Phantom TV Actors: In Title Credits But Not In Show

What do Olivia Wilde, Jennifer Morrison and Pippa Black have in common? They appear in the title credits of their show, but for many episodes, they do not appear onscreen at all.

Interestingly, I noticed on several occasions when Ames did not appear onscreen for Human Target’s second season, Janet Montgomery’s name was excised from the opening credits.

Saturday Night Live is probably a special case. I’m sure there are cases when a bit player in the title credits doesn’t have screen time for any of the skits, but I bet they appeared onscreen during the closing goodnights. Or maybe just the back of the actor’s head. But I think that counts. Does anyone remember Dean Edwards? He was in the credits for two seasons, but I bet there’s a lot of shows where he only appears at the end.

I think it’s a contract thing: you sign up for a series, you get your name in the credits (and get paid) whether you’re actually in every episode or not.

Karen Austin, who played the first court clerk, Lana, on Night Court, left about halfway through the first season. They filled the court clerk with a series of temporary clerks, until she was replaced by Mac in the second season, but they kept Austin in the credits for the rest of the season. I don’t know quite why.

It takes time and money to produce a credit sequence, and these are in short supply on many tv productions.

Angelina stayed in the credits on first season of Jersey Shore even after she left. I was actually wondering why she didn’t get edited out–now I know.

There have been episodes of Castle in which Tamala Jones, Molly Quinn, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, and/or Susan Sullivan have not appeared.

Heck, LOST did this tons. They don’t have opening credits(with a song and so forth), but the actors names display on the bottom whether they are in it or not. It’s contractual.

This also happened on Chicago Hope when Roma Maffia’s name was in the credits, but her character only appeared in six episodes during the first season.

I think this happens on shows with ensemble casts where characters may not appear in story arcs. No character means no appearance, although the actor’s name is still in the credits because the actor is still part of the cast.

Not all shows do this – Gilmore Girls would redo the credits every time, depending on which of the secondary characters was in a particular episode.

As he said, an actor is in the show and, subsequently the credits, not for just the particular episode.

What made me wonder for years was an old show called Lost In Space. The actor who played the evil doctor was in every single episode; yet in the credits, he was listed as Special Guest Star. A guest is an occasional visitor, not a permanent resident. So, obviously, it was a contract thing, unrelated to common usage of the English language.

Craig Ferguson was absent from many episodes during the last couple of seasons of The Drew Carey Show, but he remained in the credits. Ryan Stiles was also absent from a few episodes during the final season, but there he remained.

Credits are subject to negotiation just like salary. There are a number of examples of actors demanding or being offered special credits in addition to or in lieu of more money. Look how Alyson Hannigan went from “third in the credits” to “end of credits, special title” on BtVS. Or they will be identified as their character - “and starring James Earl Jones as Donny Osmond.” That sort of thing. It is all spelled out in the contracts.

Will’s ex wife wasn’t even around much towards the end of season one, and yet she’s still in the credits this season even though we’ve seen her like twice. They must have some serious future plans for her to keep her around in the credits.

“…and Rex Hamilton as Abraham Lincoln!”

Errr… Glee.

“Sir Stewart Wallace as Himself”

OK. After Ms. Maffia’s last appearance, the opening credits were re-worked to switch the order of the two lead actors and add Thomas Gibson. This happened about halfway through the first season. (I’m watching reruns in sequence on Hulu and hadn’t gotten that far when I originally posted.)

And, as always, The Master has something to say.

Cindy Williams was gone for quite awhile from “Laverne & Shirley” before they redid the opening and took her name off.

Same for Kristy McNichol appeared who appeared in the opening of “Empty Nest” before they redid the opening

Likewise, Cloris Leachman on Raising Hope. They even show drawings of her along with the rest of the cast in the opening sequence, but her credit is after the opening and as guest star.

IIRC, Dr. Pulaski on Star Trek TNG’s 2nd season was also billed as a guest star despite being in (almost?) every episode that year.

The plan was to have Zachary Smith killed off after about six episodes but he proved to be so popular that they kept him. Irwin Allen figured that “Special Guest Star” looked good on credits and the FCC wasn’t fining him so keep it.
Several years ago their was a televised Guns n Roses concert that was listed as having Jeff Beck as a guest. If he was there, I didn’t see it.