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Acting in the Dark

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"Sometimes when you say things out loud, some power leaks out of it."

Usually an actor is given the entire script, so that they know where their character starts and how it ends. But various reasons may impact that sense of foresight, where the actor is not told what is actually happening and it forces them to play the character in the moment, rather than with omniscient foresight.

For example, an actor in a Spy Drama receives scripts only an episode ahead as shooting proceeds. They are playing as a goodie and do not know why other characters are dying. Then another script comes along, and they discover that their own character has been The Mole and Evil All Along. The fact that up to that point the actor thought they were playing a good guy — rather than a bad guy pretending to be a good guy — means they don't give off any suspicious vibes while performing: the audience completely trusts them and is shocked when their treachery is revealed.

In films, this gives people a bit more time to plan out a specific Twist Ending and are able to schedule the big scene at the end of a shoot with a minimal crew to help preserve the secret. In TV shows the weekly grind and sheer content being made means actors can only think a week or two at a time, while writers and producers may have an outline the ability to give the actor a heads up is the exception rather than the rule. This trope is intended for when the lack of information serves (or diffuses) a narrative purpose in the creative process. It covers cases of things their character would know (see above) and cases where their character wouldn't know the later developments (such as their character getting hit by a bus). An extreme version is actors not even realizing the context of their role in the story, believing they are a minor part of the narrative only to be revealed as the main character.

This happens often in voice acting, especially in animation and video games, where the actor is only given their exact lines with little to no context. Voices in One Room is an attempt to avoid this, allowing them to actually play off each other.

It is also sometimes done to prevent a disgruntled or loose-lipped actor or crew member from content leaking major spoilers, possibly even giving them a variety of things to say and do without knowing how it will be crafted in the final product. It could also come from a Mid-Development Genre Shift where the footage is repurposed, the end effect is using what was intended as original material more like Stock Footage and the Kuleshov Effect to craft a different performance.

While this can obviously be done well, it can also be done badly. There is such a thing as giving the cast too few hints, resulting in a blank performance trying to say dialogue with no context to who they are talking to or what it is about. It can also be the result of a Troubled Production where the script is drastically rewritten while filming.

Compare Enforced Method Acting. Not to be confused with Writing by the Seat of Your Pants, where no one knows about future plot developments because they haven't been decided yet.


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  • Attack on Titan: Bryce Papenbrook, the English voice actor of Eren Jaeger, admits that he doesn't know the manga's (infamously controversial) ending and prefers to see it through the end.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Sean Schemmel says he wasn't aware that Goku was even the main character of Dragon Ball when he began voicing him. Because of Funimation's limited materials for the series, most people working on the show were unaware of what was going to happen next.
    • Masako Nozawa reportedly did this to herself: in an effort to make sure her portrayal of Goku was genuine, she never read the manga as it was running so she couldn’t know what would happen next until it came time to do the voice work.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Vic Mignogna has told fans that he kept himself in the dark about the show's plot on purpose while filming so his reactions as Edward are genuine; for example, his shock at arriving in our world in the 2003 anime version's penultimate episode. He did it again in Code Geass.
  • An in-universe example: It's what the director in the movie Perfect Blue does to his actors, making the parallels between the main character and the character she plays in the movie even creepier as both start to suspect they are the killer.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
    • Gen Urobuchi and Akiyuki Shinbo, respectively the writer and director of the show, did not inform Emiri Katou, voice actress of Kyubey, the show's Mentor Mascot, of her character's true nature and kept character designer Ume Aoki in the dark about the show's dark storyline. Either they wanted to make sure the viewer was fooled, in which case it was this trope, or they really wanted to see the others' faces once they found out, in which case it was just trolling.
    • Something similar happened with the English dub regarding the Wham Episode of Mami getting mogu-mogu'ed in Episode 3. What made it especially shocking for the actress was that she was still scheduled to do her character's lines the next day — she certainly wasn't expecting to die so suddenly.
      "Did, did I just... did I just DIE?!"
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena: The first director of the English dub knew very little about the show's story, characters, and themes, and the actors were given very little context, which explains their somewhat detached performances in the dub's early episodes. Kunihiko Ikuhara was so displeased with it, that he took a more direct role in the dub's production beginning with the movie and episode 14, with Anthony Salerno taking over directing duties, and the dub showed a marked improvement. In addition to this, Rachael Lillis, who voiced Utena, has said that she has never met Sharon Becker, who played her co-lead, Anthy.

    Fan Works 
  • G-Man Meets the Mystery Man: One author (Hitchcock)'s understanding of Half-Life is extremely limited (he knows virtually nothing outside of the fact that there's a character named Gordon Freeman who saves the world or something and there's a creepy guy called the G-Man). Meanwhile, the other author (PeabodySam)'s knowledge of Lost Highway consists of only a single scene.
  • Sonic Destruction: The only one who knows what's in the AI-generated script is Penny, and even she doesn't fully grasp what it's going for, leading to everyone being blindsided by all the weirdness the AI makes up.

    Film — Animated 
  • Per word of Luigi's voice actor Charlie Day, many plot details for The Super Mario Bros. Movie were kept from the actors as the voices were being recorded, with Day being given just enough of his script to do his voice role.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Alien: Only John Hurt knew that there would be a chestburster. The rest of the cast was not told — so their reactions to the scene were genuine, as evidenced by Veronica Cartwright's (Lambert) "Oh God!"
  • While on the set of Aliens, Sigourney Weaver reportedly steered clear of the props used to depict the Alien Queen, in order not to desensitize herself to it so she could show proper fear when she would meet it in the movie.
  • Ben-Hur (1959): A hilarious and confusing example occurred in the epic. The film features a very deliberate Homoerotic Subtext suggesting that the two main characters, Judah and Messala, were lovers in their youth. Stephen Boyd, who played Messala, was told about this dynamic between the two characters. Charlton Heston, who played Judah, was not told about the relationship for fear that he would Freak Out. This works with the characters pretty well: Messala comes across as someone trying to rekindle the relationship, while Judah is uncomfortable because he'd prefer to forget it happened and doesn't want to be reminded of it.
  • In The Blair Witch Project, actors weren't given instructions until the beginning of each day of filming (most of the dialogue was improvised). They also weren't told when they would be "attacked" at night, so those moments were genuine surprises.
  • Blazing Saddles: Mel Brooks used a musical version of sorts when he got Frankie Laine, who originally sang the Rawhide theme, to sing the theme. Brooks wanted Laine to sound like this was a genuine, dramatic cowboy movie, and so completely "forgot" to tell him about the comedic nature of the film, to the point that Laine didn't realize the truth until he actually saw the film at his local cinema. Laine consequently produced such an epic song that it's part of the background music in the "Frontierland" section of Disneyland. According to legend, even Brooks was surprised at how much effort Laine was putting into the song; Brooks considered telling the truth, but ultimately didn't have the heart to reveal that the movie was a spoof comedy.
  • Carrie (1976):
    • An unintentional example. Nancy Allen merely thought that Chris and Billy were just bumbling comic relief when they were filming and had no idea how evil the characters actually were until she saw the finished film.
    • Betty Buckley didn't realise she was going to be killed off in the prom massacre, as her character survives in the book.
  • Legend has it that during the filming of Casablanca, after each scene was filmed, Humphrey Bogart and the writers would sit down together and decide what should happen next. Ingrid Bergman had no idea until the very last scene was filmed whether her character would leave with Victor or stay with Rick. However, as the film was shot out of sequence, several scenes were shot after Bergman knew how the film would end. In addition, the Hays Code in place at the time essentially made it a foregone conclusion that Ilsa would leave with Victor, since it required good to triumph over evil and marriage to remain sacrosanct (the affair between Rick and Ilsa in Paris was allowed only because Ilsa believed her husband dead, as she makes very clear in dialogue). As Roger Ebert put it, any confusion Bergman would have had was "emotional", not "factual".
  • Lizzy Caplan signed onto Cloverfield knowing nothing about it simply because she was a fan of Lost, a show that the film's producer J. J. Abrams had also produced. She was actually relieved when she found out she was starring in a kaiju movie, as the scenes they'd given her to audition with were all from the first twenty minutes at the party, making her think she'd be in a cheesy Romantic Comedy. That said, while she enjoyed the experience, the physically demanding nature of the part was such that she said that she'd never take another role without knowing what kind of movie it was and what kind of character she'd be playing (unless it was a superstar director like Woody Allen or Wes Anderson).
  • The actresses for the main cast of The Descent were not told about the crawlers. When they finally met one in the movie the first take was of them all running off the set screaming.
  • Dr. Strangelove:
    • Slim Pickens, who famously played the B-52 bomber commander and pilot, was not told that the movie was a comedy during filming, and played his part straight. And he's still hilarious because Slim Pickens is just that funny.
    • A slight variant with George C. Scott: he was told to ham it up for a "practice take" before the real takes. Guess which takes wound up in the actual movie. Scott was not happy and vowed never to work with Stanley Kubrick again. He did, however, consider it cleverly done.
  • None of the cast of The Giant Claw knew what the titular monster would look like during filming and as such, played their reactions to it completely seriously. Star Jeff Morrow saw the abysmal results for himself during a screening and immediately went home to get drunk.
  • Inverted for the Harry Potter movies. Alan Rickman (Snape) was one of the few people in the world who J. K. Rowling told about the ending ahead of time so that he would know the true motivations behind his character. It has been suggested that Rickman only took the role because of this: rather ironically, he had an aversion to always being cast as the villain, so he needed to know that Snape had major sympathetic qualities for him to accept.
  • Mary Poppins: The child actors who played the Banks children were not told in advance about the tricks that Julie Andrews would pull off. Their surprise was real when she pulled a hat stand out of her bag, sending the kids under the table it sat on to see where it came from.
  • In a sense with Madame Web (2024). Dakota Johnson mentioned that acting against a blue screen and fake explosions that weren't really there meant that she really doesn't know how she did relative to what the filmmakers will do. It was her first movie with extensive blue screen usage.
  • Marvel Studios frequently have the actors of the Marvel Cinematic Universe do this as the franchise is a prime target for content leaks:
    • Tom Holland (Spider-Man) has such a poor record of keeping secrets that he is supposedly told as little as necessary, to the point of not even always knowing who he's supposed to be talking to in green-screen scenes. When he was on Graham Norton's show just before Avengers: Infinity War came out, he revealed that this was the first time he was even seeing the spider-suit, and he has often joked that the reason why Peter always looks so confused in the same movie is because he himself had no idea what was going on.
      Graham: Is there anything you can tell us about this film?
      Tom: You might as well be asking me about quantum physics.
    • Captain America: Civil War: On this one, Holland chose not to read the whole script in order to avoid potentially leaking plot information publicly.
    • Avengers: Infinity War:
      • Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange) revealed that none of the cast members were allowed to read the entire script so as to avoid them accidentally releasing spoilers like Holland often does. Holland himself was kept in the dark about who his opponent was during a fight scene.
      • Don Cheadle (Col. James Rhodes / War Machine) claimed that he wasn't aware of what the plot of the film was either.
      • Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch) claimed that the cast of the Battle for Wakanda scene were only told about the ending on the van ride over to shoot said ending.
    • Avengers: Endgame:
      • According to The Russo Brothers, Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark / Iron Man) was the only actor in the cast who got to read the entire screenplay. They also stated that Chris Evans (Steve Rogers / Captain America) might have read it.
      • Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton / Hawkeye) hadn't seen the script for Infinity War when he shot the opening scene of Endgame and had no idea what was happening. As a result, Clint's reaction to his family disappearing due to the Snap was completely genuine.
      • Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner / Hulk) received multiple falsified scripts throughout filming to keep him from leaking anything.
      • None of the cast were told what the big group shot at the end of Endgame was, as it was given the production codename "The Wedding". It was only when everyone was gathered, noticed that everyone else was dressed in black, and Robert Downey Jr. wasn't on set, that they realized they were filming Tony's funeral.
      • According to Brie Larson, the mid-credits Stinger of Captain Marvel was simply her being given a single line to say with no context. Her motivation was Nick Fury was “very gone” (so she wasn’t even told the details of what they were filming for Infinity War, let alone Endgame) and they filmed her shot in front of a green screen without any of the other actors from the scene (so she wasn’t aware she was intended to be speaking to the Avengers). She also mentions some of the filming for Endgame involved being handed a mostly-redacted set of lines and being told to read them.
    • This happened inadvertently to Gwyneth Paltrow when she was called in to shoot a cameo for Spider-Man: Homecoming. Apparently no one actually ever told her what she was shooting the scene for, and she just assumed it was for one of the Avengers products. She only found out that she had appeared in a Spider-Man film years later when she appeared on an episode of Jon Favreau's The Chef Show and they were reminiscing about their experiences in Marvel movies.
    • Spider-Man: Far From Home: Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill) said that she only found out about Fury and Hill actually having been impersonated by the Skrulls Talos and Soren for the whole movie a week before the movie was released, and that the post-credits scene revealing such was adapted from a deleted scene with CGI, without her involvement.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: None of the actors knew that Hector Barbossa was going to come Back from the Dead until Geoffrey Rush literally walked into the final scene. They read the script thinking that the person would have been Anamaria (Zoe Saldaña), who had a prominent role in the first film but was conspicuously absent from the sequel.
  • Scream 4:
    • During initial filming, the actors only read the first 75 pages of the script so that not even they would know the identity of the killer until the time came to shoot The Reveal.
    • Wes Craven also hid the final pages of the second movie's script.
  • Another Kubrick example: he was able to film The Shining without Danny Lloyd, the young actor playing Danny Torrance, being aware that he was in a horror film. Pretty amazing, considering the ever-darkening tone of the film and some of the horror scenes he is in.
  • Serenity: It didn't actually happen in filming, but in the DVD commentary, Joss Whedon jokes about doing this to Alan Tudyk, whose character infamously and suddenly dies in the climax.
    Joss: ("Wash" voice) "Hey, Joss, my script doesn't go past page 120..." (normal voice) "No, that's it, they... land safely, it's a happy ending."
  • In the film Smile, none of the actresses playing the pageant contestants were told who the winner was until the scene was being shot.
  • Star Wars:
    • In The Empire Strikes Back, Mark Hamill was pulled aside and told about Darth Vader's revelation just before shooting the scene. George Lucas wanted so badly for it to be a secret that only Vader's voice actor James Earl Jones (who initially thought it was a lie), Hamill (who also didn't believe it), and the director and screenwriter knew before the premiere. The scene was even filmed with Vader's suit actor David Prowse saying, "No, Obi-Wan killed your father!" Prowse was very upset after the premiere and told director Irvin Kershner his body language would have been completely different if he'd known the truth. Vader's gesturing doesn't fit the personal impact of the overdubbed line, while the stronger stance it was would fit "No, Obi-Wan killed your father" perfectly. As for Hamill, he has since said that, given more prep time, he believes he would have played the scene differently.
    • In the Sequel movies, the exact nature of Rey's parents were never completely worked out, but was intended to be so abstract it could be anything. The Last Jedi settled on "nobodies who sold her for drinking money," while The Rise of Skywalker changed it to her being the granddaughter of Darth Sidious and by the ending, the self-adopted child of Luke and Leia. Afterwards, Daisy Ridley admitted that halfway through filming Rise of Skywalker they were still acting as though The Last Jedi stance was the path they were going to go (And, at least one point during the filming, they were going with Rey Kenobi). J. J. Abrams, for his part, has implied that Rey being or becoming a Skywalker was always his intended endpoint for the character.
  • According to Kevin Spacey, none of the actors were told of the ending of The Usual Suspects while filming. Gabriel Byrne was led to believe that Keaton was Keyser Soze. After he saw the finished product, a reporter asked him who Keyser Soze was. He replied, "All throughout filming and up until tonight, I thought I was."
  • In Vera Drake only Imelda Staunton knew ahead of time what the real plot of the film was. It wasn't until the actors playing the police knocked on the door of the rehearsal house that the rest of the cast found out Vera was performing illegal backstreet abortions.
  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory: Gene Wilder was the only actor allowed to see the "Chocolate Room" before the scene there was filmed, so the children's reactions to seeing it for the first time are genuine.
  • Zack Snyder's Justice League:
    • Harry Lennix had absolutely no idea that his character, General Calvin Swanwick, was meant to be the Martian Manhunter until it was revealed by Zack Snyder via Vero. This is understandable, given that Snyder didn't originally film the planned cameo with Lennix during principal photography, or the planned reshoots prior to his exit from the movie.
    • Similarly, Diane Lane played the scene with Lois as Martha Kent. Zack Snyder repurposed the scene, with Martha actually being a disguised Martian Manhunter there.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24 thrives on this one. Notably, Sarah Clarke was not told that Nina would be the Season 1 mole until about Episode 12. Likewise, in Season 5, Gregory Itzin didn't know his character was the Big Bad until the episode in which it was revealed. Said character happened to be the President of the United States.
  • In the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Brett Dalton (playing Ward) was only told when it was necessary for him to know that Ward was a HYDRA mole, and the rest of the cast kept in the dark slightly longer. Bill Paxton, on the other hand, was told right from the start that Garrett was the Clairvoyant but none of the other cast was, allowing him the opportunity to play the Large Ham Big Bad pretending to be a good guy right from the start with the others in the dark.
  • Babylon 5 did this with the entire cast. J. Michael Straczynski had much of the plot set out beforehand, but he wanted the characters to gradually change across the show's run, with the performances reflecting what they were at the time rather than what they would become. Nobody was suddenly revealed to be something else, but rather became it over time.
  • Better Call Saul: Michael McKean filmed the first four episodes of the show before learning that Chuck was going to be a bad guy all along, so in his first few episodes he acted as though Chuck genuinely believed in Jimmy's efforts to become a lawyer. If anything, this made the eventual twist more effective.
  • Breaking Bad: During filming of season 4, Bryan Cranston did not get the script for "Face Off" until the preceding episodes had all been shot. He did not know that Walt's argument to Jesse about Gus' responsibility for Brock's poisoning had been based on a lie — and so Walt's performance in the penultimate episode was more convincing than usual.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In season five, Clare Kramer and Charlie Weber didn't know about the link between Glory and Ben until the episode it was revealed.
    • James Marsters only read the scripts for his own scenes, as he was a fan of the show and didn't want to have the rest of the episode spoiled for him.
    • Sarah Michelle Gellar was the only cast member who knew about Dawn.
    • Michelle Trachtenberg says Dawn was thrust into the role without knowing much about her personality; she describes her initial meeting with Joss Whedon as "Alright, welcome to the cast, you're a teenager, you're a Key, have fun".
  • On Curb Your Enthusiasm, the actress Cheryl Hines is usually unaware of what the character Larry David has gotten himself into during an episode.
  • In the first season finale of Dark Matter (2015), one of the team turns out to be a mole for the Galactic Authority. The cast was not told who this was — even in the script stage (which solely referred to The Mole) until being informed by the showrunner just before they shot the scene. The video of them finding out can be found here.
  • In season six of Dexter, only Edward James Olmos knew that his character Professor Gellar was Dead All Along and a delusion of his "student" Travis. Even the directors were kept in the dark, leading to a few instances where Olmos had to gently nudge them away from filming a scene in a way that the reveal wouldn't make sense.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Tom Baker held himself to this. He only read and learned his lines in his scripts, because he viewed his role as to react to events in the way the Doctor would (and, with his usual thought processes, felt that knowing anything about what other characters were doing in the story was "invasive"). You'd be hard-pressed to say this made his acting any more naturalistic, as would be the usual intention for this technique — but it certainly helped Tom Baker stay in character. It also led to him interrupting and stepping on the lines of the guest cast due to a genuine unawareness of when he was supposed to say his line, although since the Fourth Doctor is a scene-stealing Attention Whore Insufferable Genius it usually works.
    • Colin Baker was not told whether the events of "Mindwarp", which are presented as evidence in Season 23's overarching courtroom trial, really happened or were tampered into incriminating lies... and neither were any other crew member, as the only person who knew, script editor Eric Saward, ragequit the show following Hostility on the Set with producer John Nathan-Turner by the time production began. Having no idea how the Story Arc will proceed, Baker chose to perform the story as if it were false.
    • Alex Kingston was the only person aside from Steven Moffat that knew the extent of River Song's arc and the events which occurred in it before the readthroughs. In her debut story "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead", David Tennant had no idea what was going on and was forced to come up with own ideas as to who the Doctor believed River Song to be. He famously said he acted under the assumption that the Doctor believed River was an older, gender-bent regeneration of his because even though that made no sense, it was the most logical thing he could think of. Similarly, Matt Smith (The Eleventh Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy), and Arthur Darvill (Rory) were completely unaware and were given the heads-up only when filming was about to happen for the scene in which River's identity was revealed in "A Good Man Goes to War".
    • Peter Capaldi had no idea he was going to meet the First Doctor, revived by David Bradley, in the cliffhanger of "The Doctor Falls".
  • EastEnders had a special live episode in 2010 where Stacey Slater was revealed to be Archie Mitchell's murderer. None of the rest of the cast knew and Stacey's actress Lacey Turner was only told half an hour before broadcast. There's footage of the rest of the cast watching The Reveal live and reacting with shock.
  • The writer of Forbrydelsen wrote as he went, so that neither he nor the actors knew who the killer was going to be until the final episodes.
  • Game of Thrones: Prior to the Season 6 production, Kit Harington had to lie to the cast about Jon Snow's fate in the Season 5 finale just to make them believe he was leaving the show. Liam Cunningham was very skeptical about it while Sophie Turner seemed to be the only cast member who believed it that she wrote a very emotional farewell letter to him. When the cast received the Season 6 scripts, everyone now knew that Kit was not really leaving the show and Kit teased Sophie for that farewell letter. Though Kit did tell one person, a police officer who caught him speeding and asked him point blank if he could either get a speeding ticket or confirm if he was still alive on the show. You can watch the story here
  • On The Good Place, only Ted Danson and Kristen Bell knew about the first season's revelation while the season was being filmed so it would not affect the performances of the other actors. Their reaction was filmed, and it's clear they're in late-season outfits.
  • Parodied in the Hancock's Half Hour TV episode "The Bowmans", where Hancock is a radio actor and is shocked when he gets a script that kills off his character. (He gets his own back in the end.)
  • Harper's Island: The actors were not told who the murderer was, with the murderer's portrayer himself being kept in the dark until about halfway through. Co-executive producer Karim Zreik, had the job of informing the actors in this death-laden 2009 Mini Series just when their time was up. The actors gave him the nickname Karim the Assassin.
    • Specifically, the actor who turned out to be the murderer (Henry, played by Christopher Gorham) wasn't told until eight episodes into a 13-episode season.
  • House: During the Season 4 "reality show" where House was whittling down the candidates as the episodes went on, those who would not make the final cut were not told until the week of filming for that episode began.
  • How I Met Your Mother
    • The episode "Bad News" was scripted to end with Lily telling Marshall she was pregnant. However, producers prepped Alyson Hannigan right before shooting that Marshall's father had died, while Jason Segel didn't know anything. His reaction is genuine.
    • The Finale Season has the Mother join the cast, always on the sidelines and interacting with everyone but Ted in the present story. But to keep the hype around the character even the actress doesn't know her name.
    • Cristin Millioti had no idea her character was actually Dead All Along. She burst into tears when she found out.
  • Justified: During most of Season 1, the audience was wondering if redneck racist Boyd Crowder had really Found the Lord and become a (fairly nutty) backwoods preacher, or was just scamming everyone. It turns out Walton Goggins, who played Boyd, didn't know either. In this case, the writers/producers did this to force him to play it ambiguously.
  • Law & Order: The relationship between EADA Jack McCoy and his assistant, Claire Kincaid, is strongly implied to be a romantic one, but this was never explicitly revealed until after Jill Hennessy, who played Kincaid, left the show. Reports vary on whether the actors were told about the relationship at the time. Some sources say that Sam Waterston, who played McCoy, was explicitly told but Hennessy was not. Hennessy herself allegedly says both she and Waterston were kept in the dark initially, but she put two and two together and finally asked the writers about their relationship. After they confirmed it, they then decided to clue Waterston in as well. (Toward the end of Hennessy's run the hints started to get pretty blatant: in one episode Kincaid is asked point-blank if she is sleeping with McCoy, and she doesn't answer.)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Charlie Vickers believed for the first two episodes that he is going to play a Canon Foreigner character. Only after filming the third episode he learned he is playing Sauron.
  • Lost.
    • Matthew Fox has stated that he was the only actor on the show who knew how the series would end before the production of the final season.
    • In an interview, Michael Emerson confirms that the cast was acting in the dark. One assumes that getting answers like "I can't discuss that" happened early and often on the Lost set. Emerson's role in particular grew from a random guest role, who had only an initial three-episode contract, to a Breakout Villain once his performance was approved by the producers.
    • Terry O'Quinn was not informed that he was no longer playing Locke in Season 5 because he was meant to act consistently with what was known until The Reveal.
  • This is part of the premise of the BBC Three comedy Murder in Successville, and its Netflix adaptation Murderville. Each episode features a celebrity guest, starring as themselves, working alongside the police to solve the Mystery of the Week. However, the celebrity isn't given a script, and therefore has no idea what's about to happen at any given time. This also means they don't know who the murderer is, and have to actually try and work it out as the episode progresses.
  • M*A*S*H did this with the departure of Henry Blake. The whole episode was filmed with the entire cast being under the impression that Blake was going home to America. After they filmed Blake's departure, the cast was given a changed script for the last scene: Radar delivers the news that Blake's plane was shot down with no survivors.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • Eion Bailey had auditioned for August knowing only what was in the script for his first episode (one scene as he arrives into town). According to him, the writers tried to hide his character's true identity from him for as long as they could.
    • Christy Laing had no idea that Marian was actually Zelena in disguise until she read it in the script for the episode "Heart of Gold."
    • Colin O'Donoghue didn't know that Hook was a second Dark One until two weeks before The Reveal was filmed. Justified since his character didn't know this either.
    • Otherwise averted with two other big revelations. David Anders only signed on when he was told his character would turn out to be Dr. Frankenstein, despite the revelation not happening until early Season 2. Likewise, Meghan Ory was told Red Riding Hood herself was the wolf in advance.
  • Sherlock: Amanda Abbington has said she was unaware of Mary's backstory before receiving the script for the episode "His Last Vow". Had she known ahead of time, she would have played the role differently in her previous episodes.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Alexander Siddig didn't know that his character was actually a Changeling impersonator for several episodes until the episode where it was revealed.
  • Star Wars.
    • The Mandalorian cast members were told that in the Season 2 finale, Din Djarin delivers Grogu to Plo Koon, completing his mission to reunite the Child with the Jedi. The episode actually has Djarin deliver Grogu to Luke Skywalker, but Lucasfilm didn't want it to leak out; they filmed the scene with a "Jedi Stunt Double" and replaced his face and voice in post-production.
    • The Book of Boba Fett Season 1 scripts bore such labels as "301", "302", and "303". This prompted at least one of the actors, co-star Ming-Na Wen, and several rumor-mongers to assume The Mandalorian Season 3 had already begun filming. Another Boba Fett cast member, Jennifer Beals, also didn't know exactly which Star Wars project they were filming.
  • The writers on Ted Lasso didn't tell Billy Harris that his character, Colin, was going to come out as gay because they figured he would play closeted better if he genuinely wasn't aware. However this was unsuccessful as Harris figured it out from Colin's offhand mention of Grindr, a popular gay dating app.
  • Twin Peaks.
    • David Lynch had planned out the identity of the killer of Laura Palmer long before the big reveal, but he didn't tell the actor until the time came to actually shoot said reveal.
    • Also, Lynch went to significant lengths to avoid revealing to other actors in the second season that Mr. Tojamura was actually the supposedly deceased Catherine Martell, to the point of having the actress arrive at the set already wearing the prosthetics and make-up used for the in-universe impersonation.
  • Westworld:
    • Jeffrey Wright was one of the few actors who knew early on that Bernard is a host, and even he was only told after the pilot was filmed, to allow him to put some subtle quirks in his body language.
    • Defied by Anthony Hopkins, who specifically demanded to be given the full picture of his character as a condition after he was initially sent scripts with a lot of blacked out lines.
    • Even most of the cast don't even know what's going on with the show or what scene they are shooting as they were shot out of order. For example, Evan Rachel Wood recalled on her Instragram that when she and Ed Harris are shooting a scene together for Season 2, they both look confused and Harris looked at crew and said, "Why the fuck am I riding with Dolores!?" In a later interview, Harris found out about some of the stuff later on saying he would appreciate it if he knows about it at the time of the filming.
    • Very few people, including Evan Rachel Wood, know about the Season 3 twist regarding Dolores bringing four copies of herself to infiltrate the outside world. Tessa Thompson, Tommy Flannigan, and Hiroyuki Sanada, who played the copies were only told about it when they were about to shoot their scenes.

  • Invoked in Episodes 46-47 of Film Reroll. DM Paulo Quiros set up a campaign based on the obscure indie movie Summerspell, which none of the players had seen. They were told to not watch or read up on any part of it so that they could actually keep secrets from each other. However, the real twist is that the film Summerspell never existed, and that they are actually playing a Friday the 13th campaign. Paulo did this to recreate the Dramatic Irony found in almost every Slasher Movie, where the characters have no idea that there's a killer in the area until they've already started to die.

  • In Doubt, the only people who know whether Father Flynn is guilty of the molestation charges that form the crux of the plot are the actors who played him in the original stage and film versions, since they were told so by author John Patrick Shanley himself. At least one of the actors took the secret to his grave.

    Video Games 
  • Ryan Drummond said this along with poor voice direction was a big factor in why the English dub for Sonic Adventure was so poor. The actors all recorded their lines separately, and their scripts only had their respective characters' lines, and absolutely zero story context was written in or given to them, even if they were talking to another character. Not helping was that voice director Lani Minella's direction only amounted to "sound excited" or "sound angry".
  • Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]: The Unknown AKA a time-displaced young Xehanort has absolutely zero personal investment in the plot of which he is part. His English voice actor was given his lines completely out of context to ensure that he had as little investment as his character did.
  • Enforced in the English dub of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 according to Skye Bennett, the voice of Pyra, who claims the actors weren’t given either voice direction or the proper context for the scenes. This is a significant part of the issues fans have with regards to the game's questionable VA work, alongside that they weren't able to do retakes if they felt they delivered a line poorly.
  • XCOM: Chimera Squad: Erica Lindbeck, the voice of Torque, has stated she wasn't told she was recording lines for a snake alien.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses: Chris Hackney, the English voice of Dimitri, didn't know who the Flame Emperor was until he voiced lines for The Reveal.
  • Life Is Strange: Derek Phillips, the voice of Mr. Jefferson, had no idea that his character was the villain until he received the script for Episode 4.
  • The English dubs of Mega Man 8 and Mega Man X4 were recorded in the same session. Ruth Marie Jarman (formerly Ruth Shiraishi at the time) was not informed of this and subsequently performed the original Mega Man and Mega Man X - two wholly separate characters, the former a Kid Hero - with the same voice under the belief that she was recording only for Mega Man 8, infamously resulting in X not sounding like an adult male.
  • An amusing example from Shin Megami Tensei V. In an interview during the launch celebration event, Casey Mongillo stated that they were under the assumption that their role would be fairly small due to the short amount of time that was booked for recording their lines. It wasn't until they were in the recording booth that they were told much to their shock that they were voicing the protagonist of the game.
  • Super Smash Bros.:
    • Xander Mobus, the announcer of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, has admitted that he often has no idea who's in the roster of both games, base or DLC, because he records for multiple red herrings and random character names to hide the real rosters and prevent leaks.
    • Whenever a DLC character is introduced into the roster, that means Kirby gets a new Copy Ability for his moveset, and thus new voice clips. His voice actor, Makiko Ohmoto, isn't told exactly who the DLC fighters are to prevent leaks during recording; however, while recording for Terry Bogard, she quickly realized he was in the game because she played Fatal Fury before and recognized the lines she had to say.
  • When Alpharad was hired to voice The Ferryman in River City Girls 2, the game's voice director Cristina Valenzuela said she didn't have a picture of the character on hand, and simply described him as "a man on a ferry who gives boat rides". He asked her if he could record his lines in an upbeat "YouTuber voice" (as he initially pictured him as looking like a carnie), and she said yes. It was only when the game came out that he learned what the character actually looked like, much to his surprise.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • While recording for the DEATH BATTLE! episode "Yang Xiao Long vs. Tifa Lockhart", neither Yang's voice actress nor Tifa's knew who was going to win the fight. They only saw the result when the episode aired.
  • RWBY: Blake Belladonna's voice actress, Arryn Zech, was completely unaware of Blake's heritage as the daughter of the former leader of the White Fang and current chieftain of Menagerie, before reading the script for Volume 4.

  • Seemingly done to Lewis in Full Frontal Nerdity. He and Nelson get the bright idea to make a movie about their wacky hijinks in Frank's house. One scene involves Lewis rolling a natural one and blowing the die away with a handgun. Shame nobody told him the gun was a real pistol firing real gas-main-puncturing ammunition!
    Lewis: FRAK! FRELL! DREN!
    Frank: Live bullets?!
    Nelson: It was easier than rigging a die to explode. It also guaranteed a more natural reaction. I didn't think it'd push Lewis into sci-fi-swear mode, though.
  • Happens In-Universe in Girl Genius: When Agatha Heterodyne is posing as an actress in a traveling show, a local governor requests a command performance of "The Socket Wench of Prague" — implied to be a filthy bawdy play. Agatha's more worldly castmates have her learn the dialogue without any context, which leads to a hilariously realistic performance since she has no idea what's coming.

    Web Original 
  • During the finale event of the Silo arc in AJCO, A_J's player invoked this upon Pythos, Frances' player, by spontaneously walking out after Egg, whom she had just expelled into a deadly radioactive landscape above. Pythos had no idea this would happen, and as a result, Frances' frenzied reaction was entirely unscripted and from the heart. A_J's player also told Pythos that she and Egg's player would be playing brand new characters as a result, leading Pythos to really believe that both characters died.
  • Wes "funnywes" Wiggins, who voiced a DoorDash Driver that got eaten by Buu in Team Four Star's Dragon Ball Z Abridged Buu Bits (made for Totally Not Mark's Buu Saga Review), stated on her Twitter account that she was given her lines alone without any context as to where they would end up.

    Western Animation 
  • In the classic Goofy short How To Ride A Horse, the narration was done by a Disney storyman named John McLeish. McLeish was given a script for an "educational film" to narrate, with the narration for the short cleverly hidden among it. He was kept in the dark because he personally didn't like the character of Goofy, and they realized that the narration would be much funnier if it was played completely straight. McLeish was understandably pissed when he saw the cartoon for the first time and realized what he was actually narrating, but eventually came around and narrated many more Goofy "How-To" shorts when he admitted that the straitlaced narration was what made the cartoon work.
  • On Marvel's Spider-Man, Scott Menville had no idea that he was auditioning for Doctor Octopus until official articles came out. He was only given a vague, inaccurate description of his character (a 19-year-old high school teacher named Professor Harrison) and nothing else.
  • Most of the cast of Star Trek: Lower Decks were asked to read for various characters when they auditioned, and had no idea what role the characters they were ultimately assigned would play in the series. Tawny Newsome and Jack Quaid, the two lead actors, didn't actually learn they were playing the main characters until they noticed during the first table read that they'd been placed at the center of the table and had a lot of lines.
  • Star Wars Rebels:
    • While recording for one of the final episodes, the last two pages of the script to "Jedi Night" were not given to the voice actors. Dave Filoni then broke the news of what was going to happen (Kanan was going to die in a Heroic Sacrifice), so their reactions to the ending scene are genuine. Zig-zagged in that Freddie Prinze Jr., Kanan's voice actor, was already told what would happen to his character, but didn't know when. Behind-the-scenes footage shows that he was on the verge of crying when he received the news.
    • In a non-spoiler scenario, Vanessa Marshall had no idea she was voicing Hera for the series. When auditioning, she did so for a different project.
    • Because the Distant Finale only involved one character narrating, very few crew members knew what happened in it, and thus the ultimate fate of the characters. Namely, Vanessa Marshall only found out that Hera was pregnant the last few episodes when she watched the episodes herself.
  • Steven Universe: The revelation that Rose Quartz was actually Pink Diamond was planned very far in advance by the writers. Despite this, the voice actors for the two characters who knew this all along (Deedee Magno-Hall and Susan Egan, who voice Pearl and Rose respectively) were only told just before recording the episode that revealed it.
  • Regarding Transformers: Prime, Will Friedle revealed in an interview with IGN and the commentary for the epilogue TV movie Predacons Rising that during the auditions for Bumblebee (who did not regain his ability to speak until the series finale), the crew was claiming the character they'd be voicing was Bluestreak.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): In an interview, Christian Lanz mentioned that he recorded 6-7 episodes before he found out about the fate of his character Xever, namely that he would mutate into Fishface . He only found out a year later when doing ADR for the fight scenes.
  • Woody Woodpecker: Gorgeous Gal from "A Fine Feathered Frenzy" was voiced by Gladys Holland; she was chosen to perform the voice as she was good at foreign accents. Gladys admitted she knew nothing about the character being a heavyset dowager; she did watch the finished short though and found it hilarious.