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Actor/Role Confusion

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In-fiction, a reality-impaired fan confuses the actor with the character, thinking they're the same as their character or even literally the same person.


  • I Am Not Spock, which refers to an actor who's unable to get any part other than the character for which they are known.
  • I Am Not Shazam, which refers to the confusion of a character with the title of a work or with the character's catchphrase.

A subtrope of Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality. See also …But I Play One on TV, which is when the same thing happens in Real Life.

Contrast Your Costume Needs Work. Sometimes leads to Becoming the Mask in less cynical stories. Role Association is a milder version, where you just associate a (usually more famous) role with an actor even when they're in something else.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Gals! the main children characters (Sayo & co) mistake the actor from the series of Odaiba Shark as the real character, even when they see it filmed. Every time they meet he pretends to be the character to protect their dreams. Said actor was written out of the show for one episode and appeared in a kid's show as an exercise coach. Sayo believes it's by chance they look similar.
  • Ramen Fighter Miki: Deconstructed when a little Girl confuses Kanban Musume Megumi with Hell Bunny, the villain from Star Rangers. To fool a little girl with that lie is treated In-Universe as a Moral Event Horizon.
  • In the second Sakura Wars OAV, Kohran is mistaken by a group of kids for Shounen Red, a character she plays on a radio drama — and then attacked by the baddies-of-the-episode. The rest of the team has to come up with a way to rescue her without breaking the illusion and "shattering the children's dreams."

    Comic Books 
  • American Flagg!: Subverted when Reuben Flagg, famous for playing a Plexus Ranger on TV, actually becomes a real one (though not by choice).
  • Astro City: One story featured Mitch Goodman, an actor who plays a superhero on television. By chance, one night he happened to stop a convenience store robbery while in his costume. This inspired a number of villains to come after him in order to make sure he doesn't decide to become a superhero for real.
  • Batman: In issue #465, a fan of the fictional soap opera Calistoga shoots at one of the actors because she believes that his character was "cheating" on her.
    Actor: L-lady, you're making a mistake! I'm Bob Dane—Duval Pesney is just a role I play on Calistoga!
    Ginny Gray: DON'T PATRONIZE ME!
  • Lucky Luke: This leads to trouble in one album which involves a troupe of actors. Lucky is accused of a crime, and when the actor of a Dastardly Whiplash-like villain defends Luke, the settlers only get angrier.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: The Powerpuff Girls go into squee mode when they hear their favorite TV heroine Tess Turbine will be appearing at Townsville Mall ("To Be Or Not TV," DC issue #38). When a monster invades and takes this Tess captive, the girls are devastated when she turns out to be an actress playing Tess for this live appearance and cannot defend herself or fight the monster. When the girls renounce their fandom of Tess, the Professor gives them a little lesson in what really matters.
  • Spider-Man: In The Amazing Spider-Man (1963), Mary Jane met two fans like this on two separate occasions when she was an actress for the soap opera Secret Hospital:
    • The first was an old woman in The Amazing Spider-Man #331, who, confusing her for her vixen character on the show, slapped her and called her a tramp. While the old woman was no threat to Mary Jane, the fan was, minutes later, run down and killed by a hit-and-run driver, later revealed to be a Yandere pursuing MJ and trying to "protect" her.
    • The second time was more dangerous. This time a mentally unbalanced woman who mistook her for her character (and who was apparently in love with "Troy" the male character who had been jilted by MJ's character) actually tried to shoot MJ. She missed and was subdued by a police officer, but MJ was frightened for a while, wondering if this was what Peter had to go through every day.
  • Wanted: The supervillains of the world basically rewrote history, not by killing off the superheroes but by turning them into Muggles via brainwashing. Two Batman and Robin analogues were killed by their nemesis by being lowered into an acid vat, still screaming that it was only a role they had played on TV.

    Films — Animated 
  • The movie Bolt is about a canine television star who mistakes himself for the superhero he plays on TV. Not that he was ever given reason to believe otherwise. Rhino the Hamster suffers from the same confusion.
  • The first Toy Story sees Woody's exasperation with Buzz Lightyear who fails to realize he is, in fact, a toy, and not a Space Ranger. In the sequel, Buzz gets to convince another Buzz Lightyear figure of the same thing.
  • A Bug's Life: The circus troupe's acting is mistaken for real heroics.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: Every video game character seems to consider himself and his fellows to be Animated Actors who are off the clock once the lights go out. Except the villains, who are actors like them but are still treated as though they weren't. Seeing a "Bad Guy" is enough to send small-fry scurrying, and things are so bad that the villains have a support group. This is actually justified in that many video game baddies have the potential to kill other characters simply by touching them. And if you die outside your game, you die for real.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Galaxy Quest, the washed-up actors from a knockoff Star Trek are believed to be real spacefaring heroes by a race of cable-stealing aliens whose culture has no concept of any kind of untruth, including fiction. Of course, they eventually rise to the challenge.
    • And it isn't just the fans from outer space who conflate the two; their die-hard human fans on Earth sometimes have the same problem:
      Brandon: But I want you to know that I'm not a complete brain case, okay? I understand completely that it's just a TV show. I know there's no beryllium sphere, no digital conveyor, no ship...
      Nesmith: It's all real.
      Brandon: Oh my God, I knew it. I knew it! I KNEW IT!
  • The basis of the plot of ¡Three Amigos! when some poor and desperate Mexican villagers mistake three (down on their luck) movie stars for the heroes they play on-screen and hire them to protect their town from real bandits. For their part, the actors are also quite desperate and reverse the trope, mistaking the real bandits for actors.
  • My Name is Bruce mirrors the Three Amigos with a young man who thinks that Bruce Campbell really is as heroic and awesome as the characters he plays. Except he's a drunken lech, about to get evicted from his trailer home and not at all prepared to deal with the real murderous ghost that is plaguing the town.
  • After seeing him cheated out of winning a fixed match in Ready to Rumble, two unbelievably stupid wrestling fans track down (fictional) WCW wrestler "Jimmy King" and are shocked to find that he's a pathetic drunk and not a hero. Fortunately, over the course of the movie they manage to turn him into a hero.
  • Played with in Airplane! with co-pilot Roger Murdock. A kid insists he's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar over his denials - until the kid tells how his dad thinks Kareem isn't trying on the court, then it gets personal.
  • Idiocracy features a TV show called Ow! My Balls! with a character constantly getting situations where he gets hit in the balls by something. When Joe meets the show's actor later, he finds that people commonly run up to the actor and kick him in the balls because they saw it on TV.
  • Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles: Mikey's stories about his father being a famous Australian bushman cause his schoolteacher to assume this trope is in play; she explains that it's common for the children of Hollywood actors to confuse their parents' roles with reality. The title character clarifies that he's not an actor.
    • Assuming the trailers are accurate, this trope is out in full force for The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee.
  • JCVD runs on this trope. The bank robbers are convinced that they have taken "The Muscles from Brussels" hostage. Meanwhile, Jean-Claude knows very well that he isn't the action movie character they expect, just a washed-up, middle-aged B-movie actor who is very passionate about not being shot.
  • In The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, Mantis and Drax are under the impression that Kevin Bacon is an actual legendary Earth hero who has gone on many adventures and saved a small town by dancing. They're absolutely disgusted to learn that Kevin is actually just an actor, because they hate actors. Hilariously, they assume that Peter's long time away from Earth spoiled his memory, and Mantis uses her powers to compel Kevin Bacon into acting like a more heroic version of himself; something which Peter, who is perfectly aware that Bacon is just an actor, makes her undo as soon as they present Bacon to him.
  • Played for Drama in Nope. A chimpanzee that played the titular character in Gordy's Home is commonly called "Gordy" on and off-camera, even though Jupe explains that he's actually just one of the chimps who played Gordy. But from then on, Jupe describes him solely through the lens of the SNL sketch, which also called him "Gordy", and the audience never learns the chimp's real name; even the credits list Terry Notary as such. As he's trying to stare the chimp down, Tom Bogan yells, "N-n-no, Gordy, no, STOP!" seconds before the chimp beats him to death. All of this perfectly illustrates how the sitcom treated the chimpanzee: as an unpaid actor or a Living Prop they could use as they saw fit, rather than a dangerous wild animal that posed a threat to other people's safety if placed in that setting.

  • Adrian Mole: In The Wilderness Years, Adrian writes that he bumps into Victor Meldrew, who plays the grumpy bloke in One Foot in the Grave. The grumpy bloke in question is Victor Meldrew, played by Richard Wilson.
  • In Philip Roth's novel Zuckerman Unbound, writer Nathan Zuckerman encounters fans who call him "Carnovsky," mistaking him for the title character of his book.
  • In Moving Pictures, when the Holy Wood monsters start manifesting in the real world, everyone expects clicks star Victor Maraschino to do something about it. He protests that he's never actually done any heroing, but nobody listens; they've all seen him.
  • In One Hundred Years of Solitude, the opening of Macondo's first cinema causes a few problems because of this: when the actor that played a dying character in one movie appears as an Arab in the next one, the locals riot.
  • In Robert McCloskey's Homer Price the actor who plays the "Super-Duper" in movie serials makes an appearance at the Centerburg theater and Freddy asks if he could do some horseshoe bending or flying for them. Disillusionment sets in later when the actor's car ends up in a ditch and needs to be towed to Homer's father's filling station.
  • In Sorcerer Conjurer Wizard Witch, a celebrity party is invaded by Murderous Mannequins in the forms of famous serial killers. In the ensuing efforts to locate and dismantle them all, the actor Ivor Novello is attacked by one of the other guests who's mistaken him for his character in the serial killer film The Lodger. Novello angrily points out that not only was it only a film, his character turned out in the end to be an innocent who was falsely accused.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blackadder: In "Sense and Senility" from the third series, Prince George believes that what he sees in the theatre is real.
    Prince George: Are you sure we can trust these acting fellows? Last time we went to the theatre, three of them murdered Julius Caesar, and one of them was his best friend, Brutus.
    Blackadder: (Wearily) As I have told you about eight times, the man playing Caesar was an actor, called Kemp.
    Prince George: Really?!
    Blackadder: Yes.
    Prince George: Well, Brutus must have been pretty miffed when he found out.
    Blackadder: What?
    Prince George: That he hadn't killed Caesar after all, just some poxy actor called Kemp. What do you suppose he did, go round to Caesar's place after the play and kill him then?
    Blackadder: (To himself) Oh God, it's pathetic.
  • Friends:
    • In "The One Where Underdog Runs Away", Joey does a print PSA for STD awareness, and then has trouble getting dates afterwards, while his own family bans him from coming home for Thanksgiving dinner for fear of getting sick.
    • In "The One After The Super Bowl", Brooke Shields portrayed a Loony Fan stalking Joey, convinced that he really was Dr. Drake Ramoray, the character he plays on Days of Our Lives. After failing to explain the difference between the show and reality to her, the friends got rid of her by convincing her that Joey was really Drake Ramoray's Evil Twin, Hans Ramoray, instead.
  • In the pilot of The Beverly Hillbillies, Jed asks if Tom Mix is in Beverly Hills, only to be told that Mix is dead (the actor died in 1940). Jed then says "Oh, yeah! What's the matter with me? Remember Peril? He got shot at the end of that picture."
  • In Drake & Josh, Josh was hired to play a criminal as part of a Crime Reconstruction. He was thereafter arrested several times by people confusing him for the actual criminal.
  • In a 30 Rock episode, the mother of Jack's Puerto Rican girlfriend hates him because he looks exactly like the villain of a Mexican telenovela she watches. (Both are played by Alec Baldwin, of course.)
  • Extras plays with this, in that an Adam Westing Shaun Williamson is so typecast as Barry (a character he played for ten years on British soap Eastenders) that even the credits identify him as "Barry".
  • In the 1970s sitcom Alice, when George Burns happens to drop by the diner, ditzy waitress Vera thinks he's God (from his film Oh, God!) paying a visit. She identifies him as George Burns at the end of the show; when asked why, she replies God would never flirt with Flo.
  • In the Psych episode "Lights! Camera! Homicidio!", the killer was a rabid telenovela fan who had confused the show with real life. She was killing actors whose characters had been cruel to the lead actress' character.
    • That might be an homage to an episode of Hawaii Five-O where a mentally ill boy kills men who resemble characters menacing the female protagonist of his favorite comic strip.
  • In the NCIS episode "Cover Story", a Loony Fan of McGee's books thinks that they're true stories, and goes on a rampage killing the people that McGee based his villains on. He eventually tries to kill Abby because "Amy" broke up with "McGregor," but is stopped (and then arrested) when McGee tells him that "Amy" and "McGregor" are getting married.
  • Parodied by The Chaser's War On Everything: Appearing in Government Ads, Australia says no.
  • In an episode of The Famous Jett Jackson, Jett meets a kid who thinks he really is Silverstone, the cool spy he plays on TV.
    • Of course, the wrap-up movie reveals that Silverstone is real in a parallel universe, when Jett and Silverstone accidentally swap places.
  • In the Quantum Leap episode "Moments to Live," Sam leaps into the star of a medical soap opera, and is kidnapped by a fan who wants the fictional doctor to be the father of her child.
  • In one episode of The Brady Bunch, Peter tries out for the school play and gets the role of Benedict Arnold. Whenever he tells anyone whom he's playing, they inevitably respond with, "Traitor!"
  • This is the set-up for Legend. Ernest Pratt, a dime-store novelist in the old west, lives with his scientist friend Professor Janos Bartok in the small town of Sheridan, Colorado. The people of Sheridan mistakenly believe that Pratt—a drinker, gambler, and womanizer—is the audacious and pure hero of his novels, Nicodemus Legend. Bartok and his associate, Ramos, convince Pratt to assume the Legend persona while supplying him with Legend-like futuristic gadgets that they invent.
  • In an episode of Forever Knight, the only witness to a murder is a person who saw a masked wrestler do the deed. But all other evidence suggests that the man who plays the masked wrestler was innocent. Eventually the detectives realize that the witness considered anyone wearing the mask to be the wrestler in question, and thus didn't realize that someone else was wearing the costume.
  • The Sopranos: Tony Soprano idolizes Gary Cooper, who in his mind epitomizes "the strong silent type", the ideal kind of American from a long-gone era. He's called on this by his number two, who points out he's mixing the real life person with the characters that he played. Tony still argues that the icon is what matters.
  • In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Actor", Adrian Monk gets shadowed by stage actor David Ruskin (played by Stanley Tucci). Ruskin immerses himself so much in the role that he has a nervous breakdown after he takes a car dealership owner hostage, thinking the guy is Trudy's killer.
  • Inverted in "Supernatural" episode The French Mistake where Sam and Dean are thrown into an alternate reality where their life is a tv show. People treat Sam and Dean like their alternate reality actors, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, and are confused when they insist they really are the fictional characters, Sam and Dean.
  • How I Met Your Mother has William Zabka Adam Westing himself in a recurring role, as all the jerk and villain roles he's played (primarily the main bully in The Karate Kid) has resulted in every single person he's met confusing him for his roles and will automatically boo him on sight, even his own mother. He's touched that Barney sees him as a hero, though admittedly that's because Barney has a case of Rooting for the Empire and always feels the villain roles were the real protagonists and the heroes are actually villains.
  • Adam West himself handwaved this on The Big Bang Theory when his status as the best Batman over Val Kilmer (who apparently made saying "I'm Batman" into an art form) is questioned.
    Adam West: I don't have to say "I'm Batman." I just walk into a room and everyone already knows I'm Batman.
  • Parodied in an episode of Stargate SG-1. A nervous villager points out that Teal'c is a Jaffa. O'Neill then replies in his typical fashion that...
    O'Neill: No. But he plays one on TV.
  • On the Season One finale of Party Down, Roman harasses George Takei concerning his take on the Vulcan Mind-Meld - which, of course, was not Sulu's area of expertise.
  • Seinfeld has an inverted example when Jerry and George go see Kramer's holistic healer buddy Tor Eckman.
    Tor: It's in the best interest of the medical profession that you remain sick. You see, that insures good business. You're not a patient. You're a customer.
    Jerry: (thinking) And you're not a doctor, but you play one in real life.
  • Parodied on the Vaccine episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
    John: Let's not sully the good name of Deuce Bigalow just because of something his portrayer Rob Schneider said. That's like implying William Wallace doesn't trust Jews, or Officer Nordberg is a murderer. So, no, try and separate the two.
  • Los Espookys: Tico gets his niece an autographed poster for the movie Coraline, but he had it signed twice because the first time he thought Dakota Fanning made a mistake when she signed her own name instead of "Coraline".
  • A variation in Jason King: Jason is frequently mistaken for Mark Caine, the hero of his adventure novels. It doesn't help that Jason is pictured on the covers.

  • William Shatner's spoken-word song "Real" address this:
    I have saved the world in the movies/So naturally there's folks who think I must know what to do
  • Eminem:
    If it's all political
    and my music is literal
    and I'm a criminal
    How the FUCK can I raise a little girl?
    • "Stan" is about a fan who writes fanmail to the violent, misogynistic rapper Slim Shady, whose music is the only place he sees someone validating his own violent, misogynistic life - "all the shit you say is real and I respect you 'cause you tell it". Unfortunately, Slim is an alter ego - though Stan commits murder-suicide before he gets to read it, we get to hear the reply from Marshall Mathers, the young rapper who plays a violent, misogynistic character on stage and suggests Stan should get some therapy.
  • Invoked by Warren Zevon in his song "My Ride's Here:"
    I was staying at the Westin;
    I was playing to a draw.
    In walked Charlton Heston
    With the Tablets of the Law.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In 2015, Stardust started mocking and harassing Stephen Amell, the star of Arrow, convinced he really is his character, and insisting on addressing him as "Oliver Queen" or "Green Arrow". Stardust then started styling himself as a supervillain who would destroy Green Arrow. This led to a tag team match of Stardust and Wade Barrett vs Amell and Adrian Neville, which Amell's team won.


    Video Games 
  • In Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, both the President Of The Galaxy and Big Bad Dr. Nefarious apparently believe Clank's Secret Agent Clank holovid role to be real and that Ratchet is merely his valet.
  • Zork: Grand Inquisitor with the actor Antharia Jack, who plays an adventurer on TV and plays a lot of adventure computer games. He does manage to act a bit like an adventurer during the rescue scene in the Grand Inquisitor's prison complex.
  • Early in Mortal Kombat 9's story mode, this is Johnny Cage's reaction when Liu Kang and Raiden try to recruit him for the fight against Shao Kahn. While Johnny does have actual superpowers, he thinks Liu and Raiden are just roleplayers who are too in-character and that the tournament is just that, a tournament. He tells them, "I'm an ACTOR. I save people in the movies. If this 'Shao Kahn' is such a threat, get the military."
    • This appears as far back as the first game; Johnny's motivation for fighting in Mortal Kombat was to dispel the belief that he was just a pretty face backed by Hollywood magic, and that he had actual martial arts skills.


    Web Original 
  • Parodied in the Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series'' video "Marik's Evil Council 3"
    Marik: Also joining us is celebrity voice actor Dan Green!
    Dan Green: Hi. I'm Dan Green.
    Bakura: What the bloody hell is he doing here? He's not a villain!
    Dan Green: No, but I played a villain in one of the Pokémon movies.

    Western Animation 
  • Darkwing Duck: A variation occurs in the episode "In Like Blunt". A variation; despite J. Gander's warnings that the real Derek Blunt isn't quite like the character from the movies, Darkwing keeps expecting him to be and mentioning things from the films. This makes sure he and Blunt stay on the wrong foot for some time, because Blunt hates the films.
  • In the DuckTales (1987) episode "Where No Duck has Gone Before", the boys don't seem to recognize that Courage of the Cosmos is a TV character and the actor's stunts on the show are no less fake than the scenery. They get a hard lesson on this when they see "Major Courage" in actual action, and he's NOTHING like the heroic character he portrays.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Inverted in "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bangalore", when Patty and Selma kidnap Richard Dean Anderson due to their obsession with MacGyver. After he macgyvers an escape from the room they've locked him in, he gets such a kick that he stays with them in spite of the kidnapping]], eventually calling himself MacGyver and trying to imitate his fictional persona. He ends up becoming so annoying that they drive him off with boring vacation slides.
    • In "Homer to the Max", a new police drama airs, starring a maverick cop named Homer Simpson.
      Homer: Wow. They captured my personality perfectly! Did you see the way Daddy caught that bullet?
      Lisa: That's not really you, Dad, he's just a fictional character who happens to have the same name.
      Homer: Don't confuse Daddy, Lisa.
      • When the character is later retooled as a bumbling, moronic Plucky Comic Relief, the guys at Moe's torment the "real" Homer by demanding he do something stupid like his namesake character.
    • In the "Treehouse Of Horror X" story "Desperately Xeeking Xena", Lucy Lawless is constantly being referred to as Xena, leaving her to exclaim more exhortedly each time "I'm not Xena, I'm Lucy Lawless". Eventually she is captured by Comic Book Guy as part of a collection of live action actors frozen in carbonite plastic. Bart and Lisa try to save her but fail and she has to fight him off with She-Fu moves, high kicks, back flips and ululating. She then grabs the children and flies off with them.
      Lisa: "Wait, Xena can't fly."
      Lucy: "I told you I'm not Xena, I'm Lucy Lawless."
      • Throughout the story, Lawless speaks in the Fake American accent she used for Xena rather than her native New Zealand accent.
      • Something similar happened when she made a guest appearance on another show: the episode starts with one of the male leads thinking Xena was going to kill him.
    • Homer himself is a particularly extreme example from "My Mother, The Carjacker":
      FBI Agent: Most people write letters to movie stars. This Simpson guy writes to movies. "Dear Die Hard. You rock. Especially when that guy was on the roof. P.S: Do you know Mad Max?"
    • In "Mr. Plow", Barney goes one step further and confuses the actor with the wrong role as he bids a cheerful farewell to "Superman" and promises to protect his secret an Adam Westing Adam West. Actually, that's why the trope once was named Your Secret's Safe With Me, Superman.
  • In an episode of Family Guy, Peter writes to Richard Dean Anderson, thinking he is MacGyver, asking him to save his dog from the pound with a rubber band, paper clip, and straw. He puts his eye out.
  • Fanboy on Freakazoid!. The minute he sees Mark Hamill, his delusion that he's Luke Skywalker gets turned up to 11.
  • The Looney Tunes Show: In "Off Duty Cop", Daffy is unable to understand that his favourite character Steve St. James is actually an actor named Leslie Hunt, so he decides to become Steve St. James himself.
  • Robot Chicken:
    Harrison Ford: Listen. I'm 62 years old, and I'm just an actor. You people are all insane.
    Star Wars fan: Go get'em, Han Solo!
    • Of course when Mark Hamill reminds everyone that he blew up the Death Star with his eyes closed, he's told "That was just a movie, dude", by the exact same Star Wars fanboy.
    • A similar Star Wars example in a different episode has Billy Dee Williams (similar to the Real Life example below) explaining Lando's actions at a grocery store.
    • The season 4 premiere opened with a sketch wherein Seth Green and Matt Senreich try to get jobs in Hollywood after the "cancellation" of Robot Chicken, first meeting up with Joss Whedon. That meeting very quickly devolves into an attempt on the duo's life because Whedon starts believing that Seth is a werewolf, just like his character in one of Whedon's shows was.
  • Invoked in Celebrity Deathmatch; During the fight between the cast of Sex and the City, Johnny Gomez tells Nick Diamond that it's highly unprofessional to confuse an actor with the character they play.
  • In the Imaginationland trilogy of South Park, Kurt Russell is chosen to lead the military invasion of Imaginationland because "he was in the movie that was sort of like this".
  • One Totally Spies! villain was a crazed fan of a soap opera who kidnapped one of the actors, thinking he was his character, and tried to make him her boyfriend.
  • In the Bob's Burgers episode "The Hormone-iums" after Tina gets the lead role in a hyperbolic school play about the dangers of mono, all the students start treating her as if she has mono like her character.
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, a certain Simon Trent played a Batman-like superhero named Gray Ghost in an immensely popular TV show which little Bruce was a big fan of. In the episode "Beware of the Gray Ghost", set decades later, Trent is facing poverty partly because he cannot get any roles because everyone still thinks of him as the Gray Ghost. Then Batman comes along on a case and ropes him in to assist him. Much to his own surprise, Trent make a passable superhero (and more importantly, learns that the Big Badass Batman is primarily inspired by his portrayal of one).
    • A fairly meta example, when you consider the actor voicing Trent is none other than Adam West. According to the DVD Commentary, if they hadn't gotten West to voice the character, they'd have scrapped the episode.
  • Series one of Monkey Dust had a sketch where the comedian David Baddiel would frequently be called on to perform difficult specialist tasks (such as brain surgery or piloting a space shuttle) because as a famous comedian he should be able to adapt to any role, even off-stage.
  • In the BoJack Horseman Christmas Special, BoJack has to explain to Todd that Goober didn't assault those Laker Girls, the actor playing Goober did.
  • An episode of Hey Arnold! had Eugene believe that his favorite tv superhero, The Abdicator was real and that he really does do all the things in his TV show. He finds that his actor Maurice (voiced by Maurice Lamarche) not only does not do his own stunts, he acts like a whiny spoiled child off-camera. Eugene calls him out to his face on the set, which actually does get to him. Realizing his hero isn’t real Eugene decides there's no reason to be good and attempts (keyword being: ATTEMPTS) to be a bad kid which inspires another younger kid to follow his example. Maurice ends up saving the two boys after they get caught in an accident and almost get hurt.

    Real Life 
  • People often forget that Marilyn Monroe was an actress playing a Dumb Blonde and not one in real life. She was much smarter than she was given credit for, was a history buff and made sure she studied drama. She married playwright Arthur Miller in an attempt at being taken seriously.
  • Louis de Funès and Claude Gensac were paired in several films as husband and wife. Many French people thought or (still think) they were married in real life, but this wasn't the case.
  • Tom Felton used to be mistaken for his character Draco Malfoy by little kids. Not surprising, considering their age.
    • J. K. Rowling has stated that she believes this is the source of the Draco in Leather Pants trope.
      " People have been waxing lyrical [in letters] about Draco Malfoy, and I think that's the only time when it stopped amusing me and started almost worrying me. I'm trying to clearly distinguish between Tom Felton, who is a good-looking young boy, and Draco, who, whatever he looks like, is not a nice man."
  • Every actor will at one point encounter fans who don't seem to understand the difference between the role they play and who they really are. Some common examples:
    • If an actor is seen with his real life partner instead of the actress who plays his wife in a TV series some people will think he's committing adultery.
    • …But I Play One on TV: An actor who performs a certain profession will be thought to be an expert in the matter himself.
    • Actors who have accidents, divorces or other kinds of tragic occurrences in films and TV series will sometimes be addressed by complete strangers in the street who want to give them advice or help them out. A similar confusion appears when said actor plays a pitiful character.
    • One of the most common examples of this trope occurs with actors who play villains or antagonists. Some people refuse to have anything to do with them or will even criticize them, insult them or get violent when they meet them in the street. Especially if their character is an exception to Evil is Cool; a person playing a brilliant villain or even a horror icon won't get this as badly as a Smug Snake or Hate Sink does.
    • The phenomenon can even be witnessed in politics. Many actors have been elected to official governmental posts because voters liked them for the heroic roles they usually perform on screen: Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood,... Despite the fact that following a film script is a lot easier than handling Real Life situations.
      • Reagan is a particularly interesting example, because his detractors often claimed that his mental state led him to think that he was a Hollywood hero fighting against the "Evil Empire" in the Soviet Union. His entire "Star Wars" defense system was inspired by the eponymous film, despite not being a very realistic depiction of space in the first place. Other people have claimed that Reagan's supposed "charming confused grandpa" image was an act in itself that fooled both his supporters and critics into thinking that he was a mere puppet in the hands of his own government. (This became Harsher in Hindsight after President Reagan left office, when it was finally revealed that long-standing allegations, dating back to his Presidential campaign in 1984, that he suffered from Alzheimer's Disease were in fact true.)
    • It extends to those who became internet memes. Blake Boston, better known as "Scumbag Steve," discovered his memedom and openly embraced it, even reaching out to the girl behind "Annoying Facebook Girl" when she discovered she was also a meme, and gave her the following advice.
    "But here’s what I need you to know. When you go off to college, and you’re walking down the hall and a group of kids see you and scream, “Oh my god it’s Annoying Facebook Girl,” don’t cry. You see. Some people can’t distinguish the internet from real life. There are people who refuse to believe my name isn’t Steve and that I am not really the scumbag (well not all the time, that is). Just remember who you are. And that you know you’re a decent kid."
  • Rudolph Valentino was a 1920s Hollywood actor famous for playing a handsome sheik who abducted women to his tent. When Valentino unexpectedly died at the height of his fame, mass hysteria broke out under his fans. Some women even committed suicide, seemingly not understanding that Valentino was an actor, not a real life amourous sheik.
  • Rita Hayworth, famous for playing the femme fatale in Gilda, once said: "Everyone wants to go to bed with Gilda. Then they wake up with me."
  • The Academy of Motion Pictures & Sciences also seems to suffer from this problem. Many actors have received Oscars over the years because they played a pitiful person who suffers from some kind of disease, handicap or problem in a high profile movie released that same year. Or because they played an admirable humanitarian activist or historical character. The award in those cases seems to be more a reward for the hardships or good deeds the character underwent or did in the movie than the performance itself.
  • The Nostalgia Chick often acted as if her character was mean to her best friend Nella. Quite some viewers of her web video series took this abuse seriously and criticized Lindsay for not treating Nella better. It got to the point that Nella herself had to type a statement that they are just performing an act.
  • An early Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers episode ran an "And Knowing Is Half the Battle" segment in which the actors who played the bullies Bulk and Skull explained that they were just actors and didn't actually bully or hit other people in real life.
  • In 2006, when Michael Richards got in trouble for a racist tirade towards some black hecklers, many news outlets referred to Richards as Kramer from Seinfeld, with some headlines like "KKKramer". It reached the point that the Kramer character's namesake, Kenny Kramer, had to issue a public statement saying he himself wasn't racist.
  • Michael J. Fox did this to himself during the making of The Frighteners. According to director Peter Jackson, whenever Michael tried to shout "Judge!", he'd shout "Doc!" like he was Marty McFly from Back to the Future instead. Some instances were shown in its Hilarious Outtakes.
  • Louise Marwood, who plays Chrissy on Emmerdale, gets mistaken for her character.
  • Anna Gunn, who plays Skyler White on Breaking Bad, got this in spades. The intense hatred for Skyler ended up spreading to Gunn, with many people (particularly on Twitter) openly stating they would attack Gunn if they met her in real life. Gunn wrote in a New York Times opinion piece that she even received death threats from idiotic fans who couldn't separate her from her character.
  • Billy Dee Williams who played Lando Calrissian in Star Wars, recounted how after The Empire Strikes Back was released, whenever he'd drive his daughter to school, her schoolmates would go up to him saying "You betrayed Han Solo!", and he'd explain that Lando didn't have a choice.
  • Masi Oka seems to deliberately encourage this. In interviews, he's explicitly compared himself to both Hiro and Max, saying there's a lot of himself in each of them. There have also been plenty of jokes about whether or not he's actually got time-bending powers himself or just a very intimate knowledge of space-time in a promotional video for Mobius Digital's Outer Wilds.
  • This has become a particular problem in the Arrowverse, especially with Arrow where Ship-to-Ship Combat has escalated to harassing actors/actresses (and their significant others) for "ruining" their ships. In one worrying case, however, Stephen Amell was headbutted while out with his family by a crazy fan who wanted to fight the Green Arrow.
  • Members of the Yogscast are frequently confused for the 'persona' that they put on when making videos, especially in their Minecraft series, where Rythian, Duncan Jones and Sjin were all mistakenly viewed as hating one another despite being friends in real life. This can partly be put down to the blurring of the line between 'character' and 'actor' in Let's Plays.
  • Amy Adams jokes that she gets this from young Enchanted fans. As she's not wearing the Pimped-Out Dress, they're rather put-out, and she often puts on Giselle's voice to say "I'm in disguise."
    "It's better than me getting down and going 'it's not real, honey'."
  • Helen Mirren also jokes about this. Since playing Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen she's often treated as if she is the queen, and is treated as the Poor Man's Substitute if she's not around.
  • Margaret Hamilton was a beloved kindergarten teacher before her iconic role as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz - and for years she had children coming up to her asking why she was so mean to Dorothy. She even had to guest star on an episode of Mr Rogers Neighborhood to explain that the witch was just a character she played.
  • The late James Michael Tyler used to claim that after the airing of episode of Friends where Ross and Rachel break up, an angry woman came up to him to yell at him for telling Rachel that Ross cheated.
  • In 1980 when the movie Fame came out and sprinkled its stardust in the eyes of young wannabes, parents would enroll their kids at the New York School for the Performing Arts and ask "Is this the school Coco (a fictional character in the film) attends?"
  • There's an urban legend that Christopher Reeve or George Reeves was once threatened by a child with a gun, who wanted to test "Superman's" invulnerability. Reeve/Reeves supposedly talked the child out of it by claiming the bullet would ricochet off him and could hurt the child or other bystanders.
  • Sylvester Stallone canceled a publicity tour for Rambo III in Europe out of fear of terrorism. When this was met with jeers about "big, tough" Rambo being afraid, he pointed out his critics were doing exactly what he thought the terrorists might do: confusing the role "Rambo" with the real-life actor Stallone.
  • At the time of the Jack the Ripper murders in Whitechapel, famous actor Richard Mansfield was starring in a theatrical adaptation of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. According to Wikipedia, "One frightened theatre-goer wrote to the police accusing Mansfield of the murders because he could not believe that any actor could make so convincing a stage transformation from a gentleman into a mad killer without being homicidal."
  • Sesame Street
    • According to one book about the making of the show, an adult woman once stopped Sonia Manzano (Maria) and Emilio Delgado (Luis) in the street, and it became clear she thought they were really married. When they explained they weren't, she looked surprised, then said "Well, as long as you're happy."
    • A 2015 article on "Tough Pigs" written by someone who only realised Sesame Street wasn't mostly real apart from the Muppets when she saw a copy of Roscoe Orman's autobiography. She points out a lot of it was real. The documentary clips about how things are made were real. The quasi-improv scenes of Muppets interacting with kids were real. Why not the street scenes?
  • Fans of Mel Gibson have often assumed that in real life, he is just like the tough, fearless action heroes he has played in films like Mad Max and Lethal Weapon. Gibson has openly admitted that, while he'd like to be, he isn't. In an interview, he described receiving letters from people saying they'd like to be more like him. Gibson said, "I can understand that. I'd like to be more like me, too. I wish I was more me than I am."
  • This is why Peter Cushing took the part of Dr. Who in Dr. Who and the Daleks—he was tired of children being afraid of him.
  • One time, the actress Collin Wilcox, who played Mayella Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird, attended an NAACP conference. She received "unfriendly looks" because of her character falsely accusing Tom Robinson, a black man, of raping her. An official had to remind the participants, "Collin is here at this conference because she believes in the cause. She is not the character in the film."
  • Fredi Washington starred in Imitation of Life (1934) as a light skinned black girl who tries to pass for white. For decades, she had to fight off accusations that she had tried to pass as well (she in fact turned down studios' attempts to promote her as a white movie star). She was an avid Civil Rights activist after retiring from Hollywood.
  • Molly Holly in her 2002-2005 heel persona played a self-righteous prude who hated other Divas that flaunted their sexuality. When the Diva Search happened, she said many fans would up to her denouncing the "bimbos" in the contest, assuming she felt the same way. When she left WWE, a story went around that she was uncomfortable with the Diva Searches and the company didn't think she could play an effective babyface without being a Ms. Fanservice herself. She opened her shoot interview by lighting that story on fire and debunking it - later stating she had no problem with the Diva Search (even mentioning that she liked some of the women in the contest and hoped she could work with them). While she preferred not playing a sexual character, she had no problem with others playing such characters, seeing it as a part of show business.
  • Marcia Mae Jones, the child actress who played Alpha Bitch Lavinia in The Little Princess (1939), got lots of angry letters from people criticising how mean she was to Shirley Temple.
  • In one Q&A at a convention Rebecca Mader - who played a Wicked Witch on Once Upon a Time - was asked by a fan what it was like to have superpowers and how she got them. To her credit, she played along and avoided things getting awkward.
  • When Lori Loughlin was indicted in the 2019 college admissions scandal, many news outlets referred to her as "Aunt Becky".
  • After the The Brady Bunch episode "The Tattletale" aired, Susan Olsen became dismayed when her friends at school began to shun her because they believed that she was as much of a tattletale as her character, Cindy, even after Susan insisted that she was no fink and was good at keeping secrets.
  • Laura Bailey reportedly received death threats after voicing the extremely controversial character of Abby in The Last of Us Part II when Abby haters began directing their misgivings about the fictional character at the closest real-world equivalent they could find. Abby's writer(s) also caught a lot of flak, but some of the worst abuse was directed at Bailey, whose exceptional voicework had absolutely nothing to do with what made Abby such a Base-Breaking Character.
  • Emerald Fennell's own mother reportedly had the confused notion that Emerald, who played Nurse Patsy Mount on Call the Midwife, would be delivering actual babies on set.
  • While preparing for Band of Brothers, the actors had to do a two week bootcamp to live like 1940s soldiers - and be expected to stay in character (and for the Brits, not break their Fake American accents), not address each other by their real names, and act like their respective positions in the military. Neal McDonough took this extremely far when he got a mouth injury and tried to make Shane Taylor stitch it up–since he was playing The Medic.
  • After Game of Thrones featured a wedding between the adult Margaery Tyrell and the preteen Tommen Baratheon, complete with aftermath of their wedding night. The former's actress Natalie Dormer had to fight off rumors that she condoned sex with minors, reminding everyone that she was just playing a character.
  • After starring in Bend It Like Beckham, Parminder Nagra won FIFA's International Football Personality of the Year Presidential Award. She beat out established football players like Luis Figo and Ronaldo, even though she only played a character who becomes a star player. She was even the first woman to receive the award!
  • Similarly, when Sylvester Stallone was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame, there was an outcry at inducting someone who only played a boxer that inspired the creation of the Ficticious Athlete Hall of Fame, with Rocky Balboa a charter member.
  • William Atherton was challenged to fist fights in bars and harassed on the street because of his portrayal of Walter Peck in Ghostbusters (1984).
  • In Yellow Submarine, Old Fred warns Ringo to not press a specific button. Ringo accidentally presses it anyway and gets ejected out of the sub and into the middle of the Sea of Monsters. Children would later approach Ringo himself and ask "Why did you press the button?"
    • And he didn't even play that character!
  • Kathy Chow played a villain in Ashes of Love and was promptly subjected to extreme hatred and cyberbullying from fans. It got so bad she decided to quit Weibo.
  • Tim Allen found himself in a bind when his youngest daughter was introduced to The Santa Clause and began to think he was Santa Claus. He managed to set her straight by explaining to her that it was just a role he played, but that the film was shot at the real North Pole and he consulted the real Santa on the part to ensure he played him accurately.
  • George Carlin was famous for his... less-than-family-friendly style of standup comedy, but younger audiences were introduced to him as Mister Conductor on Shining Time Station. In his autobiography, he recounted when he was at the airport and a child came over identifying him as Mister Conductor, and he gently told him, in character, that he was going on his own vacation.
  • Octopimp received harassment just because he voiced Eric, the antagonist of Boyfriend Dungeon.
  • Morgan Freeman said that in the press junket for Deep Impact, where he played the U.S. President, just about every reporter called him "Mr. President".
  • Genshin Impact:
    • Gui Niang, the Chinese voice of Kokomi, was bullied by fans because of the character's unpopularity, and eventually had to restrict livestreams.
    • Anjali Kunapaneni, the English voice of Dori, got harassed over perceived racism surrounding the character's light skintone. The same thing happened to Kimberley Anne Campbell, the English voice of Nahida, for the same reason. Both actors are people of color.

Alternative Title(s): Your Secrets Safe With Me Superman