In most movies and TV shows, one actor plays one character. It's a huge reason we're able to follow what happens on shows like Game of Thrones that have millions of characters. Sometimes, though, a character may be played by more than one person. Usually, that happens because the character is being depicted at several different points in their life. There's one actor to play the young character, and another to play the older version.
If we need to learn more about a character's backstory or better understand their future, this might be necessary. There are also times in science fiction stories where characters time travel and meet one another at different stages of their life. These are obviously less common than a simple flashback, but not as uncommon as you might think.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina gave us a chance to meet not one but two Sabrinas. In the series, Kiernan Shipka plays Sabrina as a teenager, and McKenna Grace plays her as a child. Although the two aren't really related, they do look an awful lot alike, and both turn in stellar performances on the show.
It's interesting that, once upon a time, Kiernan played a young child on TV on Mad Men. Hopefully she can show McKenna the ropes and keep her on a good path. Child stars with talent like hers can sometimes be swallowed up by Hollywood.
The Haunting of Hill House had two entirely different casts. One was in the present, and one was depicting events that took place when the show's main characters were children living in a haunted house. As a result, every one of the show's adult actors has a corresponding child actor. One of the very best pairs comes from the character of Nell, who is central to the story despite a somewhat premature demise.
As a child, Nell is played by Violet McGraw. She's one of the youngest kids, but she delivers a great performance. Her adult counterpart is Victoria Pedretti, who's even better. This photo is super creepy though.
This Is Us is another show that features many actors playing the same character in different time periods. The three central children on the show are played by three different actors, one as an adult, one as a 17-year-old, and one as a 10-year-old. Two of the actresses who play Kate, Chrissy Metz and Hannah Zeile, are featured in this photo.
Based on the photo, it seems like the two get along really well. They share in the responsibility of making Kate a sympathetic, understandable human being. Both actresses do everything they need to to make that happen in every scene they're in.
Black Panther was great for a wide variety of reasons, but one of them was certainly its incredible cast. Two of those actors played a single character. Because Black Panther opens in a flashback, we meet a younger version of King T'Chaka, T'Challa's father, when he confronts his brother. That version of the character is played by Atandwa Kani.
Later on, when T'Challa visits the ancestral plane, he visits his father, who is played by John Kani. In another great twist, the two actors are actually father and son, and both hail from South Africa. It's no wonder that they looked so much alike.
In Looper, Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt go on a mind-bending time travel adventure. The two actors don't look dissimilar, but Joseph still had to put on quite a bit of facial makeup to pull off the transformation.
Most of the movies on this list focus on two actors who play one character in different time periods. In Looper, the actors playing the same character get a chance to interact with one another on screen. Time travel gives them a chance to talk, even though their goals are somewhat opposed. It's an interesting examination of what it might be like if you got a chance to rewrite your past.
In Zathura, we don't learn that Dax Shepard and Josh Hutcherson are playing the same character until pretty late. For most of the movie, which is about a space board game that alters reality, we think Dax's character is just an astronaut who has come to help the two brothers at the story's center beat the game.
Eventually, though, we learn that in an alternate timeline, Dax's character wished his brother never existed and got trapped in the game because he couldn't beat it without a partner. Thankfully, Josh's version of the character doesn't make the same mistake. Brothers may fight, but they shouldn't kill each other.
Most of The Notebook is actually a flashback. It's a love story being told by an elderly gentleman to his wife, who suffers from memory loss. Although it may be fairly transparent from the start, we learn near the end of the story that this old couple is the couple at the center of the earlier romance. Age has taken its toll on them both.
In those two timelines, Ally, the woman in the story, is played by Rachel McAdams and Gena Rowlands. Both actresses deliver outstanding performance, and this image also features a cameo from James Garner and Ryan Gosling, who play Gena and Rachel's husband.
We don't meet a young Indiana Jones during either of the first two Indiana Jones films. In the third though, we get a brief origin story for the character. As a young man, Indiana is played by River Phoenix. As an adult, he's obviously played by Harrison Ford.
Although River's acting career was cut short by his untimely death, the actor made quite an impression during his limited time as an actor. As a young Indiana, it was fairly easy to make the connection to who the character would ultimately become. He also got the chance to work with Sean Connery. Not too shabby.
20th Century Fox
For the most part, Ian McKellan and Michael Fassbender have played Magneto in different films. The role was originated by Ian, who played the character in three films. Then, Michael took over and has also played the role in three films. In one of those films, X-Men: Days of Future Past, both actors got a chance to play the part.
Ian played him in an apocalyptic future where most mutants had been wiped out, and Michael played the character in the past, where Wolverine travels to hopefully avert this dark timeline. The actors have a remarkable symmetry to their performances without devolving into mimicry. It's honestly quite impressive.
James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart are two of the best actors working today, and they also spent some time playing the same character. As Charles Xavier, both actors bring a level of gravitas to the part that makes them perfectly suited for it.
Like Ian and Michael as Magneto, James and Patrick only play the character together in one movie. In Days of Future Past, they even share a scene. It's one of the best moments in the entire series. It gets to the heart of the entire series, and it's perfectly acted by both actors. It's hard to imagine two actors more perfectly suited to sharing a role.
This may be one of the more famous instances of two women sharing a role in cinema history. Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart shared the role of Rose in Titanic. Kate played Rose on the Titanic as it sank, and Gloria played the character in the present day telling the story.
Both actresses received Oscar nominations for their work in the film, although neither one went on to win. Rose has become an iconic movie heroine in the years since the film's release. That's thanks in large part to these two ladies, who proved that loving Leonardo DiCaprio was a lifetime affliction.
Moonlight is the moving story of Chiron, a gay black boy from Miami. That story is told in three chapters, and Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes each anchor those chapters. Moonlight is probably best remembered for its shocking Best Picture win at the Oscars, which was incredibly well deserved.
It should also be remembered for all of its remarkable performances, though. The actors playing Chiron all seemed to understand the character perfectly. They moved like one person, and that was remarkable in and of itself. It's a once-in-a-generation achievement, and each of these actors was a huge reason for that.
Another pair of Hill House actors, Michiel Huisman plays the adult version of Steven, while Paxton Singleton plays the young version. Although Steven is something of a stick in the mud, these actors do a great job capturing what it is that makes him so essential to the show. While everyone else is convinced that something strange is going, Steven remains firmly on the side of the logical.
In this lovely photo, Michiel and Paxton are joined by a certain bent-neck lady that those familiar with the show will likely recognize. Hopefully, she's not out to hurt either of them.
New Line Cinema
It may be weird to think about 17 Again, a movie where Zac Efron plays a younger version of Matthew Perry. Even so, that movie exists, and it's worth including on this list simply because it's so bizarre.
Zac and Matthew don't look a ton alike, but that hardly seems to matter. This movie is a little like 13 Going on 30 in reverse. Many men probably wish they could go back and relive their teen years. Hopefully many of them would have chosen to be nicer. 17 Again may not totally cohere as a movie, but it's a funny example of two actors playing one part.
Star Trek is another series that's gone through a film reboot in recent years. In the first of those films, though, we see Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy both taking on the role of Spock. In this movie, Leonard's version of the character comes back in time to help a young Captain Kirk and the younger version of his character.
It's a genius way to incorporate the original cast of the series into these updated reboots. Leonard Nimoy is quite literally an older version of Spock from the original series. It only makes sense that he would be cast to play that role.
This photo manages to cover a good chunk of the men on This is Us. The show did a remarkably good job casting younger versions of all its actors, but it did an especially good job with Kevin. In present day, he's played by Justin Hartley. He does a remarkable job of tackling the show's dramatic plot points.
His young counterparts are just as good. Logan Shroyer plays Kevin at 17, and as an even younger kid, he's played by Parker Bates. Both actors bear a physical resemblance to the older actor they are meant to correspond with, but they also reproduce some of the same mannerisms.
McKenna Grace is the only actress to appear on this list twice, and that's because she's been quite busy lately. In addition to playing young Sabrina, she also played young Theo on The Haunting of Hill House. Theo is one of the most interesting characters in the series, in part because of the performances from Kate Siegel and McKenna Grace.
Remarkably, even though she's blonde in Sabrina and dark-haired on Hill House, McKenna resembles Kate almost as well as she resembles Kiernan. She's a little bit of a shapeshifter, which is a great quality for a young actress to have.
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And another Haunting of Hill House pairing comes from these two — who may not look much alike but did a remarkably good job replicating the other's acting style. Luke is one of the most sympathetic and complicated characters on the series and it's the way that these two work together in two separate time periods that make it work