22 Actors Who Played Multiple Roles On The Same Show

Karen Gillan on Doctor Who
(Image credit: BBC)

Have you ever been watching your favorite TV show when a certain actor popped into frame and you could not help but wonder where else you might have seen them? There is a good chance that it could have been another episode of the same program, as many television series have a history of casting the same actor for entirely different roles. In fact we have a hefty amount examples below of actors who have played multiple TV characters in one series.

Giovanni Ribisi On Friends

(Image credit: NBC)

Giovanni Ribisi On Friends (Condom Guy, Frank Buffay Jr.)

Before he joined the Friends cast in the recurring role of Frank Buffay Jr. - the younger half-brother of Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) - Emmy nominee Giovanni Ribisi made an uncredited Season 2 appearance as a guy who asks if he can retrieve the condom he dropped in Phoebe’s guitar case moments earlier. Considering Phoebe never found out about this sibling until later that season, fans have speculated that Frank and “Condom Guy” are the same person, but this has never been confirmed.

Queen Latifah On The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air

(Image credit: NBC)

Queen Latifah On The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air (Marissa Redman, Dee Dee)

Before she was in the Living Single cast, future Academy Award nominee Queen Latifah shared the screen with fellow rapper-turned-actor Will Smith on two episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1991. She played a vain, domineering actress who hires Hilary (Karyn Parsons) as an assistant for her first appearance, and returned to play a woman whose friendship with Will is tested when he does not defend her from ridicule about her weight.

Jerry Orbach On Law & Order

(Image credit: NBC)

Jerry Orbach On Law & Order (Defense Attorney Frank Lehrman, Detective Lennie Briscoe)

The late, great Jerry Orbach of Dirty Dancing fame is even better known for his 12 seasons in the Law & Order cast as Detective Lennie Briscoe, for which he received his third Emmy nomination. However, his first appearance on creator Dick Wolf’s long-running crime procedural (which was revived in 2022) was in Season 2 (a year before he official joined the cast) as Frank Lehrman - a lawyer defending a woman who shot her estranged husband and his mistress. 

Justin Theroux and Sarah Jessica Parker On Sex And The City

(Image credit: HBO)

Justin Theroux On Sex And The City (Jared, Vaughn Wysel)

On the premiere season of Sex and the City, Justin Theroux appeared as Jared - Carrie Bradshaw’s (Sarah Jessica Parker) post-Mr. Big rebound - before showing up again the following season as Vaughn Wysel -  Carrie’s writer boyfriend whose stories are short, just like his bedroom stamina. The star of HBO’s The Leftovers explained on an episode of People Magazine’s Couch Surfing how he prepared for his second role on the iconic romantic-comedy series by shaving his head.

Dean-Charles Chapman on Game of Thrones

(Image credit: HBO)

Dean-Charles Chapman On Game Of Thrones (Martyn Lannister, Tommen Baratheon)

It is not so unusual for a Game of Thrones cast member to die and come back later (i.e. Kit Harrington’s Jon Snow), but Dean-Charles Chapman is a special case. The 1917 star appeared in two episodes of the third season as a Lannister House squire named Martyn before being brought back the next year (and with a sweet promotion) as the polarizing King of the Andals, Tommen Baratheon.

Peter Capaldi On Doctor Who

(Image credit: BBC)

Peter Capaldi On Doctor Who (Caecilius, The Doctor)

Because of Time Lords’ regenerative process, the titular hero of the phenomenal British sci-fi series, Doctor Who, has been played by 13 different actors so far - including Oscar-winner Peter Capaldi (who looked to David Bowie for inspiration for the role) from 2013 to 2017. However, die-hard Whovians may recall when the Scotsman and The Suicide Squad cast member appeared opposite the Tenth Doctor, David Tenant, in 2008 as a man The Doctor saves from Vesuvius’ eruption named Caecilius.

Karen Gillan on Doctor Who

(Image credit: BBC)

Karen Gillan On Doctor Who (Soothsayer, Amy Pond)

In the same 2008 episode of Doctor Who in which Peter Capaldi made his first appearance in a different role, future Marvel movie star Karen Gillan also made her debut on the cult favorite series as a soothsayer who gained psychic powers from breathing in dust from the volcano, Vesuvius. Two years later, the Scottish actress was cast as Amy Pond, who would accompany Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor on adventures until 2012.

Ted McGinley On Married… With Children

(Image credit: Fox)

Ted McGinley On Married… With Children (Norman Jablonsky, Jefferson D'Arcy)

On Married… with Children (which some believe is due for a revival), the Bundy Family’s next-door neighbor, Marcy (Amanda Bearse), was married twice - the second time to Jefferson D’Arcy, who was played by Ted McGinley after he joined the cast in Season 5. The previous season, he appeared in a holiday episode inspired by It’s a Wonderful Life in which Al (Ed O’Neill) is shown an alternate reality where Peg (Katey Segal) is, instead, married to a more successful, better looking man named Norman Jablonsky (McGinley).  

Terry O’Quinn On The X-Files

(Image credit: Fox)

Terry O’Quinn On The X-Files (Lt. Brian Tillman, Shadow Man)

Emmy winner Terry O’Quinn, best known from the Lost cast, has starred in a number of series created by Chris Carter - including one of the best ’90 shows, The X-Files, as both a police lieutenant in Season 2  and a super-soldier who tries to kill Scully (Gillian Anderson) in Season 9. He was also a regular on another supernatural series by Carter called Millennium, which once crossed over with The X-Files - meaning O’Quinn has really played three characters within this same universe.

Garret Dillahunt On Deadwood

(Image credit: HBO)

Garret Dillahunt On Deadwood (Jack McCall, Francis Wolcott)

Garett Dillahunt is one of the few names on our list who, instead of just two guest appearances, can claim to have two different, multi-episode recurring roles in the Deadwood cast. He played the crooked-nosed murderer Jack McCall in the HBO series’ first season, before returning in Season 2 as geologist Francis Wolcott. He even made an uncredited cameo in the series’ feature-length continuation from 2019 as random drunk.

S. Epatha Merkerson On Law & Order

(Image credit: NBC)

S. Epatha Merkerson On Law & Order (Mrs. Denise Winters, Lieutenant Anita Van Buren)

Emmy winner S. Epatha Merkerson, who went on to be a staple of the One Chicago franchise, is best known for playing Lt. Anita Van Buren on Law & Order from 1993 to 2010. Yet, her first role on the iconic crime drama was as the mother of two young shooting victims in the the series’ premiere season.

Paget Brewster On Community

(Image credit: NBC)

Paget Brewster On Community (Debra Chambers, Frankie Dart)

During Paget Brewster’s temporary absence from the Criminal Minds cast, she had a starring role on Community as Frankie Dart - a consultant hired to help improve things on the Greendale campus. There is a clever joke from Season 6 of creator Dan Harmon’s cult favorite comedy when Frankie claims to have some bizarre trouble when trying to reach out to Greendale’s I.T. department head, Debra Chambers - whom Brewster also played in the previous season.

James Cromwell On Barney Miller

(Image credit: ABC)

James Cromwell On Barney Miller (Sgt. Wilkinson, Neil Spencer, Jason Parrish, Dr. Edmund Danworth)

The producers of Barney Miller (one of funniest and best classic mystery shows) cast several actors in multiple guest appearances over its eight seasons, including Oscar nominee James Cromwell. He first appeared as a police sergeant in 1977, a representative of the department of energy two years later, and both a corporate representative and stress researcher in 1981.

Denise Dowse On Beverly Hills, 90210

(Image credit: Fox)

Denise Dowse On Beverly Hills, 90210 (Professor Harriet Welkman, Mrs. Teasley)

Years before appearing on the hit HBO comedy Insecure or FX’s acclaimed crime drama Snowfall, Denise Dowse appeared on a total of 24 episodes as part of the Beverly Hills, 90210 cast from 1990 to 2000. In 23 of those episodes, she played West Beverly Hills High School vice principal Yvonne Teasley, and also played a college professor in an episode of Season 1, which was also her first.

Diane Neal On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

(Image credit: NBC)

Diane Neal On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (Amelia Chase, A.D.A. Casey Novak)

Diane Neal has starred on the crime procedural spin-off Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (initially as a regular and later in recurring and guest appearances) as Casey Novak - an assistant district attorney who also appeared in an episode of the short-lived Law & Order: Trial By Jury. The actress has actually played two characters in this universe - the first being a stockbroker convicted of the rape and murder of a male stripper who staged the murder of her accomplice as a suicide, on SVU’s third season.

Freema Agyeman On Doctor Who

(Image credit: BBC)

Freema Agyeman On Doctor Who (Adeloa Oshodi, Martha Jones)

Before joining the New Amsterdam cast and starring in The Matrix Revolutions, Freema Agyeman first appeared with the Doctor Who cast as Torchwood technician Adeloa Oshodi in 2006. The following year, she was cast as Martha Jones - a companion to David Tenant’s Tenth Doctor - who was later revealed to be Adeloa’s cousin to explain the resemblance between the two.

Christa Miller On Seinfeld

(Image credit: NBC)

Christa Miller On Seinfeld (Ellen De Granmont, Paula)

If her starring roles on The Drew Carey Show, with the Scrubs cast, and on Cougar Town do not earn Christa Miller the right to be called sitcom royalty, how about her two disparate guest roles on one of the most celebrated sitcoms of all time, Seinfeld? Miller contributes to two memorable George Costanza moments - the first being when she cost Jason Alexander’s iconic character a bra salesman position after a disastrous attempt at hitting on her in Season 5. In Season 6, she played a woman already dating George, but her unflattering doodle of him suddenly makes him unsure if her affection is genuine.

Nelson Franklin on The Office

(Image credit: NBC)

Nelson Franklin on The Office (Graphic Design Guy, Nick)

Comedian and Being the Ricardos star Nelson Franklin is known for having notable recurring roles on a number of sitcoms, including with The Office cast as Dunder Mifflin-Sabre’s begrudgingly overlooked IT guy, Nick, in Season 6. Two seasons earlier, he appeared in the episode “Job Fair” as a graphic design expert whom Pam (Jenna Fischer) approaches with interest in the field.

Sean Gunn On Angel

(Image credit: Disney / Fox)

Sean Gunn On Angel (Mars, Lucas)

Before his older brother, James Gunn, cast him in multiple roles in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies (namely Kraglin and Rocket Raccoon, for whom he performed the mo-cap), Sean Gunn play two different characters in the first season of the David Boreanaz-led Buffy spin-off, Angel. The future Gilmore Girls cast member first played a spa manager helping an inter-dimensional demon princess hide other women of her kind from the males who enslave them, before returning a few episodes later as a demon himself - specifically the kind that Angel’s ally, Allen Doyle (Glenn Quinn), is a descendent of on his father’s side.

Hayden Panettiere On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

(Image credit: NBC)

Hayden Panettiere On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (Ashley Austin Black, Angela Agnelli)

Back when she was still best known for Disney movies like A Bug’s Life and Remember the Titans, Hayden Panettiere guest-starred on Season 2 of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as the surviving young daughter of two singers accused of neglecting their recently deceased son. Right before joining the Heroes cast made her a household name, the actress and singer appeared on the spin-off’s sixth season as a Catholic high school student whose participation in a sex tape also featuring her classmate and an adult doctor, drove her to murder.

James Jordan On Veronica Mars

(Image credit: UPN / Hulu)

James Jordan On Veronica Mars (Lucky, Tim Foyle)

Years before joining the Yellowstone cast as Steve Hendon, one of James Jordan’s first major TV characters was Tim Foyle - a rival of Kristen Bell’s titular hero from the Veronica Mars cast who appeared in seven episodes, including the 2019 revival season. However, Jordan actually starred in a total of 10 episodes of the hit mystery drama and, for his first three, played a Neptune High janitor ironically named Lucky, who was shot and killed by a school security guard after showing up with an unloaded gun after he was fired.

Michael Cudlitz On CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

(Image credit: CBS)

Michael Cudlitz On CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (Officer William Spencer, Josh Barston)

Earlier in his career, former The Walking Dead cast member Michael Cudlitz made a guest appearance on each of the first three editions of the CSI franchise (and each time as a different character, too), but the original is the only one on which he appeared twice. His first played a cop driven to crime by greed in Season 2, and later played a contractor driven to murder by love in Season 9.

Kali Rocha On Buffy The Vampire Slayer

(Image credit: Disney / Fox)

BONUS: Kali Rocha On Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Cecily Addams, Halfrek - Confirmed To Be The Same Character)

For years, it was debated among fans of Buffy of the Vampire Slayer whether or not Kali Rocha's roles of Cecily Addams - a 19th Century socialite whose rejection of Spike (James Marsters) resulted in his vampirism - and the vengeance demon Halfrek were the same person. Writer Drew Goddard would confirm in a DVD commentary track (via ScreenRant) that the theory is, indeed, true, which we have chosen to mention as a bonus item on this list just in case there were any fans who may have needed clarification.

Let this list be a lesson to any aspiring actor to never take a TV guest appearance or small recurring role for granted. It could be the first of many appearances on that show alone or could get you promoted to a regular position.

Jason Wiese
Content Writer

Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.