The Hat Trick or You Look Familiar

This post is really combining two different tv tropes. One is the Hat Trick, which I know mostly due to Joss Whedon. It originally started out as actors that have appeared in all three of Joss’ shows (Buffy, Angel, Firefly), but with his every growing list of accomplishments that number of hat tricks keeps growing and at some point you might be able to go beyond just three appearances.

This then could be compared to the TV Trope “You Look Familiar” where a guest actor who maybe had a bit part returns to then play a full time character. On TV Tropes they note that this is often the case with Star Trek, a show where being able to wear a mask or makeup you could really have anyone behind there, so why not reuse an actor who worked well.

I really love it when you do not quite realize they have been reused until you come back and watch older episodes and are surprised to find this actor that you have seen playing one character suddenly playing someone completely different on the same show. Now the Hat Tricks for Joss Whedon have become a game amongst the fans to see who can spot them. So here are some of my favorite Hat Tricks / You Look Familiar actors and moments.

Jonathan M Woodward


He could possibly be one of the more well known of the lesser known hat tricks of Joss Whedon. He was in Buffy, Angel, and Firefly. He played a vampire (former psych student), a scientist working for an evil law firm, and a former soldier. In a weird way the characters are slightly similar in the fact that they kind of act like know-it-alls and are a little bit cocky. The other funny thing is in each instance his character is killed off, in Buffy and Firefly it only takes one episode, but in Angel he got to be around for a while.

In all of his uses the actor is used brilliantly. In Buffy he becomes a pseudo shrink as he is fighting the slayer. In Firefly he is a link to the past that Mal and Zoe share in the war and last scene of The Message was the last scene they ever shot. In Angel you do not know what to think of Knox, but in the end you hate him so much. He is such a smug SOB who has potentially brought on the destruction of the world.

Eve Myles


Eve Myles is best known as playing Gwen Cooper on BBC and now Showtime Torchwood (I have not seen the Showtime episodes yet). It was not until re-watching Doctor Who that I realized that she was in the episode with Charles Dickens where she plays Gwyneth who works at a funeral home. Both very obviously Welsh and I am guessing that the BBC tried to imply an ancestral connection between the two characters with the name.

The great moment with this was the fact that the BBC was self reflective about using the same actress. In Series 4 Eve Myles appears in Doctor Who as Gwen Cooper and when the Doctor and Rose see her they make reference to Gwyneth who they had run into in an earlier time in Cardiff. Gwen of course has no idea what is going on and if you as an audience member had not realized the resemblance earlier this was a time to bring it to light.

Carlos Jacott


He is another one that is a Joss Whedon hat trick appearing in Buffy, Angel, and Firefly. Unlike Joanthan M Woodward, Carlos ends up playing very different characters although you could spot similarities (I think it would be hard not to with using the same actor). Also, Carlos was only used as a one shot in each of the series. I guess the big similarity he plays the bad guy in all of his episodes.

Actually he even plays the innocent looking person who turns out to be something else in each of his episodes. In Buffy he is the supposed helper at a center to help homeless people who turns out to be a demon enslaving the unwanted. In Angel he tries to buddy up to Doyle because he is marrying Doyle’s ex-wife and according to his demon traditions he must eat the brain of the first husband. Then in Firefly he is the worst of the worst, the low of the low, he acts like a bumbling traveler when really he is a Fed out to capture Simon and River who are on the run from the evil corporation. I guess he just has one of those faces that seems trustworthy which is why Joss has used him as the twist character.

The Guest Actor Becomes the Companion


Now this is not a specific actor or moment, but it has happened a couple of times on Doctor Who. It is not the actor or moment that is unique, but the discovery. The first time it happened was Freema Agyeman. She actually shows up as a worker at the end of Series 2 in Torchwood 1. Her character dies, but then start of next season the same actress is playing Martha Jones, intrepid med student soon to be companion of the Doctor. They apparently even explain that she is a cousin of the girl who died in Torchwood 1. I almost wish they would not explain it and just left it alone.


The other actress is Karen Gillan. Her part was not quite so obvious because it was a much smaller role and did not happen in the same time period as Amy Pond. She was in the Series 4 Pompeii episode as one of the soothsayers. You really have to look for her with all that make up on. Karen even mentions that she was not sure they would allow her to be the companion because of her role in the Pompeii episode. Especially after what they did to use Feema Agyeman as Martha, there is no way they would allow her appearing in an episode that was totally outside the time of Amy Pond to stop them from getting who they wanted.

More to Come

Now these are only the ones I find most interesting. This does not even mention the heavy hitters such as Nathan Fillion, Amy Acker, Andrew Lenk, and Felicia Day as hat tricks of Joss Whedon’s, but in some ways they almost seem obvious. They have played such pivotal roles that it almost does not come as a surprise that they are used over again. With Joss creating more stuff it will be interesting to see who shows up where. There is only one actor who I was surprised to find had gotten a bit part in the Avengers that I did not know about.

So do you have a favorite Hat Trick or You Look Familar moment? Do you think an actor can be overused in minor roles? If someone is playing the five different one-shot characters in a series is that okay because they are not the main character, or can it create confusing continuity?


5 responses to “The Hat Trick or You Look Familiar

  1. Hell to the yeah. You’ve just covered so many different conversations I’ve had, especially about the Joss-verse. I’m still new to Doctor Who and haven’t yet re-watched any of it so I haven’t had as much time to study it. Right on.


    • Thanks for the comment. I find re-watching things in general to be so eye opening and I especially love listening to commentary by certain directors and actors Joss Whedon being one of them. He is just such a great person and so not full of himself. Listening to his process is amazing.


  2. I own all of “Buffy”, “Angel” and “Firefly”. I have watched all the episodes so many times. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve watched “Serenity”. Completely agree about Joss’ commentaries. I don’t ever feel like he’s trying to puff himself up, just that he genuinely wants to give us a glimpse into his creative world. He’s a model for graciousness.


  3. Pingback: Joss Whedon and the Golden Age | Comparative Geeks

  4. Pingback: The Sunday (Tuesday) Re-Blog – Joss Whedon and the Golden Age | DBCII

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