Sometimes, actors appear in a TV show early in their career, then return later for a bigger role. Other times, they’re cast in two minor roles and the showrunners just hope we won’t notice.
In-show gags like David Schwimmer playing both Ross and Russ in Friends obviously don’t count, as we’re supposed to notice this. Re-casted roles will count, but only if the early version was weird and or forgettable.
To qualify, an actor must have played two distinct roles in the same show, with the vague qualifier of people generally not noticing or realising that they’ve appeared in the very same show before.
Sometimes when these actors return, the character (or characters) they’re playing are similar enough that there might have been some off screen character progression that we just haven’t been told about.
It also counts if someone is explicitly the same character who appeared in an earlier episode, but are so different to their former version that no one remembers their origins anymore.
With all that in mind though, there’re plenty of examples of a actor/character cropping up twice in a show with no real explanation.
10. Leslie Knope - Parks And Recreation
Starting off with a bit of a tame one, as there’s no recasting or funky new character direction, and considering Knope is the central character throughout the entire show, it certainly isn’t a case of a long forgotten character returning.
However, it certainly feels like Leslie Knope is a new character in Season 2, as from then onwards she’s almost unrecognisable from the bumbling fool of Season 1. Like Steve Carrell’s lack of hair plugs in the first season of The Office, early Leslie Knope is particularly jarring on a rewatch.
It’s natural, especially in a show this long running, that the characters will develop somewhat. Larry/Gary/Jerry, Ron, April, Andy, Ann et cetera all change as the series goes on. In each and every case though, these transitions are gradual and realistic.
Leslie Knope has more of a finger click change, spinning on a dime between the first two seasons.
Initially, she’s a bumbling loser who’s terrible at everything she does. Later, she’s a hard working sweetheart... who usually still fails, but at least she’s not pathetic.
This change was so warmly received that most fans have pushed the original Knope out of their minds. On a rewatch though, she’s unavoidable.