Television episodes are, by nature, “episodic,” with the same set of things happening week after week. Maybe it’s a crime show with a new case every Thursday, open and shut over the course of an hour. Maybe you’re watching something more supernatural in nature, whose characters have to team up against a new monster every week. Maybe it’s a family comedy, where the characters’ only job is to Learn Something™ by the end of their weekly allotted 30 minutes of screen time.

The only shows that don’t fit this description are miniseries or book adaptations or otherwise “elevated” modes of storytelling. Still, no matter what you’re watching, sometimes things do seem a bit samey. Maybe you even catch sight of a certain actor and imagine you’ve definitely seen them on this show before, but not in that role. It could just be because you dreamt it, but it also could be true — some TV shows are famous for recycling one or more members of their cast, putting them on the show as one character and then inviting them back for more. Sometimes, it’s never addressed, and the creators just hope no one notices. Sometimes, it’s a little in-joke with the fans or those otherwise in the know, and sometimes the characters will be so similar, fan theories will pop up that they’re meant to be the same person.

We’ve chosen 12 of the most famous, strangest, or funniest times when a TV show has invited back a previous actor for another go-round or two, whether they return for another small cameo or are recast as a member of the main cast after making such a great impression the first time. It doesn’t matter if your show is a drama, a comedy, or a thriller about hunting aliens, none are immune from actor deja vu.

12 Actors Who Played Different Characters on the Same TV Show

Some TV shows are famous for recycling one or more members of their cast.

Gallery Credit: Emmy Stefansky

READ MORE: These TV Shows Shared Sets Without People Noticing

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The 10 Weirdest Ways Actors Were Written Off of TV Shows

There has to be some reason for their character’s absence — usually a sudden death — and the more absurd, the better. 

Gallery Credit: Emma Stefansky

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