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Meta Casting

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

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

This can come in multiple ways:

  • Actor-Shared Background — The role is written with the actual (non-acting) history of the actor in place. A few former criminals with jail time (read: the likes of Danny Trejo) have gained a history of playing hardened criminals.
  • Adam Westing — Using an actor's famous role in a form of self-parody. Contractual Purity often results in formerly child-friendly actors behaving in very much "family unfriendly" behavior.
  • Casting Gag — Using their history with another actor or an older franchise incarnation. Possibly in a Remake Cameo they use The Hero of the original to be a mentor or give their blessing to the new crew.
  • The Cast Show Off — The skills and talents of the actor are integrated into the character, helping the actor feel more comfortable and giving the character more depth. An episode might be written to show a previously non-singing character to have the same vocal abilities as their actor.
  • Cast the Expert — Rather than hiring an actor to portray a professional in some field, they hire someone who actually is in that field, which gives the performance an additional air of credibility with Shown Their Work. Martial artists are among the first people chosen to headline action movies, see Bruce Lee.

In many cases this can be And the Fandom Rejoiced; the fans latch on to that resonance and appreciate it.

Compare Actor Allusion (a nod to other roles they played), Ink-Suit Actor, Celebrity Paradox, Reality Subtext, Actor-Inspired Element and Enforced Method Acting.


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  • Futaba, Ichigo, and Rin from Seiyu's Life! were all voiced by relatively new voice actresses since the characters are also rather new to the industry (well, Futaba and Ichigo are).
    • There's also an in-universe example. Rin was cast as Mina in Weekend Patissier because the director wanted someone who could naturally play a normal 15-year-old girl. Unfortunately, Rin has been acting almost her entire life and doesn't have much experience with being normal.
  • The up-and-coming Idol Singer characters in Macross are usually voiced by real-life up-and-coming singers/voice actresses. Examples include Mari Iijima playing Lynn Minmay in Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Megumi Nakajima voicing Ranka Lee in Macross Frontier, and Minori Suzuki portraying Freyja Wion in Macross Delta.
  • Pompo: The Cinéphile: first-time director Gene Fini and aspiring actress Nathalie Woodward are voiced by newcomer voice actors with no other major roles on their resumes, while retired actor Martin Braddock (implied to be "the world's best actor" and named after Marlon Brando) is voiced by respected veteran voice actor Akio Ōtsuka.

  • Gypsy: Natalie Wood as a budding entertainment artist whose life is made hell by her Stage Mom. Just like her early years in the business in real life.
  • In The Killing Fields, Cambodian genocide survivor and journalist Dith Pran was played by Haing S. Ngor, himself a survivor of said genocide.
  • Robert Downey Jr.
    • He was cast as Iron Man not only because he is a good actor, but has had problems in the past with drug abuse. That added extra weight to a man who is struggling to redeem himself for past mistakes; a man who is also known for having problems with alcohol. It is also worth noting that Iron Man 2 was originally going to be an adaptation of the "Demon In A Bottle" storyline, but Downey nixed it on the grounds that he was afraid that getting into that headspace would take him back down the bottle. On a lighter note, he did quip once or twice that his wife was exasperated at finding herself married to Tony Stark.
    • Downey did it again in Sherlock Holmes (2009), playing the titular ace detective with drug and adjustment problems. In fact, this seems to happen to Downey a lot. In Charlie Bartlett he plays a high school principal with an alcohol problem. Zodiac as well and A Scanner Darkly (mentioned below) natch.
      • Less Than Zero actually inverted the pattern, as Downey has stated that it was during shooting that he became a hardcore addict. To quote Cracked, knowing that as you watch Less Than Zero, you are witnessing an actual addiction form, it's hard not to stay riveted.
        Until that movie, I took my drugs after work and on the weekends. That changed on Less Than Zero, the role was like the ghost of Christmas future. The character was an exaggeration of myself. Then things changed and, in some ways, I became an exaggeration of the character.
    • Shortly before his Career Resurrection with Iron Man, he did A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints as a man confronting his past demons.
  • Also for Iron Man, Jeff Bridges is also a great choice to play Obadiah Stane, because it plays against the roles he is normally typecast as. Stane comes across as friendly and likable, albeit a bit of a smooth talker. And when we learn he was behind everything, we empathize with the betrayal Tony is feeling, because we're feeling it as well.
  • Samuel L. Jackson was cast as Nick Fury because Ultimate Nick Fury's character design was based on him anyway, and part of the contract letting them use his likeness stipulated that he play Fury in any live-action film using the character.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier:
  • Bruce Willis:
  • John Wayne in The Shootist playing an aging gunfighter dying of cancer in a world where he realizes he's an anachronism. What's more, most everyone expected this to be his last film, and it was, as he was indeed fighting cancer and his brand of western (and war) film hero had become an anachronism.
  • Everyone in The Film of the Book A Scanner Darkly. Keanu Reeves as a drug-addicted cop is just Dull Surprise'd enough to seem plausible as a guy whose mind is slowly deteriorating from substance D. Then there's Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder, Rory Cochrane. What a cast to play a bunch of stoners!
  • Hilary Duff in War, Inc. where she plays a pop star who is overly saturated as a sex symbol, which while not exactly descriptive of Duff's life and career it does come fairly close to use this trope.
  • Christopher Reeve appeared in the Rear Window remake after the accident that left him a quadriplegic. He played the role originally performed by Jimmy Stewart.
  • Audie Murphy enlisted in the US Army at 16 by falsifying his birth records and proceeded to win more medals than he had places to put them in WWII. This included every single medal awarded by the US at the time, several more than once, along with medals from the French and Belgian governments. He then came home and starred in several war movies as a young recruit who performed heroic deeds on the battlefield, including The Red Badge of Courage and a movie based on his own war experiences.
  • School of Rock cast several child musicians, rather than child actors, to play the young musician characters. Jack Black himself is part of Tenacious D. Bonus points for the fact that Robert Tsai, who played Larry (the keyboardist) had to go through the same classical-to-rock transition that the character did.
  • Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star had the main character go for a role in a Rob Reiner film and he was considered perfect for the role in every regard except that he never had a normal childhood. So he goes off to quickly get a normal childhood. Essentially he is working to invoke this trope In-Universe to get a role.
  • Nicolas Cage manages to convey a sense of being out of his depth in most of his roles, so he managed to do a marvelous job of portraying a chemical weapons expert dragged along on a SEAL mission in The Rock.
  • Ben Stein as a high school economics teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
  • The Wrestler casts Mickey Rourke, a down-on-his-luck actor looking for a comeback, as a down-on-his-luck wrestler looking for a comeback.
  • The Running Man:
    • Jesse Ventura; Retired hunter becomes play-by-play commentator.
    • And that's to say nothing of Richard Dawson playing an established game show host who was loved by the fans but was a real jerk when it came to backstage politics. Not surprisingly, Dawson made the film in a period during which he was not hosting Family Feud (though he later returned to the show).
  • In-universe use: In Mr. Saturday Night there was a part in a film based on Buddy Young Jr. (the protagonist), but he didn't get the role because the writer/director thought he was dead so he cast Walter Matthau instead. Buddy auditions for another part, but stops and says "this isn't me."
  • Rocky films:
    • Mr. T and Hulk Hogan in Rocky III.
    • Scandinavian double black belt Dolph Lundgren as Drago in Rocky IV.
    • The casting of Tommy Morrison as Tommy "Machine" Gunn in Rocky V.
    • Rocky Balboa cast a real-life boxer to play Mason Dixon because according to Stallone it is easier to teach a boxer how to act than to teach an actor how to box.
  • R. Lee Ermey started as a consultant for Full Metal Jacket and was eventually cast in the role of Gunnery Sgt. Hartman. He was a Marine, after all. Legend has it Stanley Kubrick didn't bother writing most of Ermey's iconic drill sergeant patter and let Emery be one of the few actors he ever allowed to go off-script.
  • Tropic Thunder runs entirely on this fuel, because it plays with the actual personalities of the actors portraying fictional actors. Robert Downey Jr plays an obsessive method actor who goes to extremes to play a role, to the detriment of his peers. Jack Black plays a comic who only plays obnoxious buffoons in Toilet Humor movies. In fact, some people expressed disappointment that Ben Stiller wasn't an expy of himself (A sympathetic everyman who is a Cosmic Plaything) instead of the Stallone-like action hero he was in the movie. Jay Baruchel plays the little-known actor who isn't even mentioned on the poster, which is often what he is in real life. Stiller's part was originally going to go to Keanu Reeves. One of the plot points is that he has trouble expressing emotions, which would've made it this trope.
  • Donald Sutherland's right-hand man in Outbreak, Dale Dye, was a captain in the Marine Corps. He has made a secondary career out of playing military officers.
    • His tertiary career is teaching actors how to play military officers.
    • In his spare time, he also acts as a military advisor for first-person shooters. Medal of Honor names its Harder Than Hard modes after him.
  • Paris Hilton in Repo! The Genetic Opera appears to be this - she plays a bitchy, slutty, egotistical heiress, which matches at least her public image perfectly - but she was initially not even allowed to audition and had to fight to win the part. Still a case of Questionable Casting.
  • The holographic operator of the Decepticon vehicles in Transformers, "Moustache Man", is an actual pilot for the US military who was qualified to fly the various vehicles he appeared in. He even delayed his wedding to play Barricade's Moustache Man at the request of Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg.
  • Peter Sellers took this trope into his own hands and put a twist on it. He often commented in interviews that he had no real personality and was nothing beyond the many colorful characters he played. After he read Being There, he contacted author Jerzy Kosinski about getting a film adaptation made because he saw in it the role he was meant to play all along. That would be Chance the Gardener, a mentally-challenged man whose personality is so underdeveloped that he can only reflect other people's assumptions and desires, which makes each one of them see him as everything he or she ever wanted — a passionate-yet-discreet lover, a brilliant thinker, etc. The resultant performance is regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of his career, even though it is worlds removed from most of his other work tonally.
  • Robert Rodriguez-favorite Danny Trejo, a Mexican-American ex-con who got into acting after leaving his past behind. As a result of his past, he almost always plays The Brute-type characters, like in Desperado, Heat, Predators, From Dusk Till Dawn, and Machete.
  • To a lesser extent, Charles S. Dutton, who took up acting while serving a prison sentence for a gang-related murder, is often cast as a murderer or tough guy.
  • After her infamous Saks Fifth Avenue shoplifting debacle, Winona Ryder played in a movie called The Ten, which was an Anthology Film that riffed on The Ten Commandments (1956). The subject of Ryder's segment? "Thou Shalt Not Steal."
  • Memento required a Smug Snake type character for the antagonist, so they hired Joe Pantoliano, whose career is virtually nothing but. Except, of course, that his character is innocent of the crime he's killed for in the film's opening. The role relies heavily on his typecasting to make the audience assume he's the bad guy when he's the closest thing the protagonist has to a real friend. Virtually anyone but a typecast actor would have given the audience room to doubt.
  • In The Karate Kid (2010) a lot of people initially scoffed at casting Jackie Chan as the Mr. Miyagi counterpart, Mr. Han, largely because it sounded like a fanboy's wish list. But when the movie itself came out, people noted that Chan's reputation as a martial arts master gave a great deal more validity to him as a teacher and to the idea of 'Dre becoming so good in such a short period of time. Instant Expert? He was trained by Jackie Chan!
  • T.I. took this route in his movie ATL, in which he plays a struggling artist in Atlanta. He himself grew up in a poorer part of Atlanta.
  • George Clooney's character in Up in the Air is a charming bachelor with no plans of marriage. You'd think the part was specifically written for him (but he did later marry and have a child).
  • Miley Cyrus in LOL, an American 2012 remake of a French Black Comedy. She plays the role of a Bratty Teenage Daughter who is seen by her mother as perfect and goody-two-shoes but in private leads an active sex life, smokes, drinks, does drugs, and has a raunchy mouth. The tables are turned as her mother reads her Facebook page and learns of her sordid sexual posts. Though the role was not written expressly for her, it has interesting subtext as Miley in Real Life has moved on from her Hannah Montana days (to a degree that would make even her character in the film go pale with shock), to the ire of Moral Guardians.
    • The original French film that LOL remakes (also with the same title) stars Sophie Marceau as the lead character's mother. Marceau's breakout role was in La Boum, another coming-of-age film that was a heavy influence on LOL.
  • In Sunset Boulevard, the character of Norma Desmond, a forgotten silent film star was played by Gloria Swanson, a forgotten silent film star. Her butler, Max von Mayerling who used to be a leading silent film director is played by Erich von Stroheim, who used to be a leading silent film director. Norma used to work with Cecil B. DeMille, who used to work with Swanson and appears in the film playing himself. (Needless to say, Swanson took her fall from stardom with much more grace and sanity than Norma.)
  • In Dreamgirls, Beyoncé plays Deena, one of the members of a '60s Girl Group who ends up getting promoted more than the other band members (partially because of her relationship with the manager) and even leads to original lead singer Effie being fired from the band. In real life, Beyonce was the most prominent member of Destiny's Child and is the one who had the most successful solo career afterward. Some people feel that the only reason that's true is that Beyonce's father was the manager. What takes this to another level of meta is that Beyonce actually got top billing over Jennifer Hudson, who plays Effie, the main character of the story.
  • Part of the reason Gal Gadot was cast as Wonder Woman was that she had been a fight trainer in her time in the Israeli Defense Forces. The only fight technique they had to teach her was how to use the lasso.
  • In Flashback, Dennis Hopper, who had played radical characters, most famously in Easy Rider, plays a former 60's radical under arrest for crimes committed back then.
  • Director Nicholas Roeg got the idea to cast rock musician David Bowie as the title character in The Man Who Fell to Earth after seeing the BBC documentary profile Cracked Actor. The program followed Bowie on his 1974 U.S. tour, both on and offstage, and Roeg realized that the singer (who frequently incorporated science fiction elements and imagery into his work throughout his career) had exactly the stranger-in-a-strange-land aura the role of Thomas Jerome Newton — an actual alien trying to save his dying race by masquerading as a human businessman and rising to the top of American industry — required.
  • Jack Palance, after playing Memetic Badass Wilson in Shane, was cast as Curly Washburn in City Slickers because of the mystique around his portrayal of the earlier character.
  • During an interview on the Travis Smiley show, Denzel Washington admitted that his first villain role in the film Training Day (which got him the Best Actor Academy Award) was the easiest role he ever played. This was because the character he played: a corrupt cop named Alonzo, was based on his real off-screen personality. However, he made it clear that the evil deeds were solely movie based.
  • In Spring Breakers, Selena Gomez, one of the few remaining tween superstars of the 2000s not to have transformed into a raunch queen, need rehab, or otherwise spark controversy (other than dating Justin Bieber) was cast, appropriately as the innocent member of the female gang in the film. Most tellingly, her character disappears from the narrative when things get serious and the other girls start getting out of control. After all, we couldn't have Selena Gomez engaging in a three-way or killing people.
  • The French film Grosse Fatigue (English subtitle: "Dead Tired"). All the leading actors, extremely well known in France, play themselves—still just as famous but in a fictitious scenario. The only character who isn't portrayed as the actor playing him is played by the film's maker, Michel Blanc, but that's only because said actor is playing two roles, himself and someone who isn't famous but looks exactly like him, a fact that provides the motor for a very clever plot.
  • In La Horse, Jean Gabin played an aging landowner who owns cattle. Which he was for real.
  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance):
  • The film 50/50 (2011) is partially autobiographical on the screenwriter's own experiences when he was diagnosed with cancer - and Seth Rogen is his best friend. So Rogen is essentially playing himself doing what he did in real life.
  • In a similar vein, Thirteen (2003) is based partially on actress Nikki Reed's own experiences at that age. Though the character that is based on Reed - Tracie - is played by Evan Rachel Wood, Reed playing the best friend Evie instead.
  • What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? revolved around two sisters who were bitter rivals. They cast Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, two actresses with a heated rivalry. Likewise, Davis' character Jane Hudson struggles to make it as an actress in Hollywood, with a scene of producers complaining about her performance. The clip was from one of Davis's own movies, supplied by the actress herself.
  • Magic Mike: Michael "Mike" Lane is portrayed by Channing Tatum, who worked as a male stripper in Florida just like his character.
  • In the French movie Le Mouton à Cinq Pattes (The Five-Legged Sheep), famous French actor Fernandel plays five quintuplets who have had very different lives. One of them is a priest whose life was ruined because (being Fernandel in a priest suit) he looks just like the priest from another popular comedy in which Fernandel played a priest, Don Camillo, and that consequently, no one takes him seriously anymore.
  • Ben Johnson was a real cowboy and expert horseman prior to getting into acting. After a stint working as a stunt man and horse wrangler on set, he went on to appear in many westerns where his riding skills were often highlighted.
  • In the film Targets, Boris Karloff, a horror icon approaching the end of his career, plays Byron Orlok, a fictional horror icon about to retire who becomes involved when a psycho sniper attacks the audience at a drive-in cinema showing his last film. The film has a strong metafictional element referring to the eclipse of the traditional supernatural horror movie in favor of the more naturalistically disturbing Psychological Horror.
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming:
  • Thor: Ragnarok: Early on, we see a stage play put on by Loki (as Odin) depicting his supposed "death" in Thor: The Dark World. Loki took great care with casting, seeing as he made sure he was played by A-lister Matt Damon while casting Sam Neill as Odin, and Chris Hemsworth (Thor)'s older brother Luke as Thor.
  • Tom Hanks is dubbed "The Nicest Man In Hollywood", so of course he is cast to play the ultimate Nice Guy himself, Mr. Rogers in the Biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (even though the two look nothing alike).
  • Strategic Air Command featured Jimmy Stewart, a decorated World War II bomber pilot and U.S. Air Force Reservist, playing Colonel "Dutch" Holland, a decorated World War II bomber pilot and U.S. Air Force Reservist. The main difference between actor and character is Stewart was an actor, and Dutch a baseball player.
  • After Earth is an interesting case. It mostly centers around a legendary badass and his son who is trying (perhaps a little too hard) to follow in his footsteps. While the father/son casting of Will and Jaden Smith was certainly intentional, viewers noticed plenty of additional subtext that probably wasn't.
  • French actor Patrick Dewaere played a lot of misfit, fragile, drugged, neurotic individuals. Which he was in Real Life.
  • The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent stars Nicolas Cage as a fictionalized version of himself, attending a wealthy Loony Fan's birthday party. Said fan is played by Pedro Pascal, who's cited Cage as one of his inspirations as an actor.
  • The Misfits:
    • The film was conceived as a rare dramatic vehicle for Marilyn Monroe, who wanted to transition out of her Dumb Blonde persona in comedies. Indeed, as filming went on, the character Roslyn kept being rewritten to more closely resemble her; in the short story it's adapted from, Roslyn was college educated, but became a high school dropout and also had a difficult relationship with her mother. She's at one point told by the male lead that she's "the saddest girl I ever met", and responds that men usually tell her how happy she is; this was based on an actual conversation between her and then-husband/screenwriter Arthur Miller. There's also a scene where another character finds old photos of Roslyn, and they use some of Marilyn's famous pin-up pictures.
    • This Leaning on the Fourth Wall extends to the character of Perce, played by Montgomery Clift. He's presented as a disaster, with a nasty drinking problem and doing whatever he can to make a living; referencing how a nasty car accident in 1956 had led to him self-medicating and his career suffered. His introductory scene has him assuring his mother that his face is "all healed up", again referencing the accident that destroyed his Pretty Boy good looks.
  • In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Lucas Lee (played by Chris Evans) is an action movie star who fights with his cadre of stuntmen. Whether out of deliberately reaching this trope or simple convenience, said stunt doubles happen to be Chris Evans' actual stunt team.
  • In Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, former leading man Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, struggles with playing a hardened villain, but eventually turns in an over-the-top performance going triumphantly above the script's demands. This parallels how DiCaprio handled his role as the villainous plantation owner in Django Unchained.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Christopher Reeve in his role in Smallville as Virgil Swann. The past Superman is telling the current Superman where he came from and who he is. Often considered the crowning moment of awesome for the show. Punctuated by the use of music from his Superman movies during his scenes.
    • Margot Kidder also appeared in one of Reeve's episodes, and again after he died—where she shared scenes with Annette O'Toole.
    • O'Toole herself was said to have been cast for her interpretation of Martha Kent, not for her resonance with Superman III—a film Superman fans like to forget, and anyway the show creators were outsiders to the Superman ethos. But it wasn't entirely a coincidence, and fans loved the connection.
  • In the third season of Slings & Arrows, William Hutt's character is enticed out of retirement to play at the New Burbage theater festival while dying of cancer. Hutt himself had several "retirements" from the Stratford Festival (on which New Burbage is based) and died of leukemia shortly after Slings And Arrows was filmed.
  • Undeclared inverted this trope where the characters' personalities, and even their home city/country, were based on the actors they hired. The DVD Commentary would frequently point out that a recurring actor really did have that kind of slightly-off personality.
  • Kumail Nanjiani admitted that his character, Dinesh, in Silicon Valley was partially based on his experience working in IT before becoming an actor and comedian. Both are from Pakistan and moved to America to get a computer science education and profession. Subverted because it worked out differently for the two.
  • Virtually every actor to have played the Doctor in Doctor Who has incorporated a lot of their own personality quirks and idiosyncrasies into the role, although some more than others.
    • Although Patrick Troughton did not play the character as a version of himself, his natural personality still formed the backbone of the Second Doctor's. There was a lot of despair over the first actor switchover. Should he play the character as the same as William Hartnell's Doctor? Should he go with Sydney Newman's Charlie Chaplin-inspired 'cosmic hobo' idea? Should he go psychedelic as Gerry Davis wanted? What about the sea captain gimmick or making him a Sherlock Holmes Expy? It was all up in the air until one very important meeting to discuss this, when Gerry Davis noticed that despite everyone else shouting at each other Troughton was sitting in the corner, quietly puzzling out all the power dynamics between the writers and executives with an expression of obvious interest. This immediately inspired Davis and he asked everyone else to leave so he could tell Troughton what he'd observed. "The Power of the Daleks", Troughton's first story, includes a scene inspired by this where he explains to Polly that he's mapped the power dynamics among the colony officials just by watching their faces.
    • Jon Pertwee was cast as a comic actor and was intended at first to be a comedy character, but eventually, they settled upon basing the Doctor's personality on Pertwee's just, enthusiastic, serious and elegant natural one. This came as a big shock to people used to his comedy roles. Another bit of meta came out after his death. Three's secret agent antics and love of gadgets? Turns out Pertwee was in British Intelligence during World War II, as part of the SOE a.k.a. 'The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare', instructing spies on the latest and greatest espionage gear of the era and working alongside Ian Fleming and Christopher Lee (which means he served as a partial inspiration for James Bond, who Fleming based on his wartime colleagues).
    • The most extreme example is Tom Baker, who played the Fourth Doctor. He insists (although there's ample evidence against it) that he just performed his lines as himself at first and was surprised that people kept sending him fanmail praising his outrageous and over-the-top persona; when asked in an interview by Horror Channel to describe his Doctor in a word, answered "I can do it in two: Tom Baker". He was cast in the role due to Barry Letts being impressed by Baker's naturally loopy personality and, as neither Terrence Dicks nor Robert Holmes had much of an initial direction for the Fourth Doctor's personality, both of them admitted to having just written the character to be like the actor. This, combined with Alter-Ego Acting (he disliked appearing publicly as himself while playing the role and tried to stay in character as much as possible) did lead to him becoming Lost in Character, so none of the others have done it to quite the same extent.
    • The Eleventh Doctor's actor Matt Smith bought his own... astonishing physicality to the role. Behind the Scenes stuff shows that he's even more of a clumsy loon than his character. He broke sonic screwdrivers on a regular basis and impulsively kissed his co-star Arthur Darvill in a Throw It In moment, and as a boy, he was on the books of Association Football teams Northampton Town, Nottingham Forest, Leicester City, captaining the latter's youth team before injury forced him out of football - though he did demonstrate his skills during one episode.
    • Peter Capaldi (the Twelfth) has said that the Doctor has a lot more of his natural personality in him than his other famous role, Malcolm Tucker.
  • Everyone's favorite goth girl, NCIS lab tech Abby Sciuto, has a lot in common with her actress, Pauley Perrette. Not just the tattoos, but the story Abby tells Kate in the first episode, about poking around in an old junkyard being the start of her forensics path, is actually straight out of Perrette's life.
    • In another example from the same show, Michael Weatherly plays Tony DiNozzo, who comes from a rich family but has been cut off. This is actually true of Weatherly's own family, as his own father cut him off when he dropped out of college and became an actor. Various other bits of his real-life history have been used as gags (including how his family made their money and that he was once engaged to Jessica Alba) and Tony's movie references became a character element after a few too many of his ad-libs were movie-based.
      • A meta-meta example. Robert Wagner has appeared in numerous episodes as Tony's father. Weatherly once portrayed Wagner in a TV movie and does an eerily accurate impression of the actor which has been posted to YouTube among outtakes from a CBS promo bumper he recorded.
    • Sean Murray is also almost as much of a geek as McGee.
  • In The IT Crowd, the socially-awkward and nerdy character, Moss, who has no people skills, is played by Richard Ayoade. In Real Life, Ayoade is also something of a socially awkward, shy geek, who is open about his social anxiety issues. He has often stated that he hates the limelight and hates being interviewed, and when appearing on British panel shows he often plays up this persona. According to Ayoade, Graham Linehan wrote the character specifically for him, having met him at university and knowing his personality quirks.
  • Dennis Farina usually played cops and mobsters, which maybe wasn't surprising considering he was a Chicago police officer for almost 20 years before taking up acting. His Law & Order character was even mentioned as previously being a Chicago cop.
  • Michael J. Fox on Scrubs was cast to play Dr. Kevin Casey, a double certified (medical/surgical) visiting doctor with extreme Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. While he proceeded to show-up everyone in the cast with his skills, and despite his genius and generally positive outlook, his OCD is a very powerful demon that he can never truly ignore. Fox's bodily tics from Parkinson's added weight to the performance and the message.
  • The Michael J. Fox Show has even more of a Reality Subtext, since he's playing a beloved television personality with Parkinson's who returns to TV after a long retirement.
  • Charlie Sheen's first episode on Spin City showed that his character Charlie Crawford has had many social issues in the past, including wild womanizing and drugs. At the end of the episode, he very publicly apologized to a past fling explaining that he has entire weeks he doesn't remember, one where he ended up in a tour bus with a bunch of groupies "And I wasn't even in a band!"
    • Sheen's more recent issues make this a very cyclical ordeal. His current series, Anger Management, is overflowing with references to his sometimes bizarre past behavior while under the influence of narcotics.
  • Power Rangers often searches for skilled martial artists, to begin with, but along the way often integrates the background of the actor into the actual character. The most famous being Kimberly's gymnastics, where Amy Jo Johnson was an Olympic hopeful at one point, and Zach's hip hop kido, which was designed and performed by Walter Jones.
  • The creators of Parks and Recreation developed the role of April Ludgate basically because they wanted an Aubrey Plaza-type character after meeting the actress.
  • The Fall Guy: Lee Majors plays a stuntman and was also roped into actually singing the show's theme song, in which his character proclaims he's been seen on screen with Farrah. Farrah Fawcett was formerly known as Farrah Fawcett-Majors and had in fact divorced Majors by the time Fall Guy came along. Another episode had a meta moment where Majors' character, Colt Seavers, has to break into a bad guy's lair and does so using the same catapult device used to simulate bionic jumps for Majors' own stuntmen in The Six Million Dollar Man.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, neurobiologist Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler is played by Mayim Bialik, a child star on Blossom who became famous for earning a Ph.D. in neuroscience and fading from acting for much of her adult life. It becomes straight on Celebrity Paradox as, while not identified by name, she was referred to in a previous episode. When auditioning for the role the casting department did a double-take at her Ph.D., Mayim expressed amusement that we knew nothing of Amy when she first appeared and it wasn't until later she was given a specialty that reflected her degree.
  • Jennifer Grey was known for her distinctive nose and when she got a rhinoplasty, she immediately lost work. So in the TV show It's Like, You Know she plays herself - out of work because she got a nose job.
  • Once Upon a Time managed a two-fer. Ginnifer Goodwin and Jennifer Morrison were long noted to have a distinct resemblance - to the point where they began signing autographs and giving interviews as each other. So it was a bit of a Casting Gag for them to play mother and daughter respectively. Additionally, many other cast members have said that Goodwin is The Pollyanna in real life - so it's incredibly appropriate that she be picked to play Snow White.
  • While she wasn't cast specifically for it, Ashley Johnson incorporated a lot of her own love of board games and geek culture into her character on Blindspot. In fact, the Dungeons & Dragons character Dr. Patterson rattles off in an early episode is Ashley's own character from the web series Critical Role
  • Daredevil (2015):
  • Iron Fist (2017): Given the duality motif of Typhoid Mary, it only seems appropriate that for her live-action portrayal, she's played by Alice Eve, who sports heterochromia (her left eye is blue and right eye is green).
  • The Wire:
    • Edward Norris, a former Baltimore Police Commissioner who had a somewhat controversial career that ended in an indictment and a felony conviction, plays a fictionalized version of himself that is a Homicide detective. His lack of respect for the current Commissioner is a running gag. And since the first season was shot while he was still in office, many things he says cross into borderline Self-Deprecation:
    Ed Norris: I kid you not. I swear, you show me the son of a bitch who can fix this police department I'd give back half my overtime.
    • Sgt. Jay Landsman is the supervisor of the Homicide unit. He is named after a real guy, who was a subject in David Simon's book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. The real Jay Landsman also appears in The Lt. Dennis Mello, Major Colvin's Number Two in the Western District. This results in even more Mind Screw in a season 5 scene that features Mello with John Munch (who was based on the real Landsman) and Gus Haynes (Clark Johnson, Richard Belzer's former castmate from Homicide: Life on the Street).
    • Anthony Collichio is a Western District plainclothes officer who takes the soldier's mentality to policing that Bunny Colvin decries as detrimental to the job. He's played by Benjamin Busch, who is a United States Marine Reserve Corps officer.
    • Melvin Williams, a former gangster arrested by co-creator Ed Burns, was one of the inspirations for Avon Barksdale. Williams himself appears in seasons 3 and 4 of The Wire in the recurring role of the Deacon, a community pillar in West Baltimore who is closely involved in Cutty's and Colvin's storylines.
    • Donnie Andrews, a criminal whose real-life exploits inspired much of Omar Little's character, and who worked as a consultant for The Wire, got to appear in seasons 4 and 5 as one of Blind Butchie's musclemen.
  • Supergirl (2015): Nia Nal turns out to be transgender, just like her actress Nicole Maines. The casting was planned this way to begin with, in setting up the first transgender superhero.
  • WandaVision: Episode 5, "On a Very Special Episode...", takes a lot of visual inspiration from Full House. Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda) is the younger sister of the twins who played Michelle Tanner.
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier sees the United States government appoint US Army captain John Walker as the new Captain America. Walker is played by Wyatt Russell, who screen-tested for Steve Rogers during casting for Captain America: The First Avenger but got passed over in favor of Chris Evans.
  • Gunpowder stars Kit Harington as his matrilineal ancestor Robert Catesby.

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):


Smallville- Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve (playing Dr. Virgil Swann) reveals to the new Clark Kent his true identity, as the classic Superman leitmotif plays in the background.

How well does it match the trope?

4.94 (35 votes)

Example of:

Main / MetaCasting

Media sources: