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  • Midsomer Murders:
    • After just a few episodes, guest stars started reappearing very frequently; sometimes with several previous actors showing up in one episode. A prime example would be "They Seek Him Here", which had no less than SIX guests that had already been on the show.
    • A particularly impressive one is Tom Barnaby's replacement and cousin John Barnaby, whose actor had already appeared as a murder suspect (and general sleazebag who tried to hit on Barnaby's wife).
  • Our Miss Brooks:
    • Character actor Frank Nelson appears in several different roles over the course of the series:
      • He plays a crooked lawyer in "Hospital Follies"
      • He plays Mr. Fischer in "Fischer's Pawnshop"
      • His voice is heard in "Vitamin E-4" as a fraudulent professor
      • On at least one occasion on the radio, "The Tape Recorder," Nelson is the voice of the head of the school board, Mr. Stone.
      • On multiple radio episodes, Nelson provides the voice of Jason Brill, principal of rival Clay City High School.
      • Nelson voices a hairdresser on the radio episode "The Hair-Do"
      • Nelson voices a photographer in the radio episode "Photo Feud."
    • Mary Ann Croft voices the reporter in "The Model School Teacher" before taking the role of rival English teacher Daisy Enright on radio and television.
    • Joseph Kearns plays a conservative school board official in "Lulu the Pinup Boat" before assuming the role of Mr. Stone in subsequent episodes and the cinematic series finale.
  • Game of Thrones: Dean-Charles Chapman played Martyn Lannister, one of the prisoners murdered by the Karstarks, in Season 3. In Season 4, he plays King Tommen Baratheon.
    • Ian Whyte. He basically play every tall imposing guy there including Gregor Clegane which was forgettable between the other two actors playing him.
  • The Brady Bunch: Chris Beaumont – not a particularly well-known actor but still – played four different teen-agers throughout the series' five-year run, one each season. In 1971's "Our Son, the Man" (framed around freshman Greg trying to fit in at Westdale High School), Chris plays a high school senior Greg tries to emulate. Later that year, as Season 3 dawned, Chris plays Greg's fast-talking friend, Eddie in "The Wheeler Dealer." The end of Season 4 brought "A Room at the Top," where Chris was now "Hank," a college sophomore who tries to talk Greg into moving into his own apartment to get away from his younger brothers. Then in Season 5 came his appearance as Jerry Rogers, the cheating quarterback of rival Clinton High in "Quarterback Sneak"; this role was perhaps his best-received of his four appearances, but certainly his most prominent.
  • Supernatural
    • Tyler Johnston appeared as the teenager who Sam and Dean talk to in the Season 1 episode "Bugs" before reappearing in a recurring role as Samandriel in Season 8.
    • Voice Actor Andrew Francis appeared on a couple episodes: the first was in as an actor working on a film where its crew was being murdered by a vengeful spirit, and the second was years later as an unlucky guy who gets targeted by a Japanese spirit.
    • In a mid-season 9 episode Britt Irvin plays the angel Muriel. She appeared way back in the first season episode "Hell House" playing a student being questioned by Sam and Dean.
  • Highlander: The Series commonly re-used guest actors in different roles. In Highlander fandom, this was known as the '42 actors in all of Canada' rule for the show's tendency to recycle some actors 3-4 times in different roles on the show.
    • Fight choreographer Anthony de Longis played two different villainous roles (in keeping with the series premise, both characters were beheaded by the protagonist).
    • Jeremy Brudenell played an insane immortal killed by MacLeod during the second season... then came back two seasons (and a haircut) later to play one of MacLeod's best friends.
  • In Wizards of Waverly Place, Amanda Tepe has played a worker at the Gurt Barn, a museum security guard, a hot dog vendor, and even a worker in the Wizard World.
  • Baywatch
    • Richard Jaeckel played Mitch's mentor who died at the end of the Pilot Movie, and then joined the main cast in Season 2 as veteran lifeguard Ben Edwards.
    • Comedian Jeff Altman appeared as no less than five different characters during the show's run.
    • Buzz Belmondo played the recurring character Guido in Season 3, but prior to that, he'd appeared in two other episodes as a huckster named Eduardo and a chef named Vito, respectively.
    • Daniel Quinn played Eddie's vengeful former friend Jimmy in "Second Wave" from Season 1, and disabled former lifeguard Eric in "The Trophy" from Season 2.
    • Heinz Altieri portrayed background lifeguard Heinz in twelve episodes of Season 2, and later played one of the hijackers in the two-part Season 3 episode "Vacation."
    • Michelle Williams played Bridget in "Race Against Time" and one of Hobie's groupies in the Imagine Spot in "Second Time Around."
    • Jeff Lester played Cort's old buddy Lance in a Season 1 episode and Mitch's old buddy Lane in a Season 2 episode.
    • Blake Gibbons played Eddie's schizophrenic brother Bobby in the Season 2 episode "Shark's Cove," and then recurred in Season 5 as Stephanie's boyfriend Riley.
    • Lou Rawls played Garner's informant Ozzie in "Lifeguards Can't Jump," and later played a major role in the first season of the Spin-Off Baywatch Nights as nightclub owner Lou Raymond.
    • Angela Visser played a Dutch housekeeper with a crush on Mitch in "Island of Adventure" and a Dutch woman who became utterly devoted to Matt after he saved her life in "Someone to Baywatch Over You."
  • Also popular in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, due to the limited number of actors available for shooting Down Under.
    • Before her regular role as Gabrielle, Renee O'Connor appears (not as Gabrielle) in Hercules and The Lost Kingdom, one of the TV movies that started the franchise. This last is particularly amusing as one shot of Renee O'Connor from that movie was used in the intro for Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (Kevin Sorbo is covering her with his body as they're both being swallowed by a monster, so it's not very noticeable). This could also be argued as a The Other Darrin since Renee O'Connor plays a blonde love interest for Hercules named Deianeira, and his wife in the later series is shown to be a blonde woman named Deianeira.
    • Lucy Lawless also played two parts in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys before being cast as Xena. Lampshaded in an episode where several characters remarked how much the second character played by Lucy Lawless looked like Xena, before being hushed and told 'we don't talk about that'. And then they took this and ran with it. Several other episodes featured Lucy Lawless playing multiple characters in the same episode...it got to a point where three different characters appeared, with a fourth referenced!
    • Marton Csoskas played Borias, Belach (Borias' son), and Khrafstar.
    • Iphicles and Ares were both played by Kevin Smith (not that one); they're not related to each other but they're both Hercules's half-brothers! (Iphicles is the son of Alcmene and her husband; Ares is the son of Zeus and Hera.)
    • In the Spin-Off Prequel series Young Hercules, Kevin Smith (in addition to Ares) portrays the god Bacchus and a mortal lookalike to Ares named Timor.
    • Ted Raimi playing the triplets Joxer, Jett and Jace.
    • Karl Urban was in the episode "Altared States" before being cast in the recurring role of Julius Caesar, another recurring role as Cupid, and another one-off role in the late series episode "Lifeblood", which was a reuse of an unsold Pilot Episode.
    • Also in "Lifeblood" were Danielle Cormack, who played Ephiny, & Claudia Black, who was Cassandra in two Hercules episodes.
    • Robert Trebor played the escaped slave Waylon in the second Hercules Made-for-TV Movie, then returned to the series as Salmoneus the anything-for-a-buck salesman who appeared on Hercules more often than any other recurring character and thrice on Xena.
    • Michael Hurst played Hercules' best buddy Iolaus, Charon (under heavy makeup), Widow Twanky, and over ten other characters.
    • Lisa Chappell played Lydia of Thrace, Dirce, and Melissa. As an inside joke, when Dirce and Melissa met face to face in the episode "Hercules On Trial", Dirce commented that Melissa was "uncommonly beautiful".
  • Francesca Buller (series lead Ben Browder's wife) played a different character in each of the four seasons of Farscape, with her fourth-season role reappearing in the Wrap It Up The Peacekeeper Wars. Since all of them involved significant effort from the prosthetics department, this is not readily apparent.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer / Angel:
    • Jonathan M. Woodward first played a vampire named Holden in Buffy. He was killed at the end of his single episode. Shortly thereafter, the actor turned up on the spinoff Angel as Knox, and stuck around for seven episodes. He became a "hat trick" (an actor appearing in all three of Joss Whedon's shows) with his guest star appearance as Tracey on Firefly.
    • Woodward is actually one of four Joss Whedon hat-trick actors - Andy Umberger had both a recurring role as D'Hoffryn on Buffy, and an early one-shot villain role on Angel in "I Fall To Pieces" (with a small role as an Alliance Captain in Firefly), Carlos Jacott played villain Ken on Buffy and hilarious villain Richard on Angel (before playing an important villain role in the Firefly pilot), and Jeff Ricketts played both the character Weatherby in Buffy and Angel in a crossover arc, and a spider monster in Angel (along with one of Firefly's memorable Blue Gloves).
    • Camden Toy also appeared in both Buffy and Angel. He played one of the Gentlemen ("Hush"), Gnarl ("Same Time Same Place"), one of the Turok-Han (in the last few episodes), and the Prince of Lies ("Why We Fight").
    • A well-known example from Buffy is Kali Rocha, who first appeared on the show in a minor role in a flashback, playing Cecily, Spike's hopeless crush from his time as a human. Later on she was re-hired in a completely different role as Halfrek, Anya's fellow vengeance demon. Keen-eyed fans, of course, immediately spotted that they were the same actor, and a lot of Fanon built up over how Cecily could have become Halfrek in the intervening century — so much so that Joss Whedon finally decided to acknowledge it and establish Cecily = Halfrek as canon. (Halfrek finally encounters Spike in person, and it becomes obvious that the two of them know each other and have a history, with Halfrek addressing Spike by his original name, "William".) Since this was a retcon due to fans noticing Kali Rocha playing dual roles rather than planned continuity, Cecily = Halfrek created some issues with timing — Halfrek's offhand references to her own age establish her as having been a demon long before the time period when William met Cecily. A non-canon comic, Spike: Old Times, reinterprets the flashback episode from Cecily's perspective, revealing that she was already a demon at that time and "Cecily" was a long-term undercover identity.
    • Jeff Kober played the psycho vamp Kralik in the third season episode "Helpless", and later played Rack, the magic pusher who hooked Willow on dark magic during Season Six.
    • Brian Thompson played the vampire Luke in the first two episodes, then showed up again in Season 2 as The Judge.
    • Kal Penn of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and House fame appeared in Buffy as one of the obnoxious students in the much-maligned "Beer Bad" then in Angel as a psychic with an exposed brain.
    • Carlos Jacott (who is also known for his role as Lawrence Dobson in the first two episodes of Firefly) appeared as the demon Ken in the Buffy Season 3 opener, "Anne", and later appeared as another demon, Richard, in the Angel Season 1 episode "Bachelor Party".
    • Spice Williams plays the police instructor on Buffy who tries to murder Buffy, Patrice, in "What's My Line?" She also appeared in "The Zeppo" as a member of the Sisterhood of Jhe, and later turned up on Angel as a convict hired to kill Faith in prison. All three roles involved more fighting than dialogue.
  • Tia Carrere makes two appearances in MacGyver. She first appears as a loving big sister to a boy in trouble, then a season later she reappears and assassinates some poor chap. It is only by watching the rest of the episode the viewer can deduce that the two characters are not supposed to be the same.
  • On CHiPs, Ponch & Jon had to rescue "Cousin Oliver" quite often, once as Jeff, once as Brian, once as Russell.
  • Dragnet, the 1950s-1970s Police Procedural, routinely had actors and actresses play multiple non-recurring roles during the series.
    • In one of the movies, a man is a rapist and serial killer, who ends up becoming a police chemist in the series.
    • Virgina Gregg, one of Jack Webb's friends, was routinely cast in many episodes as a typical woman victim of crime, or in some cases, as the perpetrator.
  • Martin Milner appeared as a high school drug user in the '50s version of Dragnet, then in the color '60s version, he frequently appeared as his Adam-12 character Pete Malloy. Ditto with Kent McCord, who appeared first as a cop accused in robbing a liquor store in a case of mistaken identity, and occasionally as a nameless uniform cop, then later as his Adam-12 character Officer Reed. William Boyett was in several Dragnet eps as police characters before playing Sgt. Macdonald on Adam-12.
  • Stargate-verse is a prime example of this trope, thanks to the relatively small Vancouver acting pool.
    • Garwin Sanford played Narim, Carter's Tollan love interest, in Stargate SG-1 before being cast in Stargate Atlantis as Dr. Weir's husband Simon.
    • Richard de Klerk first showed up in "One False Step" as one of the aliens on PJ 2-445. Then, three seasons later, he appears in a much more human guise in "Rite Of Passage", playing Dominic, Cassandra's high-school boyfriend.
    • Anne Marie DeLuise (wife of Peter DeLuise who directed and cameoed in several episodes, but then SG-1 sometimes resembles the DeLuise family reunion) as Amy Vandenberg in "Bounty" and Farrell in "The Other Side".
    • Tiffany Lyndall-Knight played a princess of a tribal culture in the season 2 episode "Touchstone" and a completely unrelated alien woman in season 7 episode "Revisions".
    • Christopher Heyerdahl played the Wraith Todd and the leader of the Athosian on Atlantis. On SG-1, he played role as a human on a planet controlled by a computer.
    • Courtenay J. Stevens plays Lieutenat Elliot in a couple of SG-1 episodes and Leader of a planet of children in Atlantis.
    • James Lafazanos and Andee Frizzell play most of the unmasked wraiths (the males and the queens respectively)
    • Robin Mossley played both the alien scientist who created the "Groundhog Day" Loop in Window of Opportunity and a medical doctor who works for the SGC in Morpheus.
    • The potential awkwardness of Robert Duncan playing Dr. Daniel Jackson's long-dead father Melburn in The Gamekeeper, then returning the following season's Seth as the host of the eponymous Goa'uld. Perhaps there is a reason that Daniel looks a bit subdued in the latter episode?
    • Mike Dopud plays no less than three characters (Russian colonel, alien bounty hunter, runner from the Wraith) in SG-1 and Atlantis before being cast as a semi-regular (different) character in Stargate Universe. As a matter of fact, two of his characters (Odai Ventrell and Varro) are supposed to work for the same organization, yet no one on the show bothers to point this out.
    • David Hewlett almost became this, but ended up averting it at the last minute. When Atlantis was starting up, Hewlett (who had already played the role of Rodney McKay in several episodes of SG-1) auditioned for the part of one of the new characters and won the role. Before filming started though, he told the producers "why not just bring Rodney McKay back? He's already part of the Stargate program". The producers agreed.
    • Connor Trinneer played the human-Wraith hybrid Michael in Atlantis before joining the cast of Stargate Origins as Professor Paul Langford, Catherine's father, who originally discovered the Stargate.
  • In Season 1 Episode 5 of Lois & Clark, a nebbish scientist played by Leslie Jordan who created an invisibility suit was used as a one-shot character. The same actor appeared as Resplendant Man in Season 2 Episode 8, changing absolutely none of his mannerisms.
  • Taggart, not surprisingly for a series that has lasted over 25 years, constantly features this trope. A particular blatant example is Colin McCredie who played three different characters in three consecutive episodes, the last one being a recurring character.
  • Smallville:
    • In the earlier seasons, Jor-El was played by Terence Stamp, who had played the villainous General Zod in Superman II, leading to no end of Epileptic Trees theories by the fans.
    • Not a straight example, but the twin brother of the actor that plays Jimmy Olsen on later seasons played a Meteor-Freak of the week In season one, one of the many that were Clark's classmates. Nobody seems to notice the uncanny resemblance.
    • Vordigan the Dark Archer from Season 9 was played by Steve Bacic, who previously played the jock-turned-mechanic that was killed by Jeremy in the pilot episode.
  • This is so common in the Law & Order franchise that listing every example would require an entire page of its own.
    • Jerry Orbach, S. Epatha Merkerson, Annie Parisse, and Jeremy Sisto all had bit parts on the show before joining the main cast. In Sisto's case, he played a defense attorney in the Season 17 finale, then debuted at the start of Season 18 — literally the next episode — as Detective Cyrus Lupo.
    • Jennifer Van Dyck has played eight different characters in the franchise over the course of nine episodes. Not surprisingly, she is very good at what she does.
    • Two regulars from the short-lived Conviction went on to have regular roles as different characters in other parts of the franchise: Milena Govich in original-flavor L&O, and Julianne Nicholson in Criminal Intent. Eric Balfour was less fortunate, only getting a one-off role as a suspect on Criminal Intent a few years after Conviction folded.
    • Jim Gaffigan appeared on Law & Order: Criminal Intent as Russell Matthews and Mart Palin, and in original flavor as George Rozakis and Larry Johnson.
    • Gina Torres appeared twice in L&O, first as a witness in the Cold Opening then as another witness questioned in court.
    • Katheryn Winnick appeared twice in Law & Order: Criminal Intent and once in L&O, each time as a different character.
  • Same goes for the CSI franchise. All of them are set in the same reality, still they constantly interchange actors.
    • Seamus Dever was a beguiled architect on CSI: NY, a rich boy who threw his drug-dealing brother overboard on CSI: Miami and an airline executive AND a TV producer who liked having sex with underaged talent-show contestants on CSI. And since Without a Trace and Cold Case are acknowledged to exist in the same world, he also was a junkie in New York and respectively a petty thief in the sixties.
    • Kim Coates does the CSI treble plus bonus Cold Case. He was a former porn star-turned-producer in CSI, a cop in CSI: NY, and the recurring antagonist Ron Saris in CSI: Miami, plus a bomb-maker in Cold Case.
    • Elisabeth Harnois played a Victim of the Week in CSI: Miami in 2006, then dyed her hair blonde and went to Las Vegas to become a CSI tech. And she also had roles on Without a Trace and Cold Case as well.
    • Carmine Giovinazzo, who plays Danny Messer on CSI: NY, appeared as a street racer in Season 3 of the original show.
    • Another CSI: NY regular, Anna Belknap, appeared in a multi-episode story on Without a Trace before being cast as Lindsey Monroe.
  • The Adventures of Superman, owing to its shoestring budget, did this all the time. On any given episode, you could expect the mob-boss of the week to be played by one of about a dozen guys.
  • Dennis Franz played Det. Sal Benedetto, a supporting character in a story arc of the third season of Hill Street Blues. He later came back as a series regular, Lt. Buntz. Interestingly, both characters were depicted as easy going and carefree policemen, but the first one was an outright corrupt cop, while the second one was a very competent and effective officer, even if a bit eccentric.
  • 24:
    • Tony Todd appeared in season 3 as a detective investigating the death of the millionaire extorting President Palmer then he reappears in season 7 as Sangala president Benjamin Juma the only person to successfully lead an attack on the White House.
    • Faran Tahir appeared in season 2 as a friendly mosque greeter, and then in season 4 as a fearsome terrorist.
  • The same actress that played a patient in an episode of Private Practice went on to play the (Completely unrelated) regular role of April Kepner in Grey's Anatomy, the show that spawned the former.
  • Young Blades:
    • Phillip Mitchell plays a Cardinal's guard who gets killed before the opening credits of the first episode. He returns five episodes later... as a Cardinal's guard who gets killed in the series finale by the same person who killed his original character.
    • Andrew McIlroy played a criminal in the second episode and returned in a recurring minor role as a servant starting in the very next episode.
    • Christos Shaw was a guest star in the third episode, then reappeared for a later episode in a different, minor role in a cut scene.
  • Starsky & Hutch did this many times. A few notable examples:
    • Richard Ward played the original Captain Dobey in the pilot episode, and returned in one of the final episodes as Huggy Bear's mentor.
    • Veronica Hamel appeared in a second-season episode as the relative of a victim, and then appeared a season later as Hutch's ex-wife.
    • Kristy McNichol played three separate child characters, and then weirdly inverted the trope; when one of those characters came back for a second appearance, she was played by a different actress.
  • Nana Visitor played two different characters on Matlock. Both times she was guilty.
  • Monk:
    • Tony Shalhoub's real-life wife Brooke Adams appeared in several episodes. For example in season 1 she played an airline stewardess who is driven crazy by Monk's actions and later made a brief cameo in the 100th episode, while in season 5 she played a local sheriff in "Mr. Monk Visits a Farm", which leads to an interesting moment where she and Monk are dancing at the monthly square dance. She was also a kidnapped violinist's mother in "Mr. Monk and the Kid" and a Crazy Cat Lady in "Mr. Monk and the Badge".
    • There were also two Kathryn Joosten appearances: as a hospital nurse in "Mr. Monk and the Sleeping Suspect" and in an interview in "Mr. Monk's 100th Case".
  • A&E's A Nero Wolfe Mystery employs a repertory cast to play non-recurring roles.
  • Mark Sheppard has appeared on two different episodes of CSI as a photographer and a professor, both with ties to the respective victims of the episodes.
  • Mission: Impossible:
    • The show is famous for reusing character actors.
    • Larry Linville (later famous as Major Burns on M*A*S*H) guest starred on Mission: Impossible three separate times, as three different Eastern Bloc official/officers (described as Major Burns without the comedy, though all three were before he was cast as Major Burns).
    • Bill Shatner also appeared twice on Mission: Impossible as different characters.
  • Quantum Leap, due to each episode being set in different times and places, occasionally reused actors in different enough costumes. Dan Butler, Willie Garson, Bruce Mcgill and W.K. Stratton each played two roles in different episodes.
  • The Saint:
    • Canadian actress Suzanne Lloyd played completely unrelated girls of the week in six different episodes — three of them in one year. Justine Lord also played six different love interests, but thanks to a two-parter appeared in seven episodes.
    • Amusingly enough, Lois Maxwell, best known for being the first actress to play Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond films, appeared in two different episodes in the 1967 season, years before she and Roger Moore would work together in said film series.
  • Very notable in the pilot of Robin of Sherwood, in which one of the rival archers Robin faces in the Sheriff's tournament is played by the same actor as Robin's by-this-point-long-dead father.
  • In the Winnetou movie series, the lovely Karin Dorn played the role of Miss Ellen Patterson in the first film of the series, The Treasure of Silver Lake. In Last Of The Renegades, she played Winnetou's Love Interest, The Chief's Daughter Ribanna.
  • Noob due to being a Web Original, has a limited actor pool. When an actor is needed for a new regular character, regular extras is the first place the creator looks. The trope is sometimes averted as some minor roles come with a mandatory hidden face, but have a high chance of concealing a familiar one.
  • This was fairly common in Columbo:
    • Patrick McGoohan appeared in four episodes as four different murderers.
    • William Shatner appeared in two as the murderer.
    • Robert Culp was the murderer in three episodes, and the murderer's father in a fourth.
    • Leslie Nielsen appeared twice, once as a victim and once as the boyfriend of the murderer.
    • Robert Vaughn was a victim in one episode and the murderer in another.
    • Jack Cassidy played the murderer in three different episodes.
    • George Hamilton played the murderer in two episodes.
    • Aside from these major characters, a few actors appeared again and again as incidental characters. Vito Scotti, for instance, often appeared as a colorful comic relief character—the hard-selling mortician in "Swan Song"; the obsequious tailor in "Candidate for Crime"; the wino eyewitness in "Negative Reaction"; the glad-handing lobbyist in "Identity Crisis."
    • Shera Danese made an appearance in the NBC episode "Murder Under Glass"; she later married Peter Falk and appeared in a handful of ABC episodes.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Paul Freeman played Indy's Evil Counterpart Rene Belloq, a corrupt French archaeologist. In the prequel series Young Indiana Jones, Paul Freeman has a guest role in "The Phantom Train of Doom" as Captain Frederick Selous, a historical English army officer and big game hunter who fought in German East Africa in World War I.
  • On The Odd Couple, Richard Stahl guest starred in nine different episodes over the course of the series and never played the same character twice.
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood reused actors all the time. The most frequent was Paul Eddington, who played dozens of different roles over the show's five-year run - and combined this trope with The Other Darrin in 1959, when Will Scarlet (hitherto an occasional guest character played by Ron Howard) was promoted to a regular character played by Eddington.
  • The X-Files:
    • Terry O'Quinn played Lt. Brian Tillman in the season 2 episode "Aubrey", then Special Agent Darius Michaud in the first X-Files movie, and finally a mysterious contact and super soldier in the final season's "Trust No 1". If Crossovers with other Chris Carter shows are considered, there are another two characters walking around with Terry O'Quinn's face: the cast regular Peter Watts from Millennium, and Omar Santiago in Harsh Realm.
    • Chris Owens plays three different characters on the show: a young Cigarette-Smoking Man, Jeffrey Spender, and the Great Mutato. Justified in that the Cigarette-Smoking Man is Jeffrey Spender's father. Also, the Great Mutato is under so much make-up that you can't really tell who's playing him.
    • Nicholas Lea appeared as a minor, one-shot character named Michel in the season 1 episode "Gender Bender", before his recurring role as Alex Krycek beginning in season 2.
    • Before he played Eddie Van Blundht in "Small Potatoes", Darin Morgan made an unrecognisable appearance as the Flukeman in "The Host".
    • "Quagmire" and "War of the Coprophages" both feature a trio of actors playing teenage stoners, though the characters are not the same in both episodes.
    • Larry Musser appeared on the show four times. He was Sheriff John Oakes in "Die Hand die verletzt" (season 2), fans' favourite Detective "bleeping" Manners in "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" (season 3), an ex-marine Denny Markham in "Unrequited" (season 4) and PD Captain Jack Bonsaint in "Chinga" (season 5).
  • JAG:
    • Troian Bellisario played the one shot character Erin Terry in JAG and later Sarah McGee, playing the sister of her real life step-brother Sean Murray, on its spin-off NCIS.
    • Alicia Coppola played Lt. Cmdr. Faith Coleman on both JAG and NCIS, then later guest starred as FBI agent Lisa Rand on NCIS: Los Angeles.
    • Actor John Walcutt once played a defendant Caleb Farmer who was put to death for his crimes, with Mac defending him and Harm prosecuting. Later, he would come back to play Tom Johnson father of the young girl Harm had befriended and seeking to be her legal guardian.
    • Scott Grimes played DiNozzo's old Baltimore P.D. partner (who had been killed) in a 2011 episode of NCIS, only to show up alive as an NCIS agent assigned to a mobile unit in a two-part backdoor pilot in NCIS: Los Angeles
  • Babylon 5:
    • Check the Narn and the Drazi whenever one of them gets a speaking part. There's one guy who appears almost EVERY time, best known as Drazi Green, Narn from "Shattered Dreams" who mocks Londo, amongst others. This actor is Kim Strauss.
    • John Vickery as Neroon the Minbari warrior in several episodes, and as a completely human Mr. Welles in one - with his role as Welles falling in the middle of his appearances as Neroon. Welles later reappeared in an episode of Crusade.
    • Wayne Alexander had such a brilliant performance as the inquisitor Sebastian that he returned in several Rubber-Forehead Alien roles, such as Sheridan's mentor Lorien and the main Drakh Shiv'kala.
    • Robin Sachs (best known for playing Ethan on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) appeared as a Narn, and as at least one - possibly two - Minbari.
    • Theordore Bikel played Rabbi Koslov in season one, and returned as the Minbari Lennon in In The Beginning.
    • Louis Turenne played recurring character Draal in his first appearance in season 1. Draal was then recast, but Turenne later reappeared in season 3 as a different recurring character, Brother Theo.
  • ER apparently had a rule that they would never cast the same actor twice, but they still flubbed it quite a few times:
    • Shiri Appleby played a patient in the Pilot and then Dr. Daria Wade in the final season.
    • Ken Lerner played two different patients—a salesman in Season 1 and then a prostate cancer patient in Season 8.
    • Vondie Curtis-Hall played Carter's suicidal transgender patient in Season 1 and then Roger McGrath in Season 8.
    • J.P. Manoux played a mime in Season 2 and then Dr. Dustin Crenshaw in the last three seasons.
    • Diane Delano played an abused girlfriend in Season 3 and then a hypochondriac patient in Season 9.
    • Jesse Borrego played an HIV positive patient in the Season 4 premiere and then desk clerk Javier in Season 14.
    • Justina Machado played a patient's sister in the Season 4 premiere and then police detective Claudia Diaz in the final season.
    • Jenette Goldstein played a patient's mother in Season 5 and then a helicopter medic in Season 7.
    • George Cheung played a cancer patient's son in Season 5 and then Jing-Mei's father in Season 10.
    • Keiko Agena played a hearing-impaired patient's mother in Season 5 and then a patient's wife in the final season.
    • Steven Culp played Dr. Charles Cameron in the Season 6 premiere and then a teacher in Season 10. Coincidentally, both characters were temporary love interests for Elizabeth.
    • Steven Christopher Parker played a patient in Season 11 and then Dr. Harold Zalinsky in Season 14.
    • Julia Ling played a patient in Season 12 and then medical student Mae Lee Park in Season 13.
  • In the '60s Batman show:
    • James Brolin appeared three times as three different characters.
    • Anne Baxter appeared as two different villians.
  • Warehouse 13 and Eureka have been established by crossovers as existing in the same universe, and Warehouse 13 is also connected to Alphas by a shared character.
    • The actors who play main characters Jo and Zane in Eureka play one-off characters in the first season of Warehouse 13 and are a couple in both. Henry also turns up in a later episode. However, their appearances on Warehouse 13 happened long before the first Crossover episode.
    • Brent Spiner has appeared as Brother Adrian repeatedly on Warehouse 13 and Dr. Kern on Alphas.
    • Alex Paxton-Beesley has appeared twice as Rebecca St. Claire on Warehouse 13 and twice as Megan Bates on Alphas.
    • Evan Sabba appeared as a Colorado Bartender on Warehouse 13 a year before being Isaac Hale on two episodes of Alphas.
    • Rebecca Mader appeared on Alphas as Griffin, and on Warehouse 13 as Lisa da Vinci three years later.
    • Both Erin Way (Kat on Alphas) and Ryan Cartwright (Gary Bell on Alphas) appeared in the same episode of Warehouse 13 as new characters.
    • Saul Rubinek was Dr. Carl Carlson on the Eureka episode "Invincible" as well as playing Artie Nielsen for the run of Warehouse 13.
  • Air Crash Investigation: The same actor who plays the captain of JAL Flight 123 plays the captain of Korean Air Cargo Flight 8509.
  • Charmed: Michael Bailey Smith plays at least two different characters: Belthazor/Demon Cole, and Shax, the demon who killed Prue. He was in heavy makeup for both, though.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959) certainly had its favorite actors (with Burgess Meredith and Jack Klugman each having a prominent role in four different episodes); although being an anthology series it got away with it.
  • Three's Company had many, many instances of this, though the most notable was Jeffrey Tambor, who appeared three times as different characters. Syndication makes it four different characters, as two episodes of spinoff The Ropers (on which Tambor was a regular) have been added to the Three's Company rotation.
  • I Love Lucy reused almost all of its character actors throughout its run — some were reused dozens of times.
  • All of the supporting cast on Good Eats play multiple characters. As this is essentially a Cooking Show crossed with low-budget Sketch Comedy, that is not surprising.
  • Martin Trenaman appears as three different characters in as many episodes of Britcom '15 Storeys High'.
  • Although many of the cast members of Blackadder played different versions of the same characters over the course of the show, some of them played completely unrelated characters.
    • Tim McInnerny played versions of Percy in The Black Adder and Blackadder II, before playing Le Comte de Frou Frou in an episode of Blackadder the Third, and returning to a regular role as Captain Kevin Darling in the final series, Blackadder Goes Forth.
    • Miranda Richardson, who played Queenie in Blackadder II, makes guest appearances as Miss Hardwood in an episode of Blackadder the Third and as Nurse Mary in Blackadder Goes Forth.
  • Father Ted:
    • Irish comedian Jon Kenny played a cinema owner in "The Passion of St Tibulus" and a Eurosong MC in "Song for Europe" (in the latter role, he was filling in for Steve Coogan who pulled out at the last minute).
    • Pauline McLynn played main character Mrs Doyle, and also appeared as a nun in "Flight Into Terror" (because Mrs Doyle only had one scene in that episode).
    • The fortune teller from the first episode ("Just give me a pound!") is one of the old ladies who go to see The Passion of St. Tibulus ("He got his lad out and everything!").
  • Tahj Mowry played three different characters on his sisters' show, Sister, Sister, including a character from his own show, Smart Guy (making this a YLF, Old Friend, and Crossover all in one.)
  • Thanks to Executive Meddling, Tina Fey couldn't get her friend Rachel Dratch a major role on her show 30 Rock. She retaliated by casting Dratch in all kinds of minor roles, with zero effort made to hide that it's her. Dratch was dropped from the show entirely after the first season, though.
  • Friends:
    • Celebrity Paradox: Brent Spiner appeared as one of Rachel's bosses in one episode. He turned up later in an episode of Joey, playing himself.
    • Doug Looperr played a fireman in 3.23 and a paramedic in 5.08.
    • Lisa Kudrow had played Ursula the waitress on Mad About You prior to joining Friends; this was subsequently played with by making Ursula Phoebe's Evil Twin and having Kudrow play both characters in episodes of the latter show.
    • In-universe example was when Phoebe became an extra on Days of Our Lives and noticed some of the extras would play more than one role, and that Joey slept with most of them.
  • The Monkees:
    • Monte Landis showed up in seven episodes playing seven different characters. They were all major roles, too: in six of the seven shows in which he appeared, he played the episode's villain.
    • Rose Marie also guest starred twice as different characters.
  • Cheers / Wings / Frasier:
    • John Mahoney appeared as hack songwriter Sy Flemback in Cheers before his regular role as Martin in Frasier.
    • Peri Gilpin appeared in Cheers as a reporter and in Wings as a blind date before her regular role as Roz in Frasier.
    • A number of one-shot guest stars from Cheers, Wings, and The Tortellis (the other Cheers spinoff) showed up on Frasier as well.
    • Wings regulars Tony Shalhoub and Rebecca Schull show up as unrelated one-shot characters in Frasier episodes "The Focus Group" and "RDWRER", respectively.
    • Jennifer Tilly appeared as a sweet, bouncy nympho with a heart of gold in Cheers, then appeared as a sweet, bouncy nympho with a heart of gold in Frasier.
  • Beth Broderick, who played Dee Dee Starr in the first season of Hearts Afire, appeared as Dee Dee's twin sister Lee Ann in two episodes of the second season. It's stated that Lee Ann grew up there in the Midwest, but it had previously been said that Dee Dee grew up in Texas. The explanation never made sense and they shouldn't have even bothered to attempt to Hand Wave the stunning resemblance away.
  • Hogan's Heroes did this quite a bit. Noam Pitlik played seven one-shot characters over the course of the show, including a German spy in the first episode of the series. Many of them were German officers with similar personalities, which could get a bit confusing.
  • M*A*S*H did this repeatedly, especially with Korean or Chinese characters, and also with nurses, especially in the early seasons where the nurses were referred to randomly as "Nurse Able" or "Nurse Baker".
    • Richard Lee-Sung appears in ten M*A*S*H episodes between 1974 and 1982, and in two episodes of the spinoff series Trapper John MD in 1979 and 1982. In most of the episodes his name appears in the credits as "Second Korean", "Farmer", or "Korean Man" - a local who enters the 4077th base for trading. In the season 4 episode "Dear Mildred" he is Cho, in the season 5 episode "Bug Out" he is "Cho Man Chin". But in the season 6 episode "The Smell of Music" he is Sang Nu and in the season 8 episode "A Night at Rosie's" he is Ham Kim.
    • Soon-Tek Oh appears in five Mash episodes between 1975 and 1982, each time playing a different person. In the season 3 episode "Love and Marriage" he is Mr Kwang, an O.R. orderly. In the season 4 episode "The Bus" he reappears as a North Korean soldier. By the season 5 episode "The Korean Surgeon" he is Dr. Syn Paik, a wounded North Korean prisoner of war. In the season 8 episode "The Yalu Brick Road" he recapitulates his role in s4 as a North Korean soldier anxious to be captured by Hawkeye and BJ. In the season 11 episode "Foreign Affairs", he is Joon-Sung, a South Korean interpreter working for the Americans.
    • Mako appears in four episodes between 1974 and 1980, each time playing a different person. (His birth name is Mako Iwamatsu.) In the season 3 episode "Rainbow Bridge", he is Dr. Lin Tam, a Chinese military doctor. In the season 5 episode "Hawkeye Get Your Gun", he is Major Choi, in charge of a South Korean aid station. In the season 8 episode "Guerrilla of My Dreams" he is Lt. Hung Lee Park, a South Korean officer. In the season 9 episode "The Best of Enemies", he is Li Han, a Chinese soldier who captures Hawkeye.
    • Eldon Quick appeared as Captain Sloan in season 2's "The Incubator" and season 3's "Payday", then as Captain Pratt in season 4's "The Late Captain Pierce". The two captains, despite having different surnames and branches (Quartermaster and Finance), are written and portrayed essentially identically as the epitome of exaggerated bureaucrats.
    • John Orchard was a semi-regular in season 1 as anesthesiologist Ugly John, a holdover from the novel and feature film who was subsequently Demoted to Extra and then written out of the show entirely. Years later in the season 8 episode "Captains Outrageous", Orchard returned for a guest appearance as a visiting Australian MP.
    • Each of the two men who voiced the camp's P.A. announcer appeared as a different character in one episode apiece. (Admittedly, this may not quite count as "You LOOK Familiar", since said P.A. Announcer was never shown onscreen).
    • Sab Shimono has appeared at least twice in the series, each as a different character. Once as Winchester's house boy that was really a spy, and another time as one of three Korean doctors that shadowed the very same Winchester.
    • Harry Morgan appeared in the season 3 premiere as a visiting major general who's apparently completely loony, only to become a main character, Col. Sherman Potter, at the beginning of Season 4.
  • Seinfeld:
    • Suzanne Snyder appeared as two completely different one-shot characters: First, as a Neo-Nazi in "The Limo", and later as Jerry's latest girlfriend in "The Pie".
    • Christa Miller appeared as two different characters: First as a boss in a Bra company in "The Sniffing Accountant" and later as a love interest to George in "The Doodle". In both cases the plot thread implicated George Costanza.
  • In the first two seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond Kevin James played Ray's friend Kevin. In the third season, after Kevin was Put on a Bus, he played Doug Heffernan in a few crossover episodes.
  • John Amos played James Evans Sr. for three seasons in Good Times, a spinoff of All in the Family. Twenty years later he played Ernie Cumberbatch in 704 Hauser, a series about the Bunkers' house now being occupied by a black family.
  • For that matter, in All in the Family, before joining the regular cast as Frank Lorenzo, Vincent Gardenia appeared in two previous episodes as apparently different characters: once as a swinger, once as the neighbor who sells his house to the Jeffersons.
  • Night Court:
    • Jack Riley appeared on seven episodes playing five different characters.
    • Before appearing as Phil & Buddy, Will Utay & John Astin each played a different character in episodes of season 2 (although Astin's character, named Kenny, was quite similar to Buddy).
  • According to Jim used the same guest actor to play Jim's son in Imagine Spots of the future and for various other random roles throughout the series, including a waiter and a lonely guy at the bar.
  • In The George Lopez Show, Hilary Duff plays one of Carmen's friends and later on, Angie's mentor when she starts selling La Marie cosmetics. Lampshaded when Max says, "You look like one of Carmen's friends."
    • Actually, the one where Hilary Duff plays the mentor came out two years before the one where she plays Carmen's friend, so it's more Hilarious in Hindsight.
  • On Bewitched, Charles Lane was Mr. Hotchkiss, Mr. Mortimer, Mr. Shotwell, Mr. Meikeljohn, Mr. Harmon, Mr. Jameson, and finally Tabitha's Principal, Mr. Roland.
  • Made in Canada:
    • Peter Blais appears as a Film/Theater professor in the Series 1 episode "The Mill Show", and later has a recurring role as Geoff, the gay actor who plays Parson Hubbard on Beaver Creek.
    • Gordon Pinsent appears as Walter Franklin, the lead actor of Beaver Creek who dies in season 1, and the business owner who buys and shuts down Pyramid in the very last episode.
  • Boy Meets World had many cases of this, some more noticeable than others. For example, the actor who played Angela's dad in season 7 also played a college professor in one episode of season 5.
  • Joe Walsh appears As Himself in The Drew Carey Show episode "Drewstock" where he's one of the thousands of guests at Drew's house party. The next year he appeared in six episodes as Ed, a not very talented guitarist Drew hires to be in his band.
  • Israeli sitcom Ha Pijamot, which is noted for having No Fourth Wall, uses this thoroughly and lampshades this with one extra. When Yamit mocks extras and insults the one other patron in the Hamburgary at that point, Gary tells her that he was the one extra they keep using over and over, followed by a flashback showing him in the various roles they cast him as over the years. Later on, when Kobi, Ilan, and ‘Oded tell her they want to try finding a job as extras, Yamit makes sure no extras are around, and then says, ‘Extras? That’s the peak of your aspirations?’
    • That Extra happens to be one of the Executive Producers of the show and co-wrote about HALF of the show's songs (his name is Eli Der'e). He's also been with Tedi Hafakot since at least the production of Shemmesh (he was the Boom-man)
  • The Cosby Show: In the early seasons, there was an episode where Clair and Cliff had Sondra fly in a young man from Oberlin college in order to woo her away from Elvin. Much later in the show, this same man played Denise's husband from the Navy.
  • Since it's been established via Ted Buckland that Scrubs and Cougar Town exist in the same universe, the fact Jules (Courtney Cox) and Ellie (Christa Miller) look exactly like Dr Maddox and Jordan qualifies. Many other Scrubs actors have cameoed in Cougar Town as unrelated characters.
  • Red Dwarf has had a few, even ignoring the multiple episodes in which the regulars played alternate versions of their regular characters.
    • Robert Llewellyn, who plays Kryten, later appeared as robot salesman Jim Reaper. As Kryten is a rubber forehead mechanoid with a funny voice, this might not have been so noticeable if he didn't later appear sans mask when Kryten got turned into a human. Later still, he appeared as "the Data Doctor." note 
    • Before Robert Llewellyn took the role, David Ross appeared in one episode as Kryten. He later appeared in voice only as Talkie Toaster - again not really noticeable, as he used very different voices for the characters.
    • Tony Hawks appeared so often that he was known as "the fifth Dwarfer" on set in the early years. He played Caligula, a compere in a pub, a virtual tour guide, two dispensing machines and a suitcase. He also did his stand-up comedy act as a warm-up for the audience before filming.
  • Main cast members of Reno 911! frequently play one or more supporting roles in the same episode in which their main character also appears. This is accomplished by having the actor appear as a suspect with his or her face blurred out.
  • In the Discworld TV movies, Alberto Malich, the greatest wizard in Discworld history, bears a striking resemblence to Rincewind, the worst wizard in Discworld history.
  • Sketch Shows in which most of the comedy characters are played by the same small group of actors live off this trope. Little Britain and The Catherine Tate Show require the viewer to believe that there are people all over Britain that look just like Matt Lucas, David Walliams and Catherine Tate.
    • Played with in a Catherine Tate Show sketch in which David Tennant guest stars as Lauren Cooper's teacher. She asks "Are you the Doctor?"
    • The League of Gentlemen stretches it further: almost everyone in a single town looks like Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton or Reece Shearsmith.
    • The Swedish comedy series Hipp Hipp has the show's creators, Anders Jansson and Johan Wester, play most of the major roles. They even made fun of this during a live show (released on home entertainment) where characters have dialogues with other characters played by the same actor through timed responses to pre-recorded videos played on a big screen above the stage. One of the characters, Sunken, points this out during one of those conversations when Kajan, who is played by the same actor, asks him to join him on stage:
    Sunken: "For purely theater-technical reasons, I can't be on the stage at the same time as you."
  • Jesse Mc Cartney played J.R. Chandler on All My Children from 1998 to 2001. Eventually his character was SORAS'ed as McCartney went on to a career as a pop singer. In 2006 McCartney appeared on the show as himself, singing at a party. (When he was introduced to his prior character's father and his own SORAS'ed character, now played by Jacob Young, all commented that each other seemed very familiar and speculated they'd met in a past life. See Actor Allusion.)
  • Sarah Brown originated the character of Carly in General Hospital. Since she left, the character has been played by three other actresses, and was still on the show when Sarah Brown re-entered GH as Claudia in early 2008.
    • Similarly, the fact that Natalia Livingston's new character Rebecca looks just like Natalia Livingston's old character Emily (deceased) is Rebecca's debut plot point.
  • The Chillerama segment "The Diary of Anne Frankenstein" did this intentionally: after Meshugannah kills Rupert (Florian Klein) and Franz (Matthew Temple), a panicky Hitler yells for "More Nazis!" Enter Florian Klein and Matthew Temple as two entirely different Nazis, complete with obviously fake mustaches to "change" their appearance.
  • A few actors from RoboCop: The Series would alter appeared in other installments of the RoboCop franchise, including Blu Mankuma (who played Stan Parks, an expy of Sgt. Reed, then a version of the actual Reed in RoboCop: Alpha Commando), Maurice Dean Wint (who played a gang leader in "Officer Down" and John Cable in RoboCop: Prime Directives) Geraint Wyn Davies (who played a Corrupt Corporate Executive in "Provision 22" and David Kaydick in Prime Directives), and Daniel Kash (who played cartal boss Regie Braga and Detective John Lake the reboot)
  • In the episode of The Danny Thomas Show that served as a Poorly Disguised Pilot for The Andy Griffith Show, Frances Bavier, who played Andy's Aunt Bea in the actual series, instead played a citizen of Mayberry named Henrietta Perkins.
  • The producers of Lost worked very hard to avert this, knowing that it would fertilize hordes of Epileptic Trees. But due to the limited pool of local actors in Hawaii who could play bit roles for them, they finally decided to cast the same actress, Mary Ann Taheny, to play two very minor roles in episodes that aired more than three years apart. To their apparent exasperation, they had to publicly announce that the two characters were not the same person.
  • Jam And Jerusalem: It's unclear whether Patricia Potter's character in one episode of the third series (a pregnant woman called Tish) is the same as her character in one episode of the first series (a wedding dress sales worker called Amy). The characters are very similar, and both are friends of Tash.
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has Tina Fey in the first season as a terrible lawyer, and a drunk Uber customer in the second season.
  • When iCarly had a crossover with fellow Nickelodeon series Victorious, it's remarked upon how much Tori Vega looks like Shelby Marx (both are played by Victoria Justice).
  • In the Mexican anthology drama series La Rosa De Guadalupe, Karol Sevilla played as many as 6 different roles in 6 different episodes. It is, however, justified by the fact that each episode introduces a separate story with new characters with no connection between episodes except for the Saint of Guadalupe.
  • On The Red Green Show, George Buza appeared as Mike's "guardian angel" in the Season 9 episode "Angel" before taking on the role of Dwight Cardiff. He also played a motel manager in The Movie.
  • In Only Fools and Horses, Nick Stringer played a naive Australian who buys a faulty Ford Cortina off Del Boy in the Series 1 episode "Go West Young Man". Five years later, Stringer also played Del's old schoolmate and former business partner Jumbo Mills in the Series 5 finale "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?".
  • American Horror Story:
  • Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, the most blatant example is Jason Leland Adams, who played the occasionally-appearing General George Armstrong Custer in season 2 and 3 before taking on the more permanent role of the banker Preston A. Lodge III starting season 4. Also, Larry Sellers plays a one-off Native American named Black Hawk in the pilot, before taking on the permanent role of Cloud Dancing.
  • In Deadwood, Garrett Dillahunt first portrays Wild Bill Hickok's assassin, Jack McCall. He would later return as the psychotic Francis Wolcott.
  • Decoy: The only recurring character is Casey Jones, but Frank Campanella guest stars as three different lieutenants in "The Phoner," "My Brother's Killer," and "Blind Date."
  • The Orville brought back Michaela Mc Manus, who played an alien under heavy makeup in season 1, to play a human crew member in season 2. Subversion: that crew member was actually that same alien, altered to look human and sent on an undercover mission.
  • Young Sheldon, a prequel Spin-Off of The Big Bang Theory has a few examples.
    • Sheldon's father George Cooper Sr. is played by Lance Barber, who'd previously played Leonard's childhood bully Jimmy Speckerman on The Big Bang Theory.
    • And Sheldon's music teacher was also in The Big Bang Theory as Mandy Chow.
    • Vernee Watson, known as Althea on TBBT, once again portrays a sassy nurse in this show as well.
  • Daredevil (2015): Angel Rosa, an NYPD cop and part-time actor, appears in season 1 as a corrupt cop on Wilson Fisk's payroll. His character, Officer Corbin, is arrested in the season 1 finale. In season 3, Rosa appears again, playing a different named police officer who responds to Matt and Nadeem's break-in at Dex's apartment.
  • Murder, She Wrote, had several guests that were in multiple episodes, with a few of them playing a different character only a few episodes after their initial appearance.
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