Top 10 Favorite Dual Roles (in TV and Movies)
About a year ago I did an article on how much sitcoms love doing the dual role. You know, when an actor will play two characters in the same episode or movie. But that was really just a brief run down of every dual role I could think of.
Today I wanted to discuss my favorite dual roles, the one’s I just love. And expand the criteria outside sitcoms. I love these either because they were a surprise that I didn’t realize when I first saw the show or movie, or just because the actor did such an amazing job I am still amazed that it’s really them playing that second role.
I say that because very often you can tell, almost s if the actor is winking at the camera. For instance, in Full House they put a black wig in one of the Olsen’s and said it was Michelle’s cousin. Yeah. Or how about on Brady Bunch when Chris Knight wore glasses..and that was it. Or 3rd Rock when John Lithgow played Evil Dick, the only difference was he under acted instead of overacted. Yawn.
But when done right these can nearly fool an audience. Especially if you have the right actor who can make it seem like a totally different person enitrely! Heck, Lee Marvin won an Oscar for his dual role in Cat Balou. The only rule is that I had to have seen these, so as you can imagine lots of good example will be left off. Just let me know what I missed. Ranked in order of the one’s that weren’t a surprise but I just love to those that floored me when I realized it was the same actor!
#10.Casey Kasem as Robin and Shaggy from The New Scooby Doo Mysteries
Ok maybe this one is a cheat and maybe it’s just me. Yeah it’s a voice over role but why shouldn’t that count? Think it’s easy to do two voices in the same cartoon? I didn’t talk much about him when he passed away, but I loved Casey Kasem growing up. I listened to the Top 40 because he was doing it! And I loved his cartoon characters. He did the voice of Shaggy on Scooby Doo and Robin on Superfriends. So what happens when Scooby Doo and the gang meet Batman and Robin? You get Kasem doing both voices in one cartoon….and the little kid inside me LOVES IT! By the way, when I read a comic that has Robin the voice in my head is still Kasem’s. He’s the one who made me like that character (unlike Bert Ward’s Robin who was a whiny pain in the ass).
#9.Michael J Fox as Marty and Marty Jr and Marlena (and Marty Sr!) from Back to the Future
Why so high? I wont lie and say I didn’t know going in that Michael J.Fox was playing all three characters. I sure did. But that didn’t stop me from being impressed by it.Before “The Nutty Professor” perfected the gag, we got Back to the Future II to introduce it.Â This was one of the first times in a movie a single actor played three characters in the same scene! Green screening was one thing, but this was sophisticated stuff for the time. Of course Fox played his older self, son, and daughter and managed to see every one. There was a lot of this that ended up deleted which pisses me off! And yes I liked Biff playing three roles in this movie too. I will have more to say about this movie later this year, but for now I will just say those performances rocked!!
#8.John Stamos as Stavros and Jesse in Full House / Bronson Pinchot as Balki and Mama in Perfect Strangers
This was the slot I had the hardest time yo fill, so I made it a tie. As far as Full House goes, you gotta admit it, they did a good job. In this episode we meet Jesse’s greek cousin Stavros. And with the heavy make-up and accent….yeah you can still tell it’s Stamos. What makes it work is that the character is given time to be the slimy character he was. Stamos did such a good job you do kind of forget it’s the same actor. As for Perfect Strangers, when it was time to finally show Balki’s Mama who else could have played him? Pinchot is a bit underrated and did a fantastic job acting through all the make-up. Sorry about the clip above, from Pinchot on Arsenio Hall on 1991… it was the best I could find.
#7.Robert Reed as Grandpa Brady and Florence Henderson as Grandma Hutchins on The Brady Bunch
No way this was a surprise, they reveal it in the opening! As far as The Brady Bunch goes I could single out several examples from here. Christopher Night and Anne B Davis also had dual roles. Why this then? As far Reed is concerned it’s because you can’t tell it’s him. Of course, Robert Reed was a classically trained actor and really knew how to hide under all that old age make-up. And it worked! And yes Florence Henderson is in the same episode as the grandmother and while she doesn’t nail it like Reed did, she did a good enough job.Â And if you’re wondering why I didn’t like Anne B.David as Aunt Emma, I applaud how different that character was from Alice but, you knew it was just Anne B Davis with a different attitude and hair style.
#6.Frank Morgan as Professor Marvel, The Gatekeeper, The Carriage Driver, The Guard, and The Wizard in Wizard of OZ
I’m not going to lie, it took me a long time to figure out how many roles Frank Morgan had in this movie. The professor in the start and the wizard in the end are obvious. But he was three different people in Emerald City. Cool! Yep he played all three characters there, most notable was the gatekeeper. I love the way he said “You rang that bell!”. What else can I say? He sold it. What about the Wicked Witch? Margaret Hamilton was fantastic but let’s be honest, she was playing the witch in the start too.
#5.David Schimmer as Ross and Russ in “Friends”
Honestly, I still can’t quite believe this one. I don’t know if it was the make-up for the way Schimmer acted, but I still can’t quite believe that both these guys are Schwimmer. A lot of people don’t like the episode for this gimmick (and I get that, I mean The Brady Bunch did it thirty years before!). But I think they really tried to make Russ a real person who happens to resemble Ross but is different enough we can buy Rachel doesn’t see it. It’s make-up unlike other shows which have someone who resembles the other exactly except for a different hair style or accent. And it works, for me anyway.
#4.Eddie Murphy as Many characters in “Coming to America”
This was an 80’s movie which has kind of been forgotten. But it was good, really good! I still remember the audible gasps from the audience when they realized how many roles Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall actually played in this movie. Of course that was before Murphy did it so often it’s boring now. I will spare you a long plot breakdown, if you’ve never heard of it check it out. What about The Klumps? I went with his choice because it wasn’t “been there, done that” yet as it would be by the time “The Nutty Professor” rolled around. By the way the scene linked above is one of the best in the film.
#3.Elizabeth Montgommery as Sam and Serena in “Bewitched”
Elizabeth Montgomery was awesome. She played Samantha’s “evil” cousin Serena in several episodes. And did a fantastic job. It always felt like she put that black wig one and just had a ball. The character was credited as Pandora Sparks, and people at the time had no trouble believing it was a different person. Sam was kind of uptight, and Serena was a true free spirit. I like that she wasn’t really evil, just mischievous and irresponsible, Unlike Jeannie’s sister on I Dream of Jeannie.Â So, what about Barbabra Eden who did the same trick on I Dream of Jeannie? I never rally watched it.
#2.Brent Spiner as Data and Dr.Soong from Star Trek-The Next Generation
It was either this or James Doohan, but while Doohan did several voices on the classic show, Spiner really outmatched him with his various characters. While it’s obvious Spiner is pulling double duty as Data and his evil brother Lore, what may not be so obvious is who it us under that makeup playing the elderly Dr.Soong. Yep it’s Spiner again, and in “Brother” he plays all three characters in one scene flawlessly! I don’t remember when I realized it was him but I can tell you it wasn’t the first time I saw the episode. Fantastic job by an enormously underrated actor.
Oh and no I didn’t forget Jeffrey Combs, that episode of DS9 where he played Weyoun and Brunt in the same episode still makes me smile.
#1.Dick Van Dyke as Bert and Mr.Dawes Sr from Mary Poppins
I will never forget the time we were watching Mary Poppins, and my father told us to really watch the end credits. The credit for Mr.Dawes senior popped up, and the letters in the name suddenly switched around to reveal it was Dick Van Dyke! What?? Our minds were blown! Every time since I watch that movie I watch carefully to see if I can tell it’s him under that makeup. And to be fair, it’s a little easier now than it was (it helps Van Dyke is kind of old now). But he was fantastic in that role, which according to what I read Van Dyke asked Walt Disney if he could play, for fun.Â He did a read for the character and did such a good job Disney loved it! Van Dyke is awesome in this movie, getting one of my favorite scenes as Bert and as Mr.Dawes he is just brilliant and sells every second of it.
Well folks, there’s my list. Of course I left a ton off, so many that I could easily make a second list. Did I leave your favorite off? Comment and let me know.