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Spoiled by the Cast List

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Cast lists are used to give credit to the professionals and creators responsible for the production. In an ongoing work, audiences can draw a connection between characters and their actors, which can reveal a Plot Twist when the cast list is shown. This is frequently related to the unexpected return of characters from an earlier era of the work, but can be related to Two Aliases, One Character and many other surprises as well.

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Note that both opening credits and ending credits apply for this trope. Cast lists from outside sources like IMDb contribute to the spoiler effect, revealing Plot Twists to people not watching the work, and are why this concept is marked as a Trivia item. The actor may be a complete unknown outside of the work, because it is the presence/absence of their name that communicates a spoiler to the audience.

The single character version of this is the Walking Spoiler. See also Chronically Killed Actor (we know a character will die because the actor always plays dead characters), Contractual Immortality (we know an actor's character survives because of the contracts the actor signed), Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize (the character has to be important because the actor is well-known), and Typecasting/Meta Casting (actors are known by their roles, and the work plays with those known roles).

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Warning: because of the nature of this trope, spoilers below are unmarked.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Films — Animation 
  • Finding Dory: The names of several characters from Finding Nemo appear in the credits before the characters make their only appearance in The Stinger.
  • A non-cast example happens in Ralph Breaks the Internet, where the credits list Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" as one of the songs heard in the movie, spoiling The Stinger which tricks the audience into thinking that a video of Ralph covering the song is the Frozen II trailer.
  • The Apple TV listing for Steven Universe: The Movie, put up over a week before the movie's premiere, credited Ted Leo as voicing a character named "Steg". To people familiar with the series, it was a pretty obvious sign that Steven and Greg would fuse together.
  • The teaser poster for Teen Titans Go! To the Movies lists Will Arnett and Kristen Bell's names next to each other, spoiling the fact that Slade is Jade.
  • The closing credits of Winnie the Pooh (2011) credit Huell Howser as the Backson, spoiling The Stinger in which it is revealed that he isn't just a figment of the 100 Acre Wood gang's imagination.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 9 to 5, the opening credits boldly list (featuring?) Sterling Hayden as Chairman of the Board. Early in the movie, someone comments that they've never met the CEO in the 10+ years they've worked there. But the viewer is now certain that he will appear, which kind of spoils an important plot point.
  • The IMDB credits for Justice League (2017) spoiled the fact that Superman's death in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice wasn't gonna stick.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • The film version of Watchmen ran into this problem with the character of Rorschach, played by Jackie Earle Haley. In the original Watchmen comic, Rorschach remained masked and glimpses of his face were hidden for most of the story, as even his hero friends didn't know his civilian identity. Throughout the comic there was this red-headed man who appeared homeless and holding a sign reading "The End Is Nigh" and could be seen in the background of a number of other scenes, and even has an exchange with a recurring newspaper vendor. It is intended to be a big surprise when Rorshach is unmasked and revealed to effectively be a Recurring Extra, with his real name Walter Kovacs. This works fantastically in comic form because they are not played by recognizable actors, but as such in the movie anyone in the audience who knows Haley would question why he is walking around with a sign.

    Literature 
  • Warrior Cats features a Dramatis Personae called the "Allegiances" at the start of every book, listing every character and which group they're in. Occasionally the list reveals warrior names, births, and retirements long before they happen in the actual book, or the existence of character in the list spoils a plot point: for instance, SkyClan being listed in Ravenpaw's Farewell spoiled that Ravenpaw was going to learn about and travel to the long-lost Clan.
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    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5 suffered this in the episode "A Tragedy of Telepaths", in which the appearance of Caitlin Brown's name in the opening credits spoiled the episode's revelation that her believed-dead-for-two-seasons character Na'Toth was still alive.
  • Charmed has one the other way around in "Sand Franscisco Dreamin'". Phoebe is having nightmares about being chased by a masked attacker with a chainsaw. She suspects it's Cole but the fact that Julian McMahon isn't in the credits spoils that it's not.
  • Doctor Who:
  • Game of Thrones put Joe Dempsie in the opening credits in one Season 7 episode, spoiling that character's surprise return.
  • In Legends of Tomorrow season 2, Leonard Snart had already met his demise in the penultimate episode of the previous season. So his actor's name, Wentworth Miller appearing at the start of the episode ruined the twist of his surprise return.
  • Poirot has it with the IMDB page for "After the Funeral". They do try to hide it (a prominent character is not listed on the first page, though it only makes the viewer more suspicious) but if you go to the "Full Cast and Crew" section, you find out that the same actress plays Miss Gilchrist and Cora (actually, Miss Gilchrist impersonating her).
  • In the Power Rangers universe, particularly Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, if a new student begins showing up regularly, it's a safe bet that a cast member is being replaced. Which one? Easy to tell. Look at the clothes the new student is wearing, and match the color. They'll also be listed in the closing credits of the episode.
  • Season 4 of Stargate Atlantis begins with Dr. Weir critically injured in a hospital bed. While her story takes a few twists and turns over the first few episodes of the season, the fact that Torri Higginson disappears from the credits and is replaced with Amanda Tapping as Samantha Carter makes for a few foregone conclusions.
  • Played with (Zig-Zagged and de/re-constructed) in Supergirl (2015). Laura Benanti as Kara's mother, Alura Zor-El, is credited in episodes after the Pilot in which she sends Kal-El and Kara to Earth from dying Krypton, which sets up viewers to think that there's going to be a surprise resurrection. Benanti, it's later discovered, also plays Alura's Evil Twin Astra, who survived on Fort Rozz. However, Alura does make later appearances, but these are as a duplicate consciousness retrieved from the Krypton pods and Fortress of Solitude.
  • Supernatural fans memorize the actor names for recurring characters, so when they watch the opening credits and see a familiar name, they already know that the associated character will be showing up later in the episode.

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

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • Cartoon Network often uses a form of Credits Pushback where episode-specific credits are replaced with credits that cover the entire series's voice cast. For ongoing series, this can reveal the existence of a character long before they were meant to be revealed.
  • Parodied in an episode of Family Guy that depicts an episode of Law & Order. As he characters ask themselves who the murderer could be, the credits on the bottom of the screen read "Special Guest Star: Jimmy Smits", and the characters turn toward the viewer and point down at the credit.
  • The Marvel's Spider-Man 4 parter "Bring on the Bad Guys" has an unnamed character voiced by Scott Menville, who sends a bounty after Spider-Man. The two episodes after that reveal that he's actually Doctor Octopus/The Living Brain, which isn't surprising since that's the only major character he voices in the series.
  • Steven Universe:
    • As noted above, the show has been occasionally affected by Cartoon Network's Credits Pushback, which occasionally reveals the names of characters not yet seen. In the case of Malachite, however, she was credited as being voiced by Kimberly Brooks and Jennifer Paz, who usually voice Jasper and Lapis Lazuli, respectively, which hinted that she was an unstable fusion of the two long before her debut.
    • "Bismuth" tried to make it look like the title character would become a member of the main cast, with both the promo and eyecatches indicating this. However, Uzo Aduba being credited as a guest star in an article announcing the episode gave the game away.
    • The list of songs in the soundtrack of Steven Universe: The Movie credited the voices of the characters that were featured in the song, giving away the existence of a character named Steg. The spoiler is obvious to anyone who watched the original series.

Aversions:

    Films — Animation 
  • Big Hero 6: The post-credits scene with Stan Lee as Fred's dad is followed by the appropriate credit.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: The cast of The Stinger was credited under the generic roles of "interesting persons" and the "last dude". Their characters are anything but generic background extras.
  • Steven Universe: The Movie: Although (as detailed in the above section) external cast lists gave it away anyway, the cast list for the opening of the actual movie doesn't list characters for any voices, preserving the surprise that would be given away by the name of Ted Leo's character as well as the name of the main villain (which the advertising was careful to keep hidden).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Jack Palance played Curly in City Slickers, but Curly died. In the sequel, Jack returns as the twin brother.
  • Curse of Chucky doesn't credit Alex Vincent until after the stinger in which he appears.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy features a surprise cameo appearance in The Stinger by Howard the Duck. To avoid giving away the surprise for any members of the audience who were actually reading the credits while waiting for the Stinger, the credits for Howard the Duck's creator were held off until Howard was onscreen while his voice actor opted to go uncredited (it's Seth Green).
  • Kevin Spacey requested that he not be included in the opening credits to Se7en, because his character does not appear until two-thirds of the way into the film and he wanted his appearance to be a surprise to the audience (also averting Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize in the process). He is listed first in the end credits to the film.
  • For the 1972 film adaptation of the play Sleuth, in which a character with a large amount of screen time is revealed to be one of the other characters in disguise, the opening titles include a decoy credit attributing that character to a non-existent actor.
  • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock featured Leonard Nimoy in the opening credits as a director (not an actor) because his character (Spock) had died in the previous film.
  • Star Wars: The Phantom Menace averted the It Was His Sled spoiler of who Darth Sidious is by not putting that name in the closing credits. The actor still received credit because he played both roles of the Two Aliases, One Character.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel deliberately withheld Juliet Landau's "Special Guest Star" credit to the closing credits to prevent a spoiler where her character Drusilla appeared to turn Darla back into a Vampire in the final scene of an episode.
    • The same thing happened in the second season premiere with Eliza Dushku who was only credited during the closing credits so Faith's appearance in the final scene would remain a surprise.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tara's actress (Amber Benson) was finally Promoted to Opening Credits in the episode "Seeing Red", solely in order to increase the shock to the audience when she was killed off in it. Joss Whedon had wanted to do the same thing for the character Jesse in the two-part premiere, but it didn't happen because of budget issues.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In an early one-off example, the first episode credits and the Radio Times cast lists for both episodes of 1960s story "The Rescue" credited a fictitious actor, "Sidney Wilson" (a Shout-Out to two BBC executives), as playing the villain Koquillion. This was, as usual, to avoid hinting at the story's big plot twist, that Koquillion was another character in disguise, although in this case not a returning one.
    • During the period when John Nathan-Turner was showrunner in the Eighties, there were several occasions when the surprise reappearance of an old villain was disguised by crediting the actor under an anagrammatic alias.
      • In episode three of "Castrovalva", the Portreeve is credited as played by "Neil Toynay" to disguise the fact that he's the Master (played by Tony Ainley) in disguise. Likewise, in episode one of "Time-Flight", Khalid is credited as played by "Leon Ny Taiy"; it's Tony Ainley again. A lot of fans were not fooled, arguably playing this trope straight.
      • "Time-Flight" also has a weirder one, intended as an inversion of this trope. It's the story after the companion Adric died, but Nathan-Turner was worried fans would figure that out from the fact that the actor's name appeared in the Radio Times listings for "Earthshock" but not the ones for "Time-Flight", as the magazine contained the listings for the following week's TV schedules on the day it came out. So he arranged a small illusory cameo for the character in "Time-Flight" for the sole purpose of ensuring the actor's name was included in the listings for the story. The scene is completely superfluous to the plot and exists solely so Waterhouse could be credited as playing Adric in the Radio Times cast list for "Time-Flight" and avoid tipping readers off early.
      • The character of Sir Gilles Estram in "The King's Demons" was credited in advance publicity as played by "James Stoker" (an anagram of "Master's Joke"), but the actual episodes credit Tony Ainley normally because the reveal that he's the Master in disguise occurs at the end of episode one.
      • In episode three of "Remembrance of the Daleks", the Dalek Emperor is credited as played by "Roy Tromelly"; episode four revealed that he was none other than Davros, played by Terry Molloy.
    • The advance cast list for "Resolution" did not even mention Nicholas Briggs, to avoid revealing the presence of the Dalek. However, the character's distinctive voice was heard in the final trailer for the episode, released a week before broadcast.
    • Series 12 took this to obsessive extremes, even when there would have been alternate means of spoiler avoidance.
      • "Spyfall": Sacha Dhawan was given the Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer treatment to the degree of not being mentioned in the cast lists for either half of the two-part story. Combined with his absence in the trailers and other promotional media, his appearance and the fact that his character is actually the latest incarnation of the Master came as a total surprise.
      • "Fugitive of the Judoon" left John Barrowman off the cast list to conceal Jack Harkness' surprise return.
      • "The Haunting of Villa Diodati" left Patrick O'Kane as Ashad the Cyberman off the advance cast list, even though the spoiler could have been avoided as in this sentence by only using his name, as the character had never previously appeared.
  • When House had a group of 30+ doctors following around Dr. House, the permanent characters were not listed in the opening credits of Season 4 episodes.
  • Stargate Atlantis had a famous instance where the credit for Torri Higginson, who made a surprise return in the final moments of an episode, was removed to the end. However, instead of saying "Special Guest Star" or anything it was just a caption with her name, positioned after the episode and before the usual end credits, to emphasize the fact that her credit really belonged up at the front of the story.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Some episodes noticeably omitted guest star Salome Jens (the antagonistic, shapeshifting Female Changeling) from the opening credits, because her appearance in those episodes would have spoiled the plot. As a trade-off, her name was prominently displayed first in the closing credits, before the main cast credits.
  • Star Trek: Discovery: Unsuccessfully attempted. The Klingon character Voq subsequently infiltrates the Discovery crew as a human named Ash Tyler, with both "characters" played by the same actor, Shazad Latif. In the early episodes of the series, Voq was credited on-screen and in media cast lists as being played by a fictitious actor, "Javid Iqbal". Unfortunately, it didn't take long for Internet-savvy fans to notice that "Iqbal" had no other film or TV credits and no other internet or social media footprint, leading almost all of them to guess the twist. After the on-screen twist reveal, Latif confirmed that "Javid Iqbal" had been his father's name.
  • Twin Peaks removed Piper Laurie's name from the second season's credits after her character Catherine Martell's apparent death in the first season finale, and credited the fictitious "Fumio Yamaguchi" as playing Japanese businessman Mr. Tojamura... who is Catherine Martell in disguise. In episodes after the revelation the real credit was returned.

    Theatre 

In General:

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

By Work:

  • In one of several plays called The Butler Did It there is no butler character, but a butler is listed in the cast in order to not spoil the reveal that the maid did it.
  • In the play Sherlocks Last Case there are two actors listed in the cast list and have bios, neither of which are in the actual play, in order to avoid certain spoilers.

    Video Games 
  • In the first Blazblue game, the Arcade mode credits has the voice actors' names for Hakumen and Nu being put as question marks. Only after beating Story Mode are their seiyuus revealed: the same as Jin's and Noel's.
  • The trailer of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow mentions the voice actors and their character's name, save for one: Jason Isaacs, who plays The Man Behind the Man, Satan.
  • The Greater-Scope Villain of Persona 5 is credited as "Warden", obfuscating the character's identity and the fact that he has disguised himself as another character for the entire game until his jig's up at the endgame.
  • The credits in the Super Smash Bros. series of games will often obscure the identity of its secret characters by either representing the character as question marks or removing the credit for the associated person entirely until the character is unlocked.

    Western Animation 

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