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A reality-impaired fan confuses the actor with the character.

Not to be confused with I Am Not Shazam, which refers to the confusion of a character with the title of a work or with the character's Catch Phrase. Also not to be confused with I Am Not Spock, which refers to an actor who's unable to get any part other than the character for which he or she is known. See also But I Play One on TV, which is when the same thing happens in Real Life. Contrast Your Costume Needs Work. Sometimes leads to Becoming the Mask in less cynical stories.

Examples of Actor-Role Confusion include:

Anime and Manga

  • In the second Sakura Taisen OAV, Kohran is mistaken by a group of kids for Shounen Red, a character she plays on a radio drama—and then attacked by the baddies-of-the-episode. The rest of the team has to come up with a way to rescue her without breaking the illusion and "shattering the children's dreams."
  • In Super GALS! the main children characters (Sayo & co) mistake the actor from the series of Odaiba Shark as the real character, even when they see it filmed. Every time they meet he pretends to be the character to protect their dreams.
    • Said actor was written out of the show for one episode and appeared in a kid's show as an exercise coach. Sayo believes it's by chance they look similar.

Comic Books

  • One Astro City story featured an actor who played the superhero Crimson Cougar on a soap opera. After he foils a robbery while in costume, people start treating him like a real superhero. Including supervillains wanting to kill him.


  • The movie Bolt is about a canine television star who mistakes himself for the superhero he plays on TV. Not that he was ever given reason to believe otherwise.
    • Rhino the Hamster suffers from the same confusion.
  • A Bugs Life: The circus troupe's acting is mistaken for real heroics.
  • In Galaxy Quest, the actors in a science fiction TV show are believed to be real heroes by fans from outer space. Of course, they eventually rise to the challenge.
    • And it isn't just the fans from outer space who conflate the two; their die-hard human fans on Earth sometimes have the same problem:

Brandon: "But I want you to know that I'm not a complete brain case, okay? I understand completely that it's just a TV show. I know there's no beryllium sphere, no digital conveyor, no ship..."
Nesmith: "It's all real."
Brandon: "Oh my God, I knew it. I knew it! I knew it!"

  • The basis of the plot of Three Amigos when some poor and desperate Mexican villagers mistake three (down on their luck) movie stars for the heroes they play on-screen and hire them to protect their town from real bandits.
  • My Name Is Bruce mirrors the Three Amigos with a young man who thinks that Bruce Campbell really is as heroic and awesome as the characters he plays. Except he's a drunken lech, about to get evicted from his trailer home and not at all prepared to deal with the real murderous ghost that is plaguing the town.
  • After seeing him cheated out of winning a fixed match in Ready To Rumble, two unbelievably stupid wrestling fans track down (fictional) WCW wrestler "Jimmy King" and are shocked to find that he's a pathetic drunk and not a hero. Fortunately, over the course of the movie they manage to turn him into a hero.


  • In Philip Roth's novel Zuckerman Unbound, writer Nathan Zuckerman encounters fans who call him "Carnovsky," mistaking him for the title character of his book.

Live-Action TV

  • In one episode of Friends, Joey does a print PSA for STD awareness, and then has trouble getting dates afterwards.
    • In another episode, Brooke Shields portrayed a Loony Fan stalking Joey, convinced that he was really the character he played in a Soap Opera. The friends got rid of her by convincing her that Joey was actually the Evil Twin instead.
  • In the pilot of The Beverly Hillbillies, Jed asks if Tom Mix is in Beverly Hills, only to be told that Mix is dead (the actor died in 1940). Jed then says "Oh, yeah! What's the matter with me? Remember Peril? He got shot at the end of that picture."
  • In Drake and Josh, Josh was hired to play a criminal as part of a Crime Reconstruction. He was thereafter arrested several times by people confusing him for the actual criminal.
  • In a Thirty Rock episode, the mother of Jack's Puerto Rican girlfriend hates him because he looks exactly like the villain of a Mexican telenovela she watches. (Both are played by Alec Baldwin, of course.)
  • Extras plays with this, in that an Adam Westing Shaun Williamson is so typecast as Barry (a character he played for ten years on British soap Eastenders) that even the credits identify him as "Barry".
  • In the 1970's sitcom Alice, when George Burns happens to drop by the diner, ditzy waitress Vera thinks he's God (from his film Oh, God!) paying a visit.
  • In the Psych episode "Lights! Camera! Homicidio!", the killer was a rabid telenovela fan who had confused the show with real life. She was killing actors whose characters had been cruel to the lead actress' character.
    • That might be an homage to an episode of Hawaii Five-O where a mentally ill boy kills men who resemble characters menacing the female protagonist of his favorite comic strip.
  • In the NCIS episode "Cover Story", a Loony Fan of McGee's books thinks that they're true stories, and goes on a rampage killing the people that McGee based his villains on. He eventually tries to kill Abby because "Amy" broke up with "McGregor," but is stopped (and then arrested) when McGee tells him that "Amy" and "McGregor" are getting married.
  • Paroided by The Chaser: Appearing in Government Ads, Australia says no.
  • In an episode of The Famous Jett Jackson, Jett meets a kid who thinks he really is Silverstone, the cool spy he plays on TV.
  • In the Quantum Leap episode "Moments to Live," Sam leaps into the star of a medical soap opera, and is kidnapped by a fan who wants the fictional doctor to be the father of her child.
  • In one episode of The Brady Bunch, Peter tries out for the school play and gets the role of Benedict Arnold. Whenever he tells anyone whom he's playing, they inevitably respond with, "Traitor!"



"I have saved the world in the movies/So naturally there's folks who think I must know what to do"


Video Games

  • In Ratchet and Clank Up Your Arsenal, both the President Of The Galaxy and Big Bad Dr. Nefarious apparently believe Clank's Secret Agent Clank holovid role to be real and that Ratchet is merely his valet.
    • Somewhat justified in that they are both aware Clank was involved with actually saving the galaxy twice before, along with Ratchet, and assumed the guy they've seen being badass is the actual badass of the two.

Western Animation

  • Inverted in one episode of The Simpsons: Patty and Selma kidnap Richard Dean Anderson due to their obsession with MacGyver. After he MacGyvers an escape from the room they've locked him in, he gets such a kick that he stays with them in spite of the kidnapping, eventually calling himself MacGyver and trying to imitate his fictional persona. He ends up becoming so annoying that they drive him off with boring vacation slides.
    • In "Homer to the Max", a new police drama airs, starring a Badass cop named Homer Simpson.

Homer: Wow. They captured my personality perfectly! Did you see the way Daddy caught that bullet?
Lisa: That's not really you, Dad, he's just a fictional character who happens to have the same name.
Homer: Don't confuse Daddy, Lisa.

    • When the character is later retooled as a bumbling Comic Relief moron, the guys at Moe's torment the "real" Homer by demanding he do something stupid like his namesake character.
    • In one of the Treehouse of Horror episodes, Lucy Lawless is constantly being referred to as Xena, leaving her to exclaim more exhortedly each time "I'm not Xena, I'm Lucy Lawless". Eventually she is captured by Comic Book Guy as part of a collection of live action actors frozen in carbonite plastic. Bart and Lisa try to save her but fail and she has to fight him off with She Fu moves, high kicks, back flips and ululating. She then grabs the children and flies off with them.

Lisa: "Wait, Xena can't fly."
Lucy: "I told you I'm not Xena, I'm Lucy Lawless."

    • Of course, throughout the story, Lawless speaks in the Fake American accent she used for Xena rather than her native New Zealand accent.
      • Something similar happened when she made a guest appearance on another show: the episode starts with one of the male leads thinking Xena was going to kill him.
    • Homer himself is a particularly extreme example:

FBI Agent: Most people write letters to movie stars. This Simpson guy writes to movies. "Dear Die Hard. You rock. Especially when that guy was on the roof. P.S: Do you know Mad Max?"

    • In "Mr Plow", Barney goes one step further and confuses the actor with the wrong role as he bids a cheerful farewell to "Superman" and promises to protect his secret an Adam Westing Adam West. Actually, that's why the trope once was named Your Secrets Safe With Me Superman.
  • In an episode of Family Guy, Peter writes to Richard Dean Anderson, thinking he is MacGyver, asking him to save his dog from the pound with a rubber band, paper clip, and straw. He puts his eye out.
  • In a Robot Chicken sketch, Harrison Ford is chosen along with Aerosmith to stop a meteor from crashing into Earth.

Harrison Ford: "Listen. I'm 62 years old, and I'm just an actor. You people are all insane."
SW fan: "Go get'em, Han Solo!"

    • Of course when Mark Hamill reminds everyone that he blew up the Death Star with his eyes closed, he's told "That was just a movie, Mr. Hamill" by the exact same Star Wars fanboy.
  • Fanboy on Freakazoid!. The minute he sees Mark Hamill, his delusion that he's Luke Skywalker gets turned up to 11.

Real Life

  • When he appeared on I Love Lucy, George Reeves was only referred to as "Superman" so as not to break the illusion of younger viewers. Basically, to enforce this trope.
    • George came this close to getting shot because a kid thought he was really Superman and the bullets from his dad's gun would bounce off him. George stopped him by citing the danger of a ricochet to innocent bystanders.
    • Burt Ward was similarly not allowed to take any other roles while he was playing Robin, so as not to "dilute Robin's image", or something. He describes in his autobiography how he was approached for a role he desperately wanted but couldn't take due to this restriction. Every time he's seen the guy since then, the guy's said, "Burt, I wanted you for that role." You're not alone, buddy.
  • Robert Pattinson, meet 3,000,000 fangirls who think your name is Edward Cullen. Some of them will offer you their actual blood. Have fun.
  • Tom Baker was forever being accosted by children who addressed him as "the Doctor." Apparently, he always managed to remain in character rather than spoil their childhood illusions.
    • John Barrowman has recounted being accosted on the street by fans who insist that he is Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood. One time on the Paul O'Grady show, he told of an occasion in which he'd played along, telling a little boy he'd been sent by the Doctor to find a Cyberman...
  • John Hinckley Jr, Loony Fan and probably the greatest example of a Misaimed Fandom in history, thought assassinating Ronald Reagan would impress 12-year-old child prostitute Jodie Foster, through some sort of confused combination of the plot elements of Taxi Driver. (Mentioning this to Ms. Foster, by the way, is a supremely bad idea.)
  • Voice actor Crispin Freeman once recalled getting an email from someone asking for incestuous dating advice on the basis that, because he once voiced a character that was in love with his sister, he must have a good deal of experience in screwing his sister in real life.
  • Tim Curry spent a long time after The Rocky Horror Picture Show trying to distance himself from Dr, Frank-N-Furter. His "more rabid fans" is the reason Tim put on weight, tried to look more and refused to have anything to do with Rocky Horror until recently.
  • Sir Ian McKellen has stated that, outside of his native British Isles, most fans recognize him as characters such as Gandalf. In fact, when he came to New York to lend support post-911, a policeman actually smiled at him and said, "Thanks for helping out, Magneto." Rather than be upset by it, he finds it an honor to be associated with such iconic characters.
    • In fact, apparently when a reporter said "I don't know how to call you, Sir, Sir Ian, Sir McKellen" his reply was "Call me Gandalf". (helps that he disencourages being called "Sir Ian")
  • Ellen Page has a strong Hatedom among some people who actually think that she is exactly like her character in Hard Candy in real life. Sadly, these same people haven't seemed watch any of her other movies or seen her in real life.