Spoiled By The Cast List

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.

The single character version of this is the Walking Spoiler. 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 Typecasting / 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.

Examples:

Film
  • In 9 to 5, the opening credits boldly list (featuring?) Sterling Hayden as Chairman of the Board. Early in the movie, someone comments that they've never met the CEO in the 10+ years they've worked there. But the viewer is now certain that he will appear, which kind of spoils an important plot point.
  • Finding Dory: the names of several characters from Finding Nemo appear in the credits before the characters themselves appear in the post-credits gag.
  • The film version of Watchmen ran into this problem with the character of Rorschach, played by Jackie Earle Haley. In the original Watchmen comic, Rorshach remained masked and glimpses of his face were hidden for most of the story, as even his hero friends didn't know his civilian identity. Throughout the comic there was this red headed man who appeared homeless and holding a sign reading "The End Is Nigh" and could be seen in the background of a number of other scenes, and even has an exchange with a recurring newspaper vendor. It is intended to be a big surprise when Rorshach is unmasked and revealed to effectively be a Recurring Extra, with his real name Walter Kovacs. This works fantastically in comic form because they are not played by recognizable actors, but as such in the movie anyone in the audience who knows Haley would question why he is walking around with a sign.

Literature
  • Warrior Cats features a Dramatis Personae called the "Allegiances" at the start of every book, listing every character and which group they're in. Occasionally the list reveals warrior names, births, and retirements long before they happen in the actual book, or the existence of character in the list spoils a plot point: for instance, SkyClan being listed in Ravenpaw's Farewell spoiled that Ravenpaw was going to learn about and travel to the long-lost Clan.

Live-Action TV
  • Charmed has one the other way around in "Sand Franscisco Dreamin'". Phoebe is having nightmares about being chased by a masked attacker with a chainsaw. She suspects it's Cole but the fact that Julian McMahon isn't in the credits spoils that it's not.
  • Angel was usually good at averting this if a character made a surprise appearance at the end of an episode. They were usually credited with "Special Guest Star" in the ending credits - thus the resurrection of Darla and the return of Drusilla remained surprises. Buffy the Vampire Slayer used the same tactic at the end of Season 6 for the return of Giles.
  • For the Doctor Who episode ''The Bells of Saint John, the cast list was revealed before the episode aired, listing Richard E Grant as 'The Great Intelligence', after he had previously been 'destroyed' in the episode beforehand, which ruined The Reveal at the end of the episode.
  • In Legends of Tomorrow season 2, Leonard Snart had already met his demise in the penultimate episode of the previous season. So his actor's name, Wentworth Miller appearing at the start of the episode ruined the twist of his surprise return.
  • 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.
  • Played with (Zig-Zagged and de/re-constructed) in Supergirl. Laura Benanti as Kara's mother, Alura Zor-El, is credited in episodes after the Pilot in which she sends Kal-El and Kara to Earth from dying Krypton, which sets up viewers to think that there's going to be a surprise resurrection. Benanti, it's later discovered, also plays Alura's Evil Twin Astra, who survived on Fort Rozz.
    • However, Alura does make later appearances, but these are as a duplicate consciousness retrieved from the Krypton pods and Fortress of Solitude.
  • 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.
  • Babylon 5 suffered this in the episode "A Tragedy of Telepaths", in which the appearance of Caitlin Brown's name in the opening credits spoiled the episode's revelation that her believed-dead-for-two-seasons character Na'Toth was still alive.
  • Game of Thrones put Joe Dempsie in the opening credits in one Season 7 episode, spoiling that character's surprise return.

Multimedia Franchises

Theatre
  • The play Bondage by David Henry Hwang features two actors in full-body S&M gear, playacting a variety of racial stereotypes and race-based scenarios. The actual ethnicity of the couple is The Reveal, so the names of any recognizable actors attached to the project would automatically be a spoiler.

Video Games

Western Animation
  • Cartoon Network often uses a form of Credits Pushback where episode-specific credits are replaced with credits that cover the entire series's voice cast. For ongoing series, this can reveal the existence of a character long before they were meant to be revealed.
  • Parodied in an episode of Family Guy that depicts an episode of Law & Order. As he characters ask themselves who the murderer could be, the credits on the bottom of the screen read "Special Guest Star: Jimmy Smits", and the characters turn toward the viewer and point down at the credit.

Aversions:

Film
  • Jack Palance played Curly in City Slickers, but Curly died. In the sequel, Jack returns as the twin brother.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy featured a surprise cameo appearance in The Stinger by Howard the Duck. To avoid giving away the surprise for any members of the audience who were actually reading the credits while waiting for the Stinger, the credits for the voice actor and Howard the Duck's creator were held off until Howard was onscreen.
  • 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 listed first in the end credits to the film.
  • For the 1972 film adaptation of the play Sleuth, in which a character with a large amount of screen time is revealed to be one of the other characters in disguise, the opening titles include a decoy credit attributing that character to a non-existent actor.
  • Star Trek III: 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
  • Angel deliberately withheld Juliet Landau's credit to prevent a spoiler where her character Drusilla appeared to turn Darla back into a Vampire in the final scene of an episode.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tara's actress (Amber Benson) is featured in the opening credits, but subverted audience expectations by killing her off. Joss Whedon wanted to do the same thing for the character Jesse in the two-part premiere, but didn't happen because of budget issues.
  • Doctor Who: During the period when John Nathan-Turner was showrunner, there were several occasions when the surprise reappearance of an old villain was disguised by crediting the actor under an anagrammatic alias.
    • In episode three of "Castrovalva", the Portreeve is credited as played by "Neil Toynay" to disguise the fact that he's the Master (played by Tony Ainley) in disguise.
    • In episode one of "Timeflight", Khalid is credited as played by "Leon Ny Taiy"; it's Tony Ainley again.
    • The character of Sir Gilles Estram in "The King's Demons" was credited in advance publicity as played by "James Stoker" (an anagram of "Master's Joke"), but the actual episodes credit Tony Ainley normally because the reveal that he's the Master in disguise occurs at the end of episode one.
    • In episode three of "Remembrance of the Daleks", the Dalek Emperor is credited as played by "Roy Tromelly"; episode four revealed that he was none other than Davros, played by Terry Molloy.
    • In a much-earlier one-off example, the first episode credits and the Radio Times cast lists for both episodes of the 1960s story "The Rescue" credited a fictitious actor, "Sidney Wilson" (a Shout-Out to two BBC executives), as playing the villain Koquillion. This was, as usual, to avoid hinting at the story's big plot twist, that Koquillion was another character in disguise, although in this case not a returning one.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Theater
  • 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.
  • In the play Sherlocks 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.
  • "Walter Plinge" and "George Spelvin" (and feminised variations) are the fictitious actor names traditionally used in, respectively, British and American theatre cast lists when it is necessary for plot reasons to hide the fact that one actor is playing two roles, especially if they are the same person in-story as well. Of course, this means that theatre geeks may be clued in to the spoiler anyway.

Video Game
  • In the first Blazblue game, the Arcade mode credits has the voice actors' names for Hakumen and Nu being put as question marks. Only after beating Story Mode that their seiyuus are revealed: the same as Jin's and Noel's.

Western Animation
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