17 Times TV Shows Referenced An Actor’s Previous Role

One iconic role can follow an actor throughout their entire career. And if you think we’re being too dramatic, just take a look at Daniel Radcliffe. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of him? Is it his role as the med school dropout in What If, or is it Harry Potter, aka the boy who lived? (If your answer was the latter, then you pretty much proved our point!)

Some actors prefer to move on from their popular roles. But others have actually taken the opportunity to revisit their old characters while working on new projects, whether it’s by repeating a classic one-liner or by recreating a memorable scene. We’ve seen so many examples of this on TV shows, and what we love even more is that some of the actors got to have reunions with their former co-stars! See which shows have referenced a cast member’s previous role:

17. Supernatural referenced Jared Padalecki’s role on Gilmore Girls

Every Gilmore Girls fan remembers Jared Padalecki as Dean, aka Rory’s clingy AF boyfriend. But little did Jared know that he’d get to travel down memory lane on his new show. During an episode of Supernatural, when Jared’s character (Sam) and his brother took a tour of the studio and passed by the filming location for Gilmore Girls, Sam was understandably uncomfortable (because who wants to hang around the place were you spent so much time with your ex, right?). Dean (from Supernatural) even mentioned that they might get to see one of the stars of the show and Sam’s face at that moment was just priceless!

16. Last Man Standing referenced Tim Allen’s role on Home Improvement

Fans were treated to an epic Home Improvement reunion with the appearance of Tim Allen‘s former co-stars Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Patricia Richardson on season four. Patricia played Helen Potts (the new neighbor of Allen’s character Mike) and Thomas played her son, Randy (which was also his name on Home Improvement). As we expected, there were tons of inside jokes and references. But our favorite? Probably when Helen said: “I’ve got a million things to fix around the house. My idiot husband thought he was quite the handyman but mostly he just set stuff on fire, blew things up and complained about my cooking.” LOL

15. Buffy The Vampire Slayer referenced Sarah Michelle Gellar’s role in Funny Farm

Not many fans know about this, but Sarah Michelle Gellar made an uncredited appearance in Chevy Chase‘s Funny Farm. On season two of Buffy, Sarah’s character actually referenced it on the episode “What’s My Line Part 2.” Buffy told Kendra to enjoy the TV entertainment that would be provided on her flight. But then she said: “Sit in your seat, you eat your peanuts, you watch the movie, well, unless it’s about a dog or Chevy Chase.” Yikes, it sounds like Sarah wasn’t too fond of her past role on the show!

14. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life referenced Alex Kingston’s role on Doctor Who

The actress, who’s best known for her role as River Song on Doctor Who, portrayed an eccentric British woman that Rory was writing a book about. And there was more than one reference! In “Winter,” Naomi briefly mentioned a “darling doctor.” And in “Fall,” Luke complained about customers who always stay and use his Wi-Fi, saying: “Now they linger for hours catching up on episodes of Doctor Who.” Honestly, these references are gold.

13. Heroes referenced Christopher Eccleston’s role on Doctor Who

On the show, Christopher played Claude Rains, the former agent with invisibility powers. And we imagine that Doctor Who fans were super excited when they heard him say “Fantastic!” in his very first scene. It’s a popular Doctor Who catchphrase that any fan would recognize. But here’s another fun fact: Christopher’s character name is also a reference but to another actor. There was a real Claude Rains who played The Invisible Man in the 1933 horror film.

12. Agents of SHIELD referenced Samuel L. Jackson’s role in Pulp Fiction

If you’re familiar with Pulp Fiction, you’ll remember the iconic “Say ‘What’ Again” scene where Samuel’s character, Jules, interrogates Brett and then recites the scripture Ezekiel 25:17. A reference to that was actually made on the season one finale of Agents of SHIELD when Nick Fury’s grave was shown. On his tombstone, it read “Ezekiel 25:17.” Definitely sounds like more than a just a coincidence, don’t you think?

11. Luke Cage referenced Frank Whaley’s character in Pulp Fiction

Speaking of Pulp Fiction, Frank Whaley’s character Brett was referenced on Luke Cage. And get this: It was referring to that same scene between Brett and Jules. During their exchange, Jules abruptly shot a guy, breaking Brett off mid-sentence. Then Jules said, “Oh, I’m sorry, did I break your concentration?” And on Luke Cage, Misty Knight complained to Frank’s character (Detective Rafael Scarfe) that he “broke her concentration.” It was rather quick and subtle, but any huge Pulp Fiction fan could recognize this reference in a heartbeat.

10. Spin City referenced Michael J. Fox’s role in Back to the Future

It was definitely exciting to see Marty McFly and Dr. Emmett Brown reunite on the show, even if that meant an episode littered with cheesy references. In their very first scene together, Michael’s character, Mike tells Owen, “This is like stepping back in time.” And then Owen responds, “The past is prologue, Michael. Men like us have to keep looking to the future.” That’s just one example of roughly a hundred, but we’re sure that Back to the Future fans ate them up like candy.

9. Doctor Who referenced David Tennant’s role in Hamlet

If you’re a big fan of David’s work and you’ve got good attention to detail, then you probably caught this one. On the episode “The End Of Time – Part 2,” an Ood told David Tennant’s character that “the universe will sing you to your sleep.” And in the film, the character Horatio prayed that “flights of angels will sing [Hamlet] to rest.” David actually played the role of Hamlet while he was still working on Doctor Who!

8. The New Adventures of Old Christine referenced Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s role on Seinfeld

On one episode, Christine thinks back to a time when she used to be a “strong, independent woman.” It then flashes back to Julia as Elaine Benes from Seinfeld, where she tells a guy with her paper to get lost, then realizes that she’s not even at her real apartment. Though we definitely appreciated the Seinfeld tie-in, it was interesting to see how different Julia’s new character is from the assertive and confident Elaine. (In fact, we think we prefer Elaine.)

7. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia referenced Danny DeVito’s role in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

There were actually several references to One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest on the episode “Sweet Dee Has a Heart Attack.” For instance, one of the characters was named “Martini,” which was also the name of Danny DeVito‘s character in the movie. And just like the original Martini, this character totally disregarded the rules and even repeated the exact line “Hit me, Mac” while playing cards. But perhaps the most memorable part was when Frank was taken to a mental hospital, which looked very similar to the one in the film. Even the patients looked a lot like the original characters.

6. 8 Simple Rules referenced John Ritter’s role on Three’s Company

On the episode “Come And Knock on Our Door,” John Ritter‘s character, Paul, was frustrated over the fact that his two daughters were fighting over a boy. And to make matters even worse, when he fell asleep, he dreamt that his daughters were living together with the same guy – just like his iconic character Jack Tripper did with Janet and Chrissy on There’s Company. In the dream sequence, he and his wife were the Ropers while Rory was Jack’s friend, Larry. As huge fans of Three’s Company, we honestly enjoyed every minute if this.

5. Arrested Development referenced Henry Winkler’s role on Happy Days

On season three, Scott Baio’s character made a Happy Days reference when he said: “Look, this is not the first time I’ve been brought in to replace Barry Zuckerkorn. I think I can do for you everything he did. Plus, I skew younger. With juries and so forth.” Barry was played by Henry Winkler, and what Scott was referring to was how he replaced Henry’s character Fonzie by playing his cousin, Chachi on Happy Days. But another classic reference we should mention is when Henry brought back the classic mirror pose. For a moment, it really felt like we were watching the young Fonzie!

4. American Horror Story: Asylum referenced Jessica Lange’s role in Frances

It’s almost like Jessica played the same role twice. In American Horror Story: Asylum she played Sister Jude, who wound up being wrongly institutionalized. But years before she played that role, she portrayed Frances Farmer, an actress who was wrongly institutionalized for mental illness. It might sound like a stretch, but since Ryan Murphy (the co-creator of the series) is known for referencing films and sending nudges to the audience on the show, it’s safe to say that this was intentional.

3. Parks and Recreation referenced Rob Lowe’s role on West Wing

We ought to add these to the list of things that only West Wing fans would get. But on the episode “Live Ammo,” Rob Lowe got to reunite with his former West Wing co-star Bradley Whitford. Bradley’s character, Councilman Pilner, said: “We play with live ammo around here,” which is exactly what Rob Lowe’s character (Sam Seaborn) said on the original. Plus, fans got to see the framed “Pillner For Pawnee” napkin, which was a pretty clear reference to “Bartlet for America.”

2. Jessie referenced Debby Ryan’s character on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody

We don’t know about you guys, but when Mr. Moseby appeared on Jessie, we got all the nostalgia feels. Mr. Moseby bumped into Jessie (played by Debby Ryan) while she was trying to break down Emma’s door, and interestingly enough, they briefly bonded over how challenging it can be to deal with kids. After their encounter, Mr. Moseby gave Cody a call and said, “Seriously, Cody, It’s uncanny! She looks exactly like Bailey!” And of course, any fan who has seen Suite Life knows that she technically (well, sort of) is Bailey.

1. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life referenced Danny Strong’s role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer

If you’ve seen Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, then you probably remember those scenes where Rory and Paris referenced Buffy the Vampire Slayer. On “Fall,” Rory said “five by five” to her dad and mentioned that she was in the middle of a Buffy marathon. And in “Winter,” Paris ranted to a fired employee: “Apologize to your parents. Tell them you’ll pay them back for the two semesters you spent studying Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s effect on the feminist agenda.” These were partly in reference to Danny Strong‘s previous role as Jonathan Levinson on the show. And if you can recall, Rory also referenced the show back in the original series!

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