RealitySubtext, since he's playing a beloved television personality with Parkinson's who returns to TV after a long retirement.
* Creator/CharlieSheen's first episode on ''SpinCity'' showed that his character [[TheDanza Charlie Crawford]] has had many social issues in the past, including wild womanizing and drugs. At the end of the episode he very publically apologized to a past fling explaining that he has entire weeks he doesn't remember, one where he ended up in a tour bus with a bunch of groupies "And I wasn't even in a band!"
** Sheen's more recent issues make this a very cyclical ordeal. His current series, ''Series/AngerManagement'', is overflowing with references to his sometimes bizarre past behavior while under the influence of narcotics.
* ''PowerRangers'' often searches for skilled martial artists to begin with, but along the way often integrates the background of the actor into the actual character. The most famous being Kimberly's gymnastics, where Creator/AmyJoJohnson was an Olympic hopeful at one point, and Zach's [[DanceBattler hip hop kido]], which was designed and performed by Walter Jones.
* The creators of Series/ParksAndRecreation developed the role of April Ludgate basically because they wanted an Creator/AubreyPlaza-type character after meeting the actress.
* ''Series/TheFallGuy'': LeeMajors plays a stuntman and was also roped into actually singing the show's theme song, in which his character proclaims he's been seen on screen with [[Creator/FarrahFawcett Farrah]]. Farrah Fawcett was formerly known as Farrah Fawcett-Majors and had in fact divorced Majors by the time ''Fall Guy'' came along. Another episode had a meta moment where Majors' character, Colt Seavers, has to break into a bad buy's lair and does so using the same catapult device used to simulate bionic jumps for Majors' own stuntmen in TheSixMillionDollarMan.
* In ''Series/TheBigBangTheory'', neurobiologist Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler is played by Mayim Bialik, a [[FormerChildStar child star]] on ''Series/{{Blossom}}'' who became famous for earning a Ph.D. in neuroscience and fading from acting for much of her adult life. It becomes straight on CelebrityParadox as, while not identified by name, she was referred to in a previous episode. When auditioning for the role the casting department did a double-take at her Ph.D, Mayim expressed amusement that we knew nothing of Amy when she first appeared and it wasn't until later she was given a specialty that reflected her degree.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries'': Creator/AdamWest (but of course) plays a washed-up actor who is frustrated that nobody can think of him as anything but his most famous role. Other actors might have been able to portray it better, but no one else could have given it that added level of irony. And then producer Bruce Timm playing the crazy fan in the episode (complete as an InkSuitActor) really hits it home. The episode was written specifically for West - if West hadn't been available then the episode wouldn't have been made at all.
* NeilPatrickHarris played a washed-up child actor in ''StaticShock''. Given his career path after ''DoogieHowserMD'' (before his comeback role in ''Series/HowIMetYourMother''), this was likely intentional.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'':
** In TheMovie the role of President Schwarzenegger was "played" by Rainier Wolfcastle, TheVerse's resident NoCelebritiesWereHarmed version of Creator/ArnoldSchwarzenegger.
** In the series proper, Professor Frink is very much a homage to Jerry Lewis' ''Film/TheNuttyProfessor''. When Frink's father appeared in one Halloween episode, he was, of course, voiced by Jerry Lewis himself.
* In the [[Recap/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicS2E1TheReturnOfHarmonyPart1 first two episodes of Season 2 of]] ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'', the villain, Discord, was designed to resemble Q from ''Star Trek''. They tried to think of a voice actor who would play the role as well as John de Lancie before they decided to get John de Lancie himself. De Lancie, in turn, became a champion for the show, to the point of producing a documentary on its [[PeripheryDemographic male adult fanbase]].
* ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'': Creator/MarkHamill plays [[BigBad Firelord Ozai]], superpowered EvilOverlord with a rebellious son '''AND''' he shoots lightning from his fingertips . Basically, [[Franchise/StarWars Luke Skywalker has become a composite of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine.]]
* Possibly another for Mark Hamill on ''RegularShow'': he plays Skips, CoolOldGuy and TricksterMentor. Luke Skywalker becomes Obi-Wan Kenobi?
[[/folder]]

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