Arts and Culture Film

All Too Familiar Actors

When was the last time you watched a movie and said “Oh god, this guy again? Is there anything he isn’t in?” It feels like that happens to me more and more these days. I am constantly thinking about why certain actors are reused again and again and some are fantastic in one film and then never seen again. 

After some research, I discovered that the practice of using the same actor or company of actors is not new. Before there was film and TV, most actors were part of a theatre company/troupe and would play a different role for every new show brought in, a practice that can be traced back to Shakespeare’s original plays! Today this is referred to as a repertory company. In the NPR podcast Why filmmakers like Wes Anderson like to cast the same actors in their films, theatre critic Robert Brustein described repertory companies as “A company, a group of actors that work together like a ball team works together knows each other’s plays and, therefore, can feed each other in a way that strange pick-up companies can’t.” The use of a repertory company still occurs today, although maybe not as often. 

The most famous use of a repertory company in modern media is in director Wes Anderson’s films, the subject of the aforementioned NPR podcast. If you have seen Anderson’s film you’ve noticed the use of the same actors. Like many directors, Anderson likes to cast the same actors because he already knows what they are capable of and has an established working relationship. Directors who reuse actors like Wes Anderson, Orson Wells, Adam Sandler, James Gunn, etc, will often write their scripts with specific actors in mind, and often ones they have worked with before. 

While this is not always the case, it does help to explain why actors like Chris Pratt seem to be popping up in every major franchise nowadays. In a response to a tweet regarding this very topic James Gunn replied: “We know how they work, how they tick, we develop a shorthand. We know they’re reliable, good people.” 

One of the most popular users of this “recycle cast” method is American writer and director Ryan Murphy. Murphy, known for shows like Glee, American Horror Story, Pose, and many MANY more, has such a habit of reusing the same actors that he has created what some call the Murphyverse. 

Ryan Murphy’s ‘Hollywood’: Meet the (Familiar) Cast of Netflix’s Drama

As David Cornswet put it when talking about his anticipation of getting his role in Murphy’s Hollywood, “Ryan Murphy makes a lot of television and he has an excellent reputation for keeping people in the family, so that’s always the hope” And Ryan Murphy’s “family” just keeps growing. A huge selling point of his show American Horror Story, is its anthology format, where the same actors take on different roles each season in a refreshed story. This practice may soon became apparent in all of his work with AT LEAST one familiar face popping up in each of his shows.

 “…Murphy is also known for recycling his actors, both within his shows and between them. Sarah Paulson, Darren Criss, Evan Peters, and tons of other names have popped up in several of Murphy’s work…”

(Welcome to the Ryan Murphy Cinematic Universe)

One of my favorite games is to come up with 3 or 4 actors and try to connect them all through their work. Thanks to Ryan Murphy’s work, this game just keeps getting easier!

However, there is a new “cinematic universe” on the block, one that I am personally very excited about and that is the Rachel Sennot, Molly Gordon, and Ayo Edebri cinematic universe! 

“Rachel Sennott, Molly Gordon, and Ayo Edebiri have crafted a comedic styling all their own, and over the past several years, they’ve started frequently overlapping to form a sort of Zillennial Cult Comedy Cinematic Universe.”

( Introducing the Zillennial Cult Comedy Cinematic Universe – The Ringer )

While my support for this new group of actors may seem hypocritical, what is unique about these women is their freshness, not only on the Hollywood scene but in the work they are putting out. Where the recycling of Murphy’s actors can feel elitist (despite their incredible performances), this new group of actors is still somewhat new to the scene and working together not only because the audience seems to enjoy it, but because their collaboration is creating a new era of media. 

While it still bothers me when Timothee Chalamet pops up on my screen every five minutes, I will say that most of these “reused” actors are cast again and again because of their undeniable talent. While I could go on and on about how there are so many actors out there who deserve a chance, (that post is coming your way so don’t you worry) there is a small part of me that likes to imagine first table reads feeling like big family reunions. And let’s face it, watching Adam Sandler play around with his friends every year for an hour and a half is pretty fun.