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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 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 Deathstroke (Arnett) is disguised as Jade Wilson (Bell).
  • 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 opening credits of Muppet Treasure Island already inform the audience of which role each major Muppet will be playing, which kind of ruins the joke of Mr. Arrow painting Captain Smollett as a fearsome and terrible individual before his arrival. Thanks to the opening credits we already know it's Kermit, and thus neither fearsome nor the human character that steps out of the carriage first.
  • 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.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, David Boreanaz appears in the credits of the third season before Angel's resurection at the end of the third episode. Granted, Angel being the star of his own show makes it a bit a case of It Was His Sled.
  • 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.
  • Cheers: Bebe Neuwirth returned to the cast in Season 11 episode "Is There a Doctor in the Howe?, nine episodes after Lilith was seemingly written out of the show in "Teaching with the Enemy". This was spoiled by the opening credits, where Neuwirth's name appeared again for the first time since she left the show.
  • CSI NY suffered this during the crossover with original CSI. Fans felt there was little suspense about Mac’s kidnapped girlfriend since she was in the cast list for the following week’s episode.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The cast list for "The Bells of Saint John" was revealed before the episode aired, listing Richard E. Grant as "The Great Intelligence", after he had previously been "destroyed" in the episode beforehand, which ruined The Reveal of his survival at the end of the episode.
    • "World Enough and Time": Fans quickly noticed that creepy orderly "Razor" didn't have a Radio Times credit, while John Simm's Master, who showed no sign of appearing despite the heavy publicity about his return, did. In a Doctor Who Magazine interview Steven Moffat said they could have made up an actor whose name was an anagram of "John Simm" as John Nathan-Turner had done in the Eighties (see aversions below), but the fans would immediately have looked him up on IMDb and not found anything.
    • "The Timeless Children" played with it: the advance cast list included "Barack Stemis" as "Fakout". Fans quickly noticed that the name was an anagram of "Master Is Back", and, while it turned out to herald the return of the character fans suspected, not a surprise given the circumstances of the character's last appearance, it obfuscated that the Master returned early as the cliffhanger of the previous episode, "Ascension of the Cybermen".
  • Game of Thrones put Joe Dempsie in the opening credits in one Season 7 episode, spoiling that character's surprise return.
  • The Mandalorian rumors of Boba Fett appearing in Season 2 received a premature confirmation when Showcast added the series and Boba's name to Temuera Morrison's CV, over a month before the season premiere dropped.
  • 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.

    Podcasts 
  • In the season 1 finale of The Magnus Archives, Sasha's voice sounds different after she comes out of Artifact Storage, but it's easy to overlook or chalk up to sound editing (which the series has played with before). Until you look at the cast list in the episode's ending credits and realize that Sasha's original actress is absent and a completely different actress is credited as "Not-Sasha", revealing that Sasha has been killed and replaced by one of the Not-Them.

    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 
  • April Ryan was seemingly killed in the ending of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, but it was already announced that her voice actress returns to work for Dreamfall Chapters "in some capacity".
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • The credits of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep lists Richard Epcar as Terra-Xehanort and Haley Joel Osment as Vanitas. The former character reveals the big twist at the end of Terra's story, while the latter heavily implies what Vanitas really is (only revealed at the end of Ven's story). This is particularly annoying because the game has three storylines and the same credits play for all three, so no matter what order you play the stories in you'll spoil something.
    • Kingdom Hearts III casually credits a group of pre-established characters who had yet to be accounted for in the game's plot and their voice actors before they make their only appearance in The Stinger. Furthermore, a certain character from that group is suspiciously absent from the credits and surely enough, one of the plot points raised in the scene that follows is that that character has gone missing.
  • An episode of the Japanese Hidechan Radio podcast featured several voice actors from Metal Gear Solid 3 that were returning for Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, including Naoki Tatsuta, whose character (Dr. Sokolov) was supposedly killed off by Volgin.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2 presents itself as a Non-Linear Sequel, but looking up the cast list and seeing Adam Howden or Shintaro Asanuma will clue anyone with knowledge of the first game in that it's a Stealth Sequel.
  • Before all of the DLC characters were added in, Puyo Puyo Tetris 2's closing credits listed all of the voice actors, albeit only the Japanese voice cast, which were more than the launch roster required. While the characters themselves aren't listed, fans who are familiar with the series' vocal cast could easily match up the extra voice actors with characters who were not included in the base game.

    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. How this is a spoiler is obvious to anyone who watched the original series.
  • During the airing of the first four episodes of the final season of Adventure Time, Cartoon Network accidentally listed every character that appears in the remaining episodes of the season (excluding the finale). This, however, ended up spoiling the return of Fern, Magic Betty, Normal Man and Warren Ampersand the Shapeshifter, with all four of them having major roles in the last episodes.

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. Furthermore, the source of the archive footage that said scene builds its joke on was used for a few seconds in the film's opening scene so that no one would question its listing in the credits.
  • 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 

    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 given a Promotion to Opening Titles late into the sixth season, in the episode "Seeing Red", solely in order to increase the shock to the audience when she was killed off in that same episode. 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 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 the actor and character could be credited as normal 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.
    • Chris Chibnall's run as showrunner took this to obsessive extremes, even when there would have been alternate means of spoiler avoidance.
      • 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.
      • "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, making his appearance as a new incarnation of the Master a total surprise.
      • "Fugitive of the Judoon" left John Barrowman off the cast list to conceal a surprise reappearance.
      • "The Haunting of Villa Diodati" left Patrick O'Kane as Ashad off the advance cast list, even though the spoiler could have been avoided by only using his first name in the credits like in this sentence instead of his full name as the character had never previously appeared and the spoiler is his Species Surname.
  • 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.
  • Inside No. 9: In this anthology series, the cast list for the episode "Death Be Not Proud" does not list the names of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith's roles and omits Sarah Solemani and David Bamber to conceal that it is a Stealth Fully Absorbed Finale to Psychoville.
  • Power Rangers: Beast Morphers: Done throughout the show's entire run to obfuscate a series-long Significant Double Casting and lampshaded after The Reveal. The Big Bad Evox, a computer virus, is voiced by "Randall Ewing". Not only does "Ewing" have no prior acting credits, but astute Power Rangers fans noticed that "Randall Ewing" is an anagram with an additional L of Andrew Laing, the voice actor of Power Rangers RPM's main villain Venjix, also a computer virus. In the two-part finale, Evox reveals his true nature as a new version of the Venjix virus and his voice shifts to Venjix's after he reaches full power; his voice actor is subsequently credited as "Andrew Laing as Randall Ewing" for the first half and just Laing for the second.
  • 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 name would have tipped viewers off to the presence of an infiltrator in 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 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.
  • Fire Emblem Heroes: The voice actors for the Death Knight and the Flame Emperor from Fire Emblem: Three Houses are credited as "???" because their identity beneath their mask are crucial spoilers to that game. On the other hand, Three Houses itself doesn't try to hide spoilers in its credits.
  • 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 Super Smash Bros. 64 and Super Smash Bros. Melee 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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