These days, it takes more than just knowing how to read a script or pretending to be one person to be a successful actor. Actors take on multiple roles in the same movie or show and display an impressive range. We’ve seen Eddie Murphy do it in The Nutty Professor (though that film was arguably a flop), and Lindsay Lohan did it brilliantly when she played the roles of twins Annie and Hallie, in the family flick remake, The Parent Trap (and she was just 11 years old).
This double-trouble casting strategy even extends into TV. As far as television goes, an actor portraying multiple roles in one show is actually not something that’s experimental, it’s been happening for years. Often a television show, especially old soap operas, shake things up by throwing in a long-lost twin or similar-looking relative. Other times, actors play two characters completely unrelated to each other in the same show. This is a true challenge and displays amazing acting skills, especially if the actor plays contrasting dual roles in the same episode or scene. Here are 15 actors who you probably forgot played multiple characters (and not just twins) on the show. Which one do you think did the best job?
16. David Schwimmer, Friends
Fans of Friends are well aware that Lisa Kudrow portrays both the weird but innocent Phoebe and her mean twin, Ursula. But there is another character in Friends that played dual roles. In episode 10 of season 2, David Schwimmer (who we all know and love as the nerdy and hilarious Ross) put on some makeup and became Russ, Rachel’s new boyfriend. In the episode (which is of course, called The One with Russ), Rachel and Ross are both oblivious to the fact that Russ is exactly like Ross (or as Monica said, “They’re as different as night and later that night.”) The two characters appear in scenes of the episode together and give the audience a good laugh as they act alike, yet despise each other. Interestingly, David Schwimmer was credited for the role under the pseudonym, Snaro (a tribute to his real life friend). He even fooled a lot of people watching the show into believing that he was a different actor.
15. Seth Meyers, The Mindy Project
Did you notice that Seth Meyers was a guest star on The Mindy Project, not once but twice, and as different characters? In season 1, Meyers appeared in the episode Hiring and Firing, as one of Mindy’s many love interests. He plays a dreamy architect that Mindy meets in the bookstore, where he scores her a free tote bag, and then they go out for frozen yogurt. The scene is quite funny as Mindy makes him go back and forth for different flavors of yogurt only to decide she actually wanted a pretzel all along. In season 4, Seth appears in the episode Will They or Won’t They, as himself. In this episode, he despairs over his lost dog, who Morgan helps to find and is rewarded by appearing on Late Night With Seth Meyers.
14. Paul Wesley, The Vampire Diaries
Nina Dobrev isn’t the only one in The Vampire Diaries to play multiple roles. The beautiful actress portrays an astounding 4 different characters on the show, including Elena Gilbert, Katherine Pierce, Amara and Tatia. Nina said that the years of the show gave her the journey of a lifetime. But, Paul Wesley also plays multiple characters on the show, including his initial character Stefan, the important figure of Silas, Silas’ doppelganger Tom Avery, and the killer vampire Ambrose. The actor, in an interview, says that he liked having a little bit of space from Stefan while playing Silas. Wesley also said that playing Ambrose was “really fun.” It must have been quite the experience for both Dobrev and Wesley. We can’t help but wonder if it ever became confusing for them or the rest of the cast.
13. Kristen Kreuk, Smallville
Who could forget Kristen Kreuk as Lana Lang, Clark Kent’s gorgeous love interest on the TV show, Smallville? But, do you recall her playing other roles in the series? Kristen actually portrayed Louise McCallum, Lana’s great-aunt, during a flashback in the season 3 episode, Relic. In the episode, Clark helps Lana to discover the truth about who killed her great-aunt. Kristen also portrays Lana’s distant ancestor, Margaret Isobel Thoreaux, in a few episodes of season 4. Contrary to the sweet character of Lana, Margaret is an evil witch who spells trouble for Clark when she possesses Lana’s body.
12. Sean Gunn, Gilmore Girls
Gilmore Girls fans all know that Kirk (played by Sean Gunn) is a weirdo and is always changing his job. In fact, he tells Luke in season 5 that he has had 15,000 jobs—and we actually believe him. In the second episode of the show, Sean Gunn first appeared in a guest star role as a DSL installer named Mick. He also appeared as a Swan Delivery Guy in the third episode. Thankfully, they decided to hire him as a regular because Stars Hollow just wouldn’t be the same without him. Some Gilmore Girls fans came up with a theory to make sense of the name change. They believe that Kirk’s real name is Mick but because Miss Patty called him Kirk, he went along with it to fit into his new town. That sounds totally plausible for some reason.
11. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Full House
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are unique on this list as the two actresses both played one character (Michelle Tanner) and also portrayed other characters in the beloved classic Full House. In season 4, the twins play Melina Katsopolis (the look-alike daughter of Jesse’s cousin from Greece). The twins also played a dual role as Good Michelle and Bad Michelle (the equivalent of the little angel and devil on a character’s shoulders) in the episode, The Devil Made Me Do It. Each character was appropriately dressed (Good Michelle had a bohemian-looking pink dress with a floral headpiece while Bad Michelle donned a leather jacket and biker boots). All three characters (Michelle, Good Michelle and Bad Michelle) appeared in the same scene together. That’s pretty impressive considering the Olsen twins were only in pre-school.
10. Sherman Hemsley, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Sherman Hemsley first guest starred on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as the arrogant Judge Carl Robertson. His character was once a mentor to Will’s uncle, Phil, but the two end up competing against each other for Superior Court Judge. Judge Robertson doesn’t play nicely and ends up winning against Phil. However, his celebration is cut short when Will tells him to drop dead and he literally does (from a heart attack) after appearing in just 3 episodes. However, Hemsley later returns to the show as perhaps his most popular character, George Jefferson (from The Jeffersons). His character actually ends up buying the Banks’ mansion in the finale.
9. Phill Lewis, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody
Phill Lewis is best known for his role as Mr. Moseby, the stern hotel manager in the Disney show, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. His signature line, “Good luck with that,” always cracked many fans up. But do you remember that Lewis once played a dual role in the Disney Channel hit series? In season 2, Lewis appears as Rose Moseby (Mr. Moseby’s grandmother) in the episode, A Nugget of History. Anyone can tell that it’s Lewis under the wig and glasses, but that makes the character more lovable and funny, right? In the episode, Rose helps Zack with a history paper (since she’s been around long enough to see it all) but things don’t go as planned.
8. Larry David, Seinfeld
Larry David is a talented guy. He co-wrote Seinfeld and has appeared on-screen in multiple movies and television shows, including the autobiographically based lead role in Curb Your Enthusiasm. If you’re a fan of the classic sitcom, you’ve probably noticed Larry appearing in a few episodes of Seinfeld as well. Well, guess what? He was actually in nearly 40 episodes of Seinfeld! He (or his voice, rather) appeared as George Steinbrenner, the owner of the New York Yankees, in 13 episodes. He also lends his voice for the role of Saddam Hussein, the emcee of a club, a limo driver, a car thief and many others. He is actually seen in The Pilot as a man on the Greenpeace raft and in The Junior Mint as a surgeon’s assistant. One of his memorable appearances was probably in The Chinese Woman, where he plays a cape-wearing lawyer who talks Elaine’s friend out of committing suicide.
7. Kevin James, Everybody Loves Raymond
Comedic actor Kevin James guest starred on Ray Romano’s Everybody Loves Raymond for 6 episodes of seasons 1 and 2 as Kevin Daniels. In the show, Daniels is a friend of Ray’s. However, even after actor Kevin James landed the big role in his own sitcom, The King of Queens in 1998, he continued to appear in Everybody Loves Raymond. The writers decided to put a spin on things by having James play his King of Queens character, the delivery driver Doug Heffernan. James only appeared as Doug on the show three times, though. It was a pretty cool crossover, and the little tradition even continued as Ray Romano later appeared on The King of Queens.
6. Amanda Schull, One Tree Hill
You may remember actress Amanda Schull as Sara Evans, the loving wife of Clay Evans, on One Tree Hill. Sara always supported Clay with his career and they had a bit of a whirlwind romance. But it all came crashing down when she died of a sudden aneurysm, as shown in season 7 when Clay reminisces on his tragic past. Her spirit appears in a few episodes following that, but the big surprise comes when Schull returned as a Sara Evans look-alike named Katie Ryan, in seasons 7 and 8. Katie is a prospective client of Clay who ends up stalking him, pretending to be Sara and shooting him and his girlfriend after Clay rejects her. Talk about a messed up plot twist!
5. Jeffrey Combs, Star Trek
We can all agree that Jeffrey Combs is a master at playing multiple roles. The talented actor played a total of 8 different roles on Star Trek! In fact, he was the first actor to play two unrelated recurring roles on screen in the same episode of Star Trek, when he appeared as Weyoun and Brunt in The Dogs of War. In Star Trek: Enterprise, Combs had a recurring role as Shran, an Andorian military office. He also plays aliens, a human police officer and a Ferengi pirate on the series. What sets Combs apart from others on this list is that he was almost unrecognizable in each role, thanks to all the makeup and costumes.
4. Ali Larter, Heroes
Ali Larter was known as Niki Sanders on the sci-fi show, Heroes. The former casino worker earned extra money as a webcam stripper to support her son, Micah. Seems… sort of normal, right? Well, it’s Heroes, so nothing can be expected to be normal. Besides having enhanced strength, Niki also had an alter-ego named Jessica, who manifests herself as Niki’s deceased sister, Jessica, and two estranged sisters, who, along with her, constituted a set of triplets! Actress Ali Larter just so happened to play the roles of the triplets, as well as her alter-ego (and it makes sense that she did so). So confusing, but that’s Heroes for you. And so much nonsense for the poor actress to remember! It really says something about an actor/actress who can play the role of someone completely different from their original character on the same show. Larter, as her alter-ego Jessica, had to act aggressive and cold-hearted, as the character killed and robbed people.
3. Judy Greer, Two and a Half Men
Judy Greer made her debut on Two and a Half Men as Myra Melnic and later appeared as Bridget Schmidt (the character she spent most of her time as on Two and a Half Men). Myra is Herb’s little sister that dates Charlie for a short time while she was engaged to another man. She only appeared in two episodes of season 4. Judy Greer then returned in season 9 to play the part of Bridget Schmidt, the ex-wife of Walden Schmidt. She quickly became a despised character as she electrocutes Alan and Walden, angrily runs into the beach house with her car, sues Walden and other things only a crazy ex would do. For 11 episodes (10 in season 9, and 1 in season 10), Bridget added some extra drama to Two and a Half Men. But that’s not all; Judy also played another character, Danny, in the episode The Squat and the Hover. She was a lesbian who looked just like Bridget (what a surprise) and this made Walden fall for her. He pretends to be gay to make her feel comfortable enough to talk to him, and ends up being sweet but unfortunately, nothing becomes of them (since she’s not attracted to men, of course).
2. Jerry Orbach, Law & Order
Fans of Law & Order probably couldn’t imagine the show without respected actor Jerry Orbach in his role as Detective Lennie Briscoe. He played the part for a whopping 12 seasons until his unfortunate death in 2004. His character was a sarcastic but honest one, who was well-liked by his colleagues. Though this is the role that Orbach is known for, he actually made his debut in a guest role on Law & Order as the defense attorney, Frank Lehrman, during the show’s second season way back in 1991 (on the episode, The Wages of Love). If you watch this episode with an open eye (and ears), you’ll notice two really weird things: 1) Frank Lehrman displays the characteristics and mannerisms of Lennie Briscoe (right down to that look on his face) and 2) Orbach’s character is defending a woman who killed her husband, Edward Cullen. Yep, you read that correctly.
1. Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana
We all know that Miley Cyrus doubles as the average teenager Miley Stewart and pop star Hannah Montana in the popular Disney show, Hannah Montana (the show that essentially put Miley on the map). Miley has to hide her identity as Hannah Montana throughout the series in order to live her life peacefully. But, do you remember Cyrus playing another role in the show? In episode 17 of season 1, Torn Between Two Hannahs, Cyrus also plays the role of her look-alike cousin, Luanne. Her cousin visits Miley Stewart from Tennessee and causes trouble when she dresses up as Hannah Montana and attempts to expose Miley’s long-kept secret.