In the world of television, there are a number of actors who have managed to leave a lasting impression on audiences by playing multiple roles on the same show. Whether it’s due to their versatility as actors, the creative vision of the show’s creators, or a combination of both, these performers have demonstrated their range and talent by bringing a diverse array of characters to life on the small screen.
What Makes an Actor Capable of Playing Multiple Roles?
To play multiple roles on the same show requires an actor to be versatile and talented in their craft. It is a testament to their ability to transform themselves and disappear into a character, rather than simply playing themselves in different scenarios. Often times, these actors have to create entirely different personas to differentiate one role from another, from the way they move, talk, and behave to their physical appearance, and even their wardrobe. They must become chameleons, adapting to each new role and bringing it to life in a way that is unique and distinct.
Examples of Actors Who Have Played Multiple Roles on the Same Show
Tatiana Maslany – Orphan Black
Tatiana Maslany is a Canadian actress who gained international recognition for her performance as Sarah Manning and a multitude of clones in the science fiction series Orphan Black. Over the course of five seasons, Maslany played more than ten different characters, each with their own unique personality, backstory, and quirks. Her portrayal of these complex, multi-dimensional characters earned her critical acclaim, numerous awards, and a dedicated fan following.
Sarah Paulson – American Horror Story
Sarah Paulson is an American actress known for her roles in various television series and films. One of her most notable roles is in the horror anthology series American Horror Story, in which she has played a variety of characters over the show’s multiple seasons. From a psychic to a journalist to a conjoined twin, Paulson has proven her versatility by tackling a range of roles with equal skill and nuance.
James Marsters – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
James Marsters is an American actor and musician who played the role of Spike, a vampire with a British accent, on the popular supernatural series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While Spike was his most prominent role on the show, Marsters also appeared in several episodes as a different character, a vampire named Barnabas. Marsters’ ability to play two different vampire characters with distinct personalities and motivations helped to showcase his range as an actor.
Peter Dinklage – Game of Thrones
Peter Dinklage is an American actor known for his work in film, television, and theater. He gained widespread recognition for his role as Tyrion Lannister in the critically acclaimed series Game of Thrones. Dinklage’s portrayal of the witty, politically savvy Lannister won him multiple awards and made him a fan favorite. However, he also played a smaller role in the show’s first season as a different character, a theater actor named Marillion.
Neil Patrick Harris – How I Met Your Mother
Neil Patrick Harris is an American actor, comedian, and singer who is best known for his role as Barney Stinson in the comedy series How I Met Your Mother. While Stinson was his most prominent role on the show, Harris also appeared in several episodes as a different character, a flashy womanizer named Druthers. Harris’ ability to play two characters with such different personalities and mannerisms helped to demonstrate his versatility as an actor.
Laverne Cox – Orange is the New Black
Laverne Cox is an American actress and LGBTQ+ advocate who played the role of Sophia Burset, a transgender woman in prison, on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. In addition to her main role, Cox also played a second character on the show, a character named Sophia before her transition.
Nina Dobrev – The Vampire Diaries
Nina Dobrev is a Canadian actress who played the role of Elena Gilbert on the supernatural drama The Vampire Diaries. She also played Katherine Pierce, a vampire with a mischievous streak and a history with the show’s male lead, Damon Salvatore. Dobrev’s ability to play two characters with such different personalities and motivations helped to showcase her range as an actor.
Dylan McDermott – American Horror Story
Dylan McDermott is an American actor who played the role of Ben Harmon, a troubled psychiatrist, on the first season of American Horror Story. In the second season, he returned to the show as a different character, a patient named Johnny Morgan. McDermott’s portrayal of these two vastly different characters demonstrated his range as an actor.
Zachary Quinto – American Horror Story
Zachary Quinto is an American actor who played the role of Chad Warwick, a former owner of the show’s haunted house, on the first season of American Horror Story. In the second season, he returned to the show as a different character, a psychiatrist named Oliver Thredson. Quinto’s ability to play two characters with such different personalities and motivations helped to showcase his range as an actor.
Actors who played multiple roles on the same show are a testament to their range and versatility as performers. These actors have the ability to transform themselves and disappear into a character, making each new role distinct and memorable. rom Tatiana Maslany’s multi-dimensional portrayal of numerous clones in Orphan Black to Peter Dinklage’s work as both Tyrion Lannister and Marillion in Game of Thrones, these actors have showcased their ability to bring a wide range of characters to life on the small screen. It takes a special kind of talent to play multiple roles on the same show, and these actors have proven that they have what it takes to rise to the challenge.
- Mark Boardman is an established showbiz journalist and freelance copywriter whose work has been published in Business Insider, Daily Mail, Bloomberg, MTV, Buzzfeed and The New York Post amongst other press. Often spotted on the red carpet at celebrity events and film screenings, Mark is a regular guest on BBC Radio London and in-demand for his opinions for media outlets including Newsweek. His TV credits include This Morning, The One Show and T4. Email Mark@MarkMeets.com
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