Same Actor/Actress In Same TV Show, But Now A Different Character

Often times in TV shows you will have an actor come one a play a one time part then go away only to later appear on the same TV show but as a totally different character.

I have heard this happens all the time in Soap Operas.

Most of the time I really don’t notice but every once in awhile it will really bug me a lot

For instance, Richard Schaal played Howard Arnell, who Mary didn’t like, and his brother Paul Arnel, who Mary liked and also played Chuckle’s the clown etc etc (Of course at the time he was married to Valarie Harper so that may have got him the part).

My question is are there any times this happens on TV shows where one actor/actress plays a character and comes back later on as a totally different character and you just can’t accept the old actor/actress in the new role of a different character?

I seem to recall that Dennis Franz played two different characters on “Hill Street Blues.” But I don’t think the characters were all that different. I think that the first character was killed, so they had to give him a different identity to bring him back in a very similar roll. Of course, I’ve killed a lot of brain cells since that show aired, so I could be way off on this memory…TRM

I think the record may be held by Jack Garner (brother of James) who played at least 19 different characters during the six seasons of The Rockford Files. He eventually settled into the role of police captain McEnroe, which he also played in the reunion movies in the 90’s.

You are correct about soap operas.
One of my guilty pleasures is General Hospital - hey, got hooked in Berlin watching AFN when it was all that was on the air in the afternoons when I was home.
At any rate, quickly learned that when someone “dies” on a soap, that doesn’t mean they can’t come back a few years later as the “evil twin”.
For instance - the character “Carly” has been cast many times, and most recently the original actress came back into the show under a new name and character and once again married the guy she was married to years ago…but she was killed last week which means, well, she might appear next year as his cousin - who knows - hey, it is a soap.

Different TV shows but same continuity so I think it counts: John Mahoney played a hack jingle writer on an episode of Cheers in which he appeared with Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane. Later he starred as Frasier’s dad on Frasier.

Mark Lenard played the Romulon Commander in an episode of STAR TREK before returning to play Spock’s father Sarek in another episode, a role he also played in the movies and Next Generation.

Harry Morgan played a senile (or at least demented) officer in an episode of MAS*H. The cast actually had a hard time filming the episode because they were so used to him as the deadpan detective opposite Friday in Dragnet and he was cracking them up with his perfect comic timing as the character made increasingly bizarre comments. Soon after he replaced Henry Blake as the much more sane and avuncular Sherman Potter.

Matthew Laborteaux played Charles Ingalls as a child on flashback episodes of LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE before being brought on as a regular as the adopted waif Albert (technically no blood relation though I think Charles was fooling around- Albert looked exactly like Charles as a boy).

All of these are jarring when you see them in repeats. “That’s not a Romulon, that’s Spock’s daddy!”

This happens in Law & Order. Only the characters are just there for one show, then they become recurring characters. I know S. Epatha Merkerson was on an earlier episode (maybe two?) and now she’s the lieutenant.

I am pretty sure other actors have done this in the L&O franchise.

Good comment re:* L&O*. If you look up just about any currently working actor on IMDb, you’ll see several L&O credits to their name.

Diane Neal was on SVU in 2001 as a woman who raped a male stripper. She came back for a four-year stint as ADA Casey Novak.

I didn’t watch enough of STAR TREK TNS to know personally, but didn’t Denise Crosby play Tasha Yar and then later (after the character was killed) return as Yar’s same age daughter somehow? (I think a time warp was involved.)

Many many years ago there was a TV western mini-series that became a TV series called THE CHISHOLMS. It starred Robert Preston and Rosemary Harris as the mother and father of a family that goes west on the Oregon Trail. On the first series they lost their teenaged daughter, Annabel, in an Indian attack. In the second series they adopt a girl, played by the same actress, because she’s been orphaned in an Indian attack and reminds them so much of Annabel.

These are known as “repeat offenders”. My favorite RO is Michael O’Keefe, who has played 5 different characters in 3 different L&O series (6 if you count the episode where he played identical twins).

O’Keefe, incidentally, also played the kid (and nominal star) in Caddyshack.

You are correct. Dennis Franz played Sal Benedetto in an early season then Norman Buntz in the later seasons.
Lisa Hartman in Konts Landing played Ciji Dunne and then Cathy Geary.

Jeffrey Tambor was in a bunch of Three’s Company episodes, playing a different character in each. Then he played the landlord on The Ropers.

Sheryl Lee played Laura Palmer on Twin Peaks, and also played her cousin, Maddie. If the series had continued, Lynch would have created yet another role for her to play.

I think a number of the citizens coming into the station on Barney Miller were played by the same actors.

Here’s an early one. On “My Three Sons” Tina Cole played a high school student named Joanne and then later played Katie, Robbie’s wife.

(BTW: Barry “Ernie” Livingston is the most active old M3S cast member. He has appeared on “Lie to Me”, “Monk” and even “Mad Men”. But no L&Os.)

Martin Mull played wife-beater Garth Gimble on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, until the character died by impalement with an aluminum Christmas tree. He then returned as Garth’s twin brother, Barth, who hosted a local talk show, Fernwood 2Nite.

Aloma Wright on Scrubs. Played a nurse named Laverne, who died after a car accident. She came back as a different nurse named Shirley.

On* Home Improvement* Debbe Dunning played Heidi the Tool Time Girl after previously guest-starring as Kiki Van Fursterwallenscheinlaw (a beautiful girl Tim had scoped out while out to dinner with his wife Jill.)

I remember one episode where she played a cleaning lady in big office tower whose little baby got shot by a drive-by shooting while she was at work.

And Jerry Orbach played a defence lawyer in one early show before he became Lennie.

For Dragnet, Jack Webb pretty much used the same staple of actors over and over again for guest roles. Not sure if that entirely counts since even Joe Friday and Bill Gannon changed jobs pretty much every week too.