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…But I Play One on TV

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"The line between fantasy and reality has been put in a wrist lock and ripped out of its socket. There is now a reality show about Steven Seagal being an actual policeman. Without a doubt, this idea is as incredible as it is insane. All that time we watched him play a cop, he was training to be a real cop. I can only hope all that time I spent watching Wonder Woman was training Lynda Carter to give me handjobs."

Sometimes, an actor will get cast in one type of part so often that, eventually, all he ever gets cast as is that same sort of role. In the case of But I Play One On TV, the actor is so identified with the role he plays that, when people see him walking around town, or actually bump into him and manage to talk to him, the fans refer to him by the name of the character he plays. It isn't uncommon, for example, for an actor who plays a doctor to be asked to dispense medical advice by a fan he meets on the street.

This problem is often exacerbated by tabloid news sources, especially gossip magazines and "news programs" that concentrate on celebrity and entertainment, who in their stories are constantly referring to actors by their characters' names rather than the proper name of the actor. This is generally an editorial decision, as it can make it easier for the audience to identify the actors involved, but at the same time contributes to blurring the line between fiction and reality in viewers' minds.

Most Soap Opera actors say that this happens to them so often that they've become used to just going along with it. This trope is the measure Hispanic Soap Opera actors use to know how well they are doing in the role and how well the soap is going.

It gets interesting when the actor is playing As Himself or Adam Westing. In those cases the line between fiction and reality becomes a bit blurry, and people can be forgiven for thinking they're the same in real life as on the screen if it's not specifically stated that they're playing a caricature of themselves.


  • I Am Not Spock, which refers to an actor who's unable to get any part other than the character for which he or she is 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 Sub-Trope of Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality. See Actor/Role Confusion for the In-Universe version.

Not to be confused with I'm Not a Doctor, but I Play One on TV.

Real Life Examples:

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    Advertising roles 
  • In the 1970s, James Garner and Mariette Hartley did a number of commercials for Polaroid cameras. The way they played against each other, one would get the impression they were in fact a domestic couple, though this was never stated in the commercials. Mariette Hartley took to wearing these lettered sweatshirts that read "I am not James Garner's wife". Her baby has a shirt that read "I am not James Garner's child".

    Film roles 
  • A possibly apocryphal anecdote about Christopher Reeve: When the actor (before his accident) confronted someone trying to steal his bicycle, the thief panicked and said, "No, Superman! Don't hit me!"
  • In September 2008, when Michael Douglas spoke at the United Nations about the U.S. financial crisis, a reporter asked him, "Are you saying, Gordon, that greed is not good?" The actor replied, "I'm not saying that. And my name is not Gordon. He's a character I played 20 years ago." It was even worse than that; he was actually there to talk about nuclear proliferation. The reporters derailed it into a discussion of the financial crisis, just because they were talking to the guy who played Gordon Gekko.
  • With the release of the Twilight film adaptation, it seems a number of young fangirls have confused actor Robert Pattinson with his character Edward Cullen. According to the New York Times one girl, seeing him at the Apple store in SoHo, asked him to bite her.
  • Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, reportedly had this happen to him while on a vacation in Mexico. This must have been even more awkward as he's a Catholic himself.
  • Morgan Freeman reported in an interview that in the press conference for Deep Impact (where he plays the President of the US), many reporters called him "Mr. President".
  • Jerome "Curly" Howard was assaulted in public simply because it was so funny when they did it on The Three Stooges.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Fiona Shaw and Richard Griffiths (who played Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, respectively) have noted that small children are sometimes scared when they see them. Shaw mentioned that one little boy was even reduced to tears.
    • Tom Felton (a.k.a. Draco Malfoy) has noted that when younger children meet him, they tend to be afraid: "We get a lot of kids down in the studios all the time and are very excited to meet Daniel, Rupert and Emma, and they get the handshakes and the hugs! I try to be as friendly as I can, but no matter how much I try they seem to hide behind their parents legs or cower behind some object. I don’t get a good rap from the children! I take it as a compliment, if they think I’m evil then I must be doing something right!" However, there was also a bizarre incident with a not-quite-so-young fan. An American man legally changed his name to "Lucius Malfoy" and sent Felton paperwork which would allow him to disown his parents and be adopted by "Lucius", who had additionally named his house "Malfoy Manor".
    • Maggie Smith has apparently frequently explained to young children that she can't really turn into a cat.
    • Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley) "went out with the twins and Rupert, and we went out for a curry and a pint, that was hilarious. There were a load of teenagers with their phones, really polite, going, 'Can we take a picture of you?' to the guys. And one girl turned to me and said, 'And your dad.'"
  • Liv Tyler reports this happening to her after the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. "My husband and I were sleeping, and I woke to the sound of our friend's two little boys going around the bedrooms opening the doors and looking in. When they got to our door, one little boy went to open it and the other said, 'No! Don't open that door. The princess is sleeping in there."
  • According to Jimmy Stewart, people asked if Harvey was around for many years after that movie. He usually said that Harvey was at home with a cold.
  • Tim Curry spent a long time after The Rocky Horror Picture Show trying to distance himself from Dr. Frank-N-Furter. His "more rabid fans" is the reason Tim put on weight, grew a beard and refused to have anything to do with Rocky Horror until recently.
  • Sir Ian McKellen has stated that, outside of his native British Isles, most fans recognize him as characters such as Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings. When he came to New York to lend support post-911, a policeman actually smiled at him and said, "Thanks for helping out, Magneto." Rather than be upset by it, he finds it an honor to be associated with such iconic characters. In fact, apparently when a reporter said "I don't know how to call you, Sir, Sir Ian, Sir McKellen" his reply was "Call me Gandalf." (helps that he discourages being called "Sir Ian").
  • Elliot Page has a strong Hatedom among some people who actually think that he is exactly like his character in Hard Candy in real life. Sadly, these same people haven't seemed watch any of his other movies or seen him in real life.
  • John Hinckley, Jr., Loony Fan and probably the greatest example of a Misaimed Fandom in history, thought assassinating Ronald Reagan would impress 18-year-old Jodie Foster, through some sort of confused combination of the plot elements of Taxi Driver. He didn't just confuse Foster for her character in the film; the attempted assassination of a politician by the main character was also completely unrelated to her character even within the film's story. Mentioning this to Ms. Foster, by the way, is a supremely bad idea.
  • When his daughter was in elementary school, Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissan in Star Wars) would have children run up to him and angrily say "You betrayed Han Solo!", and he'd attempt to explain why Lando did what he did.
  • According to Laurence Fishburne, it took a few years for women to stop giving him the evil eye after playing Ike Turner in What's Love Got to Do with It (1993).
  • Canadian actor Julian Richings starred in the Casper Van Dien sci-fi/action vehicle Thrill Seekers, in which he played a disaster tourist from the future who went back in time to visit various catastrophes. When Van Dien's character spots him onboard a plane, he immediately realizes that the plane is about to crash. As a result, anytime someone recognized Richings when he had to fly somewhere they would mildly panic, and he had to reassure them that nothing was going to happen to the flight. Nowadays, since his exposure on Supernatural, people who recognize him instead go "hey look, it's Death!"
  • On December 23, 2016, in the wake of Carrie Fisher suffering a massive heart attack and being rushed into Intensive Care, dozens of media outlets posted the story carrying a headline that read as if "Princess Leia" had the heart attack, and not the actress who portrayed her. And after her death, there was as much "we've lost Leia" as Carrie.
  • As in the Laurence Fishburne example above, Paul Le Mat said many people reacted to him with hostility after he played the role of abusive husband Mickey Hughes in the Made-for-TV Movie The Burning Bed.
  • One of the most famous examples is Margaret Hamilton who was still getting stopped in the street by children decades later wanting to ask her why she was so cruel to Dorothy. In 1975, she appeared on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood to talk not just about film vs. reality, but about her portrayal of the Witch's motivations and personal emotions.
  • The Parent Trap (1961) and The Parent Trap (1998) movies have convinced a fair number of people, mainly children, that Hayley Mills and/or Lindsay Lohan actually has a twin. Understandable for the 1961 version, since the Double Vision technique was new at the time.
  • Happens constantly when an actor plays a gay role. Harry Hamlin, who played gay in Making Love, once remarked on the number of times he was asked whether he was himself gay and how no one ever asks an actor playing a murderer if they are a murderer in real life.
  • When Johnny Depp intervened in a mugging involving his friend, the mugger recognized him and said "I ain't stealing from Captain Jack."
  • The writer Marc Hanes tells the story of seeing James Bond in an airport when he was seven, asking his grandad to get his autograph, and being confused and disappointed that Bond had signed it "Roger Moore", a name that meant nothing to him. When this was explained to him, Moore told Hanes that he was using a false name to keep Blofeld off his trail, and that Hanes was now entrusted with the secret. Many years later, Hanes met Moore again during the filming of a piece about UNICEF, and mentioned their first meeting. Moore said he didn't remember, but he was glad Hanes got to meet Bond. Then, as they were leaving, he said he remembered perfectly, but the cameramen could have been working for Blofeld.
  • This trope is the reason why a lot of BDSM porn ends with an interview segment with the untied sub, to assure the audience that yes, the scene was consensual and they didn't just kidnap someone off the street. This may seem unnecessary, especially if the sub is a well-known porn star (and most viewers tend to... finish before the interview even begins), but some jurisdictions legally require such clarity in an effort to curb sex trafficking.

    Live-Action TV roles 
  • Robert Young, who played the title character in Marcus Welby, M.D., often said that people would ask him for medical advice.
  • People today associate actor turned U.S. Senator Fred Dalton Thompson with being tough on crime more because of his role as District Attorney Arthur Branch in Law & Order than because of his career as an attorney and service as minority counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee.
  • There were actually people who thought Stephen Colbert really was the conservative whackadoo he played on The Colbert Report, including the organizers (and attendees) of the 2006 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, who were, needless to say, relatively shocked when they found out otherwise. (Though apparently not George W. Bush, given the opening act.)
  • Dennis Haysbert (who played President David Palmer on 24) tells a story about a couple of fans who freaked out when they saw him hanging out with actor Gregory Itzin (who plays President Charles Logan, the man who ordered his assassination, on the same show). The fact that the two actors are good friends apparently never occurred to anyone.
  • The late David Jackson was once mistaken by a kid for Olag Gan, his Blake's 7 character, while the actor was shopping in Harrods.
    "Mum, he's got a chip in his head!"
  • Infotainment shows constantly referred to the star of Grey's Anatomy as "Doctor McDreamy". Hey, you... yes, you the guy at Entertainment Tonight! He's got a name. It's Patrick Dempsey! He's only been a fairly well-known actor now for the last 20 years or so.
  • David James Elliott was constantly referred to as JAG during the run of that show. The really stupid part being that wasn't his character's name... it was his character's job. Entertainment Tonight later did a story about Elliott joining the cast of Close to Home. They still called him "JAG".
  • In a guest appearance on The Tonight Show, Jason Hervey, who played Kevin's bullying older brother on The Wonder Years, said that a man once drove up beside him and demanded to know why "he" was always so mean to his brother and why didn't he pick on someone his own size?
    • Another Wonder Years cast member, Alley Mills (Kevin's mother Norma), also a Tonight Show guest, said that a fan once asked her whether she was related to Jay Leno. When Mills asked what she meant, the fan explained, "Well, you're Kevin's mother, and Kevin looks like a young Leno, so..."
  • The Adventures of Superman star George Reeves had it much rougher than Christopher Reeve, as his younger fans would often try to test his invulnerability. The worst case was when a boy brought his father's gun to a set to see if Superman was really bulletproof. Reeves convinced him to hand over the gun saying that the bullet would bounce off and hurt somebody else. (The incident was depicted in the biopic Hollywoodland, where he's played by Ben Affleck.) When he appeared on I Love Lucy, Reeves was only referred to as "Superman" so as not to break the illusion of younger viewers. Basically, to enforce this trope.
  • In one of his books, Tim Allen mentions that while on a flight one of the pilots came back and asked for actual advice on fixing up his home. Which just goes to show it's not just actors who play competent experts that have to deal with this.
  • William Shatner:
    • He was on a tourist cruise when another tourist fell into the water and began drowning. Like any normal human being, he stood aside while professional help was obtained. So many people were staring at him, expecting him to act the hero that he eventually caved in to peer pressure and dived in after the struggling tourist. As any lifeguard will tell you, this is the worst thing you can do. Both Shatner and the original victim had to be rescued.
    • Several pages on are written in first person in the voice of Shatner's "Priceline Negotiator" persona. The "terms and conditions" link at the bottom of the page is introduced with the text: "I'm not a lawyer (I played one on TV), but here is the legal information you need to know."
    • He was traveling in Nepal, riding a little mountain pony up a steep slope. His group came upon a little hut/tea house and the old dude running the teashop looked at Shatner and said "Captain Kirk?". Turned out he had an ancient black & white TV, run off a truck battery and Star Trek was one of his favorite programs.
  • In his first autobiography, the trope-naming I Am Not Spock, Leonard Nimoy described a fan cornering him to ask if he could touch her friend's blind eye and use his Vulcan powers to heal her. Nimoy was shaken by the experience, but realized similar things happen to actors all the time. Contrary to popular perception, fans with this type of confusion (NOT his frustration with being typecast) are what inspired the title of the book.
  • There were stories back when The West Wing was on that people around Hollywood started treating Martin Sheen like he was the President. The story goes that Sheen enjoyed this and began forming receiving lines, similar to what the real life President would do.
  • People have often said "Hello, Newman" to Wayne Knight from Seinfeld in public. He hates it now.
  • When Michael Richards got in trouble for his racial outburst about lynchings at a comedy club in 2006, people would refer to him only as Kramer and gave nicknames like "KKKramer". It got to the point that Kenny Kramer, the Kramer character's namesake, issued a statement saying he wasn't racist.
  • Zachary Quinto from Heroes mentioned in an interview that he has walked into Starbucks before only to have the employees refer to him as Sylar.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Anneke Wills, who played the First/Second Doctor companion Polly, says she only realized what she was really a part of when a little girl came up to her and asked her what it was like living inside the TARDIS and if she was scared of the Cybermen.
    • Children used to come up to Tom Baker and ask him if he enjoyed travelling in time and could they come with him. (Apparently he used to play along with it rather than traumatize a young mind.) He also has said in interviews that once in a while men would try to pick fights with him, to show they were tougher than The Doctor, and he would have to talk them out of it. Baker has also reported that when he goes to hospital, the (real, medical) doctors like to pretend they're working with the Doctor and ask him to explain things, and he plays along by coming up with gibberish Technobabble.
    • At Comic Con in 2012, a little girl once asked Matt Smith if he was scared of the Weeping Angels. Smith, perhaps taking a leaf from Baker's book above, countered by asking if she was scared of the Weeping Angels. When the little girl nodded, Smith promptly told her not to worry, because he'd fight them off. He then went on to say that while the Weeping Angels were scary to him, they were also his favorite monsters in the show.
  • Rhys Darby from Flight of the Conchords has been asked on multiple occasions to manage peoples bands, where he's given a response along the lines of "First, my name is Rhys, second, I only play a manager on TV, and thirdly, not a very good one."
  • When Christopher Moltisanti was "whacked" from The Sopranos, Michael Imperioli said that he had been receiving flowers as condolence - for his own death!
  • A shoplifter once surrendered to uniformed actors on the set of Homicide: Life on the Street, believing them to be real law enforcement personnel.
  • James Michael Tyler (Gunther on Friends) was yelled at by a woman on the subway for being partially responsible for breaking up Ross and Rachel.
  • Smallville's Tom Welling intervened and fought off men attempting to mug a woman. When she saw who had saved her, she reportedly said, "Wow, you really are Superman." She was kidding, but she apparently wasn't that far off.
  • Ed Westwick gets a lot of disappointment from fans when they realize he's not as dark and brooding as his Gossip Girl character. While he seems a bit tired of being mistaken for having the same faults as his character he has admitted that the line: "I'm Chuck Bass" usually works really well for him to pick up women.
  • Malcolm Jamal-Warner, who played Theo on The Cosby Show, wrote in his autobiography that half his fan mail was addressed to his character's name, and kids would frequently ask to be adopted into his family so they could appear on the show.
  • At the height of the show's popularity, so many people approached Edward Woodward who played The Equalizer for help that he started carrying leaflets for various organizations that could assist them. He would also top off about to expire parking meters and leave a "Courtesy of The Equalizer" calling card on the car's windshield.
  • When Ron Palillo of Welcome Back, Kotter died in 2012, at least two media outlets (The Stephanie Miller Show and local Cleveland radio show Rover's Morning Glory) referred to him only as Horshak (his character's name).
  • David McCallum has studied so much forensic science during the 11 years playing Medical Examiner Ducky Mallard on NCIS that he has been invited to speak at conventions to actual medical examiners and coroners. Donald P. Bellisario (the creator and producer of NCIS) has joked that he owes McCallum about five years' worth of back pay for being the show's unofficial scientific adviser.
  • John Barrowman has recounted being accosted on the street by fans who insist that he is Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood. One time on the Paul O'Grady show, he told of an occasion in which he'd played along, telling a little boy he'd been sent by the Doctor to find a Cyberman...
  • On a special detailing Australian police shows John Wood tells a story of an incident that occurred during Blue Heelers: he was walking down the street one day and a crook climbs over a fence in front of him. The crook sees him and goes, "Oh shit, you're Tom Croydon." and bolts.
  • When Dragnet was on the air, so many people came to the LAPD asking to meet Joe Friday that the desk people took to telling them it was Joe's day off. Jack Webb did get an LAPD funeral, though, and Friday's badge 714 was retired.
  • Several fans have approached William Petersen on the golf course and tried to speak to him in sign language, not realizing that he only learned a little for one CSI episode.
  • Although Gary Sinise is best known for Forrest Gump, he does relate a story about getting in a minor accident and how the other driver kept giving shocked reactions that indicated he was sort of blending Gary with his Mac Taylor character on CSI: NY.
  • Ted Knight used to get irritated because people kept confusing him with his ditzy Ted Baxter character on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
  • Mia Kirshner told a story about how once when she was with some friends in a club in Vancouver, another girl came up to her and said "I hope you die." Presumably she was talking about Jenny Schecter from The L Word. Mia Kirshner however would have none of that, took the woman aside and explained she (like the woman) was here to have fun, and she worked to make money. Jenny was a fictional character, and it was fine it she wanted her to die. It was not okay to want Mia herself to die, because that was hurtful. The woman was taken aback.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Some people confuse Jack Gleeson for the detestable King Joffrey, Worst of His Name, sometimes even to the point of harassment. Gleeson himself is the epitome of Mean Character, Nice Actor, and George R. R. Martin once said to him, "Congratulations on your marvelous performance, everyone hates you!" This trope is largely the reason why Gleeson has quit screen acting in favor of the stage in his native Ireland.
    • Lena Headey, who portrays Cersei Lannister, recalls in some interviews that some people call her a bitch to her face because they found her character so unlikeable.
  • Michael Weatherly, who plays Anthony Dinozzo on the crime drama NCIS, has noted that he has been slapped on the back of the head in public because in-show, his boss Gibbs often gives him "Gibbs slaps". (Although in-show, it's not done out of spite, as Gibbs has a funny way of showing appreciation.)
  • Alan Alda at one time visited Chile, and during his time there developed a severe intestinal problem which required surgery. The Chilean surgeon tried to explain the procedure... before Alda cut him off and described the entire procedure in correct, technical terms. He then explained to the surgeon that he played a surgeon on a TV show called M*A*S*H, and that his character had performed the exact same procedure in an episode recorded a while earlier. The surgeon cracked up.
  • Fans still occasionally ask Randolph Mantooth if he's a real paramedic, 40 years after Emergency! He isn't, but he has helped when seeing an accident on two occasions. A woman had a heart attack on a plane, and he and co-star Kevin Tighe helped until the plane landed and real paramedics arrived. More recently, Mantooth stopped when he saw a car crash and did some first aid, then got a funny look when the real paramedics arrived and found he knew what a non-rebreather is and could go get it. (One guy recognized him vaguely but didn't realize who he was until he said.) Justified in that Mantooth and Tighe really went through paramedic training in preparing for their roles.
  • For the actors who play the parts of criminals in America's Most Wanted's re-enactments, this was apparently a recurring problem as tipsters would frequently call the police to report seeing the actors instead of the actual crooks. Apparently a couple have had to have special cards assigned to show police because it happened so frequently.
  • During the actors boot camp for Band of Brothers, Neal McDonough's weapon went off and he suffered damage to his face. He went to Shane Taylor, expecting him to stitch it up since he was playing the medic Doc Roe. Taylor did so and, not surprisingly, the wound got infected and McDonough had to be taken to a hospital.
  • This is the reason that Jean Boht decided she could not continue playing Nelly Boswell on the sitcom Bread. The show was set in Liverpool, where she lived, and many people confused her with the character. She said people have had arguments with her over her fictional TV family and how she treated them, and cab drivers not taking her because of the programme.
  • In Growing Up Brady, Barry Williams tells how Susan Olsen was ostracized by her peers, practically overnight, after the premiere of The Brady Bunch episode "The Tattle-Tale". It did no good, she says, to protest their treatment of her by yelling "I'm not Cindy! I'm not a tattle-tale!" The whole situation inspired in her a deep loathing for Cindy Brady.
  • Henry Winkler recounts a tale about his appearance at a charity event at a park in L.A. Before the incident, he says, it somewhat grated on him that he was so closely associated with the role of Arthur Fonzarelli on Happy Days. After, he began to understand how much "The Fonz" meant to others, and changed the way he saw the character. While standing around at the park, he heard from behind him the word "Fonzie!", obviously uttered by a young girl. He turned around, and was confronted by a young mother holding the hand of a little girl of eight or nine. The mother was staring, chin on chest, apparently in utter shock, but not for the reason Winkler suspected. After the mother recovered a little, she told Winkler that it was the first time her daughter had ever spoken.
  • Anthony Stewart Head was called in to host a show called True Horror looking at supernatural myths. He refers to his role of Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and how despite him playing a supernatural expert when preparing to host the show realized he had next to no knowledge of the topic, so conducted research to do a better job.
  • Invoked in an article about a Rock Hudson TV movie in TV Guide. The writer called out the tendency to prominently discuss a straight actor's spouse if they are playing a gay role. Elsewhere in the same issue an article about a lesbian kiss on 21 Jump Street kicked off its second paragraph with 'Holly Robinson, who is married to..."
  • Larry Drake's portrayal of Benny Stulwicz on L.A. Law prompted occasional viewers to ask him if he really was mentally challenged. He took this as the highest of compliments.
  • RuPaul's Drag Race is mixed on this trope. While the Drag Queen contestants are real people, the show relies on Manipulative Editing just as much as any other Reality Show, resulting in many queens being given the "bitch edit" even if that's not their normal personality. It also doesn't help that many queens have admitted to playing a character on the show to try to make themselves more memorable, only to have it backfire and hurt their careers if the character they created wasn't very likable. But where this really harms the queens is when unhinged fans send them hatemail and death threat all because of how they acted on the show. Even queens who legitimately don't like each other have defended each other from online abuse.

    Voice acting roles 

    Web Videos 
  • People who do Video Review Shows in-character, such as The Nostalgia Critic, have noted how often people think they are just like the characters they play. This is more understandable than most examples on this page because quite a lot of these people knowingly or unknowingly create a lot of overlap between their online selves and the characters they purport to play, sometimes even using the same online names they use in their review shows when they add comments as their "real selves". The Spoony Experiment is a good example, and Spoony/Noah Antwiler has even cited the problem of not sufficiently separating himself from "The Spoony One", which caused people to think they're the same. These reviewers also inject a lot of their personal opinions into their reviews, even when they're technically playing a character. It's hardly surprising that people start to wonder where to draw the line.

    Actors invoking or playing with this 
  • Harlan Ellison wrote in the intro for his book Strange Wine that he talked with Dan Blocker (Hoss from Bonanza) about this phenomenon. Apparently, Blocker once had a woman come up to him in a supermarket and ask him about how Hoss was. When Blocker replied that he wasn't Hoss and Hoss was fictional, the woman said, "I know that, all I want to know is if he's alright!"
  • At the Star Trek 30th anniversary celebration, Joan Collins mentioned that whenever she was asked "Aren't you Alexis, that bitch from Dynasty?", she replied, "No, I'm Edith Keeler, Depression-era social worker from Star Trek" ("The City on the Edge of Forever").
  • Dr Pepper has had some fun playing with this lately in a series of commercials where celebrities Neil Patrick Harris, Gene Simmons, and Julius Erving tell us that we can trust them, because they're doctors. That'd be Dr. Doogie Howser (played on TV), Dr. Love (popular song), and Dr. J (nickname), respectively. Neil Patrick Harris also did this commercial for Old Spice, claiming he "used to be a doctor for pretend". note 
  • John de Lancie, the actor playing Q in Star Trek, said at one time that he was, more jokingly or more seriously, randomly asked by people on the street how is it to be an all powerful entity. Reportedly, he'd answer them "It's just a role". OTOH he told an anecdote about being confronted by a big tattooed biker type who he was sure was going to mug him, at the very least:
    Biker: You're Q, right?
    John: (deciding his chances of survival are greater if he pretends to be omnipotent) Um... yeah.
    Biker: So can you bring dead people back to life?
    John: Only if I like them.
    Biker: (grunts and walks off and John thinks 'Trekkies come in all forms.')
  • Amy Adams told the story on a talk show about how a young girl recognized her as Giselle from Enchanted, and wondered why she was walking around as a regular person. Adams replied that she didn't want to draw attention to herself, and asked the girl not to tell anyone.
  • Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who played the President of Ukraine in Servant of the People, ran for the actual Ukrainian presidency in 2019 and won in a landslide. He even ran under the "Servant of the People" party!
  • A similar story was told by Selena Gomez. A young fan came up to her and asked, "Alex? Is the magic real?" She asked him, "Do you believe it's real?" He replied, almost crying, "Yes, I do believe it's real." She smiled and said, "That's all that matters."
  • Franz Xaver Kroetz who played gossip reporter "Baby Schimmerlos" in the German series Kir Royal was asked by some newspapers to write columns for them and did so - despite the fact that he had no experience with this kind of writing and the result was... meager. Though Kroetz was an already a renowned playwright, they just overestimated his ability to write for them.
  • In one of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVD extras, James Marsters says, "I'm not a vampire, but I play one on TV."
  • Hilariously subverted when two crooks tried to rob Chuck Norris, known for his 80s action movies and his then-airing show Walker, Texas Ranger. They figured that because he's a movie star that must mean all the crazy stunts he does onscreen are faked. In fact Norris is an expert in several martial arts disciplines; he easily whooped their asses before the cops arrived to pick them up.
  • In a commercial for a credit card company, where they advertise that if you have 25,000 points you can get airline tickets, Alec Baldwin ends up sitting in the co-pilot seat of an airliner, telling the pilot, "Don't worry, I've played a pilot before."
  • Eminem got pretty Lost in Character as his Heroic Comedic Sociopath character Slim Shady in the early 2000s, up to and including threatening people with a gun. While he snapped out of the worst of this after the courts gave him mandatory drug testing and therapy in 2001, he still used his Slim Shady persona to get around an incident where he was being extorted by the Crips in LA in 2003. He hired a neutral Samoan gang to serve as his bodyguards, who were happy to do it for free in return for him providing guest verses on their Gangsta Rap records, in which they brag about how their gang is so dangerous, they even have Slim Shady riding with them.

  • In a weird reversed example, Star Trek's Grace Lee Whitney states in her autobiography that she sometime has difficulty differentiating reality and fantasy. For example, she recalls being disillusioned when she filmed an episode of the Western TV series Bat Masterson and saw Gene Barry wincing in pain after stubbing his toe, despite the fact that any injury he sustained while in-character was Only a Flesh Wound. She also apparently tended to get so into roles that she started to forget it was fake. A therapist even told her that part of the reason she was so upset about being written out of Star Trek was because she had difficulty separating herself from Yeoman Rand.
  • Michael O'Hare, who played Commander Jeffrey Sinclair for one season of Babylon 5, left the series because he began experiencing severe paranoid delusions and would be antagonistic towards other actors because of their characters' actions. He was written out of the show at his own request because he didn't want his mental illness to affect everybody's jobs. Aside from a handful of guest roles on other shows, and one return appearance on Babylon 5 to finish his character's arc, he withdrew from acting. It wasn't until after O'Hare's death that JMS (per O'Hare's request) made his mental illness publicly known and talked about the real reason behind his departure from the show.
  • During a red-carpet interview at the Golden Globe Awards, actress Mayim Bialik of The Big Bang Theory was asked if people expected her to be able to do calculus in her head and act like a scientist when they met her in real life. Bialik gave the interviewer a short, scathing look, then pointed out that, as she had earned a Ph.D. in Neuroscience, she is a scientist in real life, and yes, she can also do calculus in her head. The interviewer looked suitably sheepish after that.