A Compendium of Whedon Casting Connections

I’ve noticed that not only does Joss Whedon tend to re-hire actors for different projects, but that Whedon alums pop up in fellow alums’ shows, even when Whedon himself is not involved.

For instance:

Adam Baldwin (Firefly) is on Chuck. Two episodes ago we met the Ring head honcho, played by Mark Sheppard (Firefly)
Alyson Hannigan (Buffy) is on How I Met Your Mother. Morena Baccarin (Firefly) did a guest shot as Marshall’s date with “crazy eyes.” And of course, NPH came to star in Dr. Horrible, so that’s kind of a reverse case.

Morena appears with Alan Tudyk (Firefly) in V. (Which also has Rekha Sharma, who was in BSG with Tahmoh Penikett, who wound up on Dollhouse.)

I hear rumors of similar instances on Bones, but I haven’t been watching that for a long time.

Any others?

Not to mention Amy Acker (Angel) and Alexis Denisof (Angel, Buffy and Mr. Alyson Hannigan).

Amy Acker and Nathan Fillion co starred in Drive.

Alyson Hannigan and Charisma Carpenter both had recurring roles on “Veronica Mars.” Although their characters didn’t interact for the most part, they did have one scene together, in which they snark at each other cattily in a manner reminiscent of the old Willow/Cordelia arguments (IIRC, VM creator Rob Thomas has explicitly said this was an homage to their “Buffy” characters).

Joss has also made a habit of recasting his Firefly crew as villains on his other shows. Off the top of my head, we have:


Nathan Fillion (Caleb, “Buffy”; Captain Hammer, “Dr Horrible”)
Gina Torres (Jasmine, “Angel”)
Alan Tudyk (Alpha, “Dollhouse”)
Adam Baldwin (Marcus Hamilton, “Angel”)
Summer Glau (Bennett, “Dollhouse”)

Morena Baccarin was originally going to play the part of Eve on “Angel,” but had to withdraw due to prior obligations. The role ended up going to Sarah Thompson.

Jewel Staite also appeared as an antagonist on “Wonderfalls,” which was executive-produced by frequent Whedon-collaborator, Tim Minear. Amusingly, the actor who played the crime boss Badger on “Firefly,” Mark Sheppard, has since appeared as a good guy lawyer on “Battlestar Galactica” (featuring Whedonverse writer Jane Espenson) and a semi-good guy FBI agent on “Dollhouse.”

Nathan Fillion’s show Castle has featured several Whedonverse actors. Most recently Leonard Roberts guested as Special Agent Avery. He was also Forrest Gates (one of the Initiative commandos) on BtVS.

Of course, Fillion has been dropping Firefly references all the time on his new show. My favorite was the beginning of “Vampire Weekend,” where he jumps out of his bedroom dressed in his “space cowboy” outfit.

*Alexis Castle: What exactly are you supposed to be?
Richard Castle: Space cowboy.
Alexis Castle: Ok, A: there are no cows in space. B: didn’t you wear that like five years ago?
Richard Castle: So?
Alexis Castle: So, don’t you think you should move on? *

Simon Helberg is the key figure. He was in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog which links him to the Whedonverse. He’s in The Big Bang Theory which links him to the Lorreverse. He was in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip which links him to the Sorkinverse. He was in For Your Consideration which links him to the Guestiverse. He was in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story which links him to the Apatowiverse. He appeared in Arrested Development, Evan Almighty, Joey, MADtv, Old School, Reno 911, and Van Wilder.

Helberg is the new Bacon.

You forgot the most important one - he was in A Serious Man, which links him to the Coenverse.

Not to slosh water on the campfire but it’s worth noting that there’s a limited pool of actors in TV land. Say that that your average show has 5 main characters, there are 25 shows at any given moment, each show has an average of 50 episodes during its life, and each episode has 3 guest stars on average. If each show doesn’t want to ever reuse the same actor for a guest part, they will use 150 actors as guest parts over the life of the show. TV land only needs 155 actors in total to populate all of its shows. We’ll generously say that there’s something more like 250 top level actors.

The main characters from your favorite show each go out and find a starring role in a new show (5 shows out of 25 playing). The main characters can’t guest on their own show, so there’s only 245 actors available to each show. Since that shrinks by 3 each week, on average they’ll have 238 people to choose from.

The odds of hitting any of 4 options out of 238 possibilities is 1.68%. With 50 tries, that becomes 84%. Since our actors span 5 shows, there’s a 420% probability of one of them guest starring on one of the others shows. I.e. you can expect it to happen four times, at least.

I don’t follow television world news much, but I have to wonder: How many of these connections also have the network in common, or the channel itself? I believe that many channels have ‘stables’ of actors they draw from; whether it’s a contract thing or what, I have no idea. But it makes me think some of these appearances are because the shows are on the same network, or that it wouldn’t be as common among shows that were on different networks.
If that makes sense.