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I'm thinking more along the lines of a long-running soap than a normal TV series, but I know that in soaps, if an actor or actress leaves, and they need to bring the character back they will re-cast the role.

Has a situation ever occurred where someone leaves a soap, the role gets re-cast, but then the original actor or actress comes back as a different character to their original character?

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1  
Changed the title as you seem to be after something more specific than simply "Same Actor, Different Character", which happened plenty of times as this list proves (and to which we can add Laura Palmer and her "identical" cousin on Twin Peaks). – Walt Aug 12 '14 at 0:20
    
And as to the more specific question, here's one example. – Walt Aug 12 '14 at 0:45
    
There are probably hundreds of possible answers. TV shows recycle extras all the time. Maybe you should instead ask about major roles. – Jeff-Inventor ChromeOS Aug 12 '14 at 2:51
    
Extras aren't identifiable characters. – Ben Plont Aug 12 '14 at 14:49
    
@Walt why not add that as an answer? It's correct. – Ben Plont Aug 12 '14 at 14:51

On Days of Our Lives, the character of Roman Brady was originally played by Wayne Northrop.
The character was re-cast and played by Drake Hogestyn.
Northrop then returned as Roman and left again.
The character was again re-cast and played by Josh Taylor.
Finally, Northrop returned as Dr. Alex North.

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My wife watches Days, this was the first example to come to mind. – Michael Itzoe Aug 13 '14 at 14:16

There was a very popular TV serial in India called Dill Mill Gayye where this sort of thing happened. It's a love story involving a group of young doctors interning at a hospital.

The main leads were Armaan Malik played by Karan Singh Grover & Riddhima Gupta played by Shilpa Anand/Jennifer Winget/Sukriti Kandpal.

Shilpa Anand playing Riddhima, the female love interest of Armaan Malik was recast due to her on-set tantrums & demanding a fatter paycheck after her popularity & fame. The character was played by Sukriti Kandpal for a short period. The character was recast again due to the lack of good acting skills & played by Jennifer Winget till the end of the show.

But at a later point in the show, a new character was introduced, namely Shilpa Malhotra, played by Shilpa Anand to add a love triangle between Armaan & Riddhima.
The move to bring back Shilpa Anand & cast her into a different character was made to salvage falling TV ratings & bring back some loyal admirers of the said actress.

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In Star Trek (2009), Spock, who was originally played by Leonard Nimoy was re-cast and played by Zachary Quinto, but Nimoy returned to play Prime Spock.

Does that count?

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it works for me... – Ben Plont Aug 12 '14 at 18:23
    
Works for me too (except that it's not a soap), in that the roles were recast, and Nimoy was nevertheless still in it and they're officially different characters even though they're alternate versions of the same person. One could argue that the credits are misleading, and "really" Zachary Quinto is playing Second Spock while Nimoy continued in the role of Spock ;-) – Steve Jessop Apr 20 at 12:33
    
@SteveJessop - Except that the new movies are from the point of view of these alternates, and from that point of view, the original Spock is the outsider. – John Sensebe Apr 22 at 13:52

Although not a soap opera, Doctor Who's Fourth iteration of The Doctor was played by Tom Baker, before the role was recast with;

  • Peter Davison, then
  • Colin Baker, then
  • Sylvester McCoy, then
  • Paul McGann, then
  • Christopher Eccleston, then
  • David Tennant, then
  • Matt Smith.

At which point Tom Baker returned to the show in the 50th Anniversary episode "The Day of the Doctor" as a museum curator.

This episode also has the return of an actor playing the same character they originally played after the character had been recast alongside the actor that replaced them as the same character, thanks to the magic of time travel.

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To go all geek here, it's arguable (and suggested) that Tom Baker isn't playing the Fourth Doctor in that scene, but a future doctor (and that "The Doctor" chose to take the old face because he was "revisiting old favourites" as he said)... meaning it would technically be a different character :) But this is geek land level and I take your point. – Andrew Martin Apr 22 at 10:48

Majel Barret, wife of series creator Gene Roddenberry, had several roles in several incarnations of the Star Trek series. She was the original "First Mate" (referred to as "Number One") in the pilot episode, and then came back as Nurse Chapel in TOS. She also played Deanna Troi's mother Lwaxana in TNG, as well as being the voice of ships computers in several series' and movies.

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But her roles were never recast. – Ben Plont Aug 12 '14 at 14:40
    
Technically, Number One became Spock. So, she was replaced by Spock and came back as Nurse Chapel. And the computers. – Johnny Bones Aug 12 '14 at 15:23
    
Leonard Nimoy played Spock in "The Cage" and the rest of the series... – Ben Plont Aug 12 '14 at 17:57

Karen Gillian was an extra on Doctor Who, prior to returning to the show in the role of the Doctor's companion.

enter image description here

Peter Capaldi also previously played a small role on Doctor Who and will now be returning as the 13th Doctor.

Coincidentally, both actors appears in the same episode, "Fires of Pompei".

enter image description here

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3  
But it's missing the 're-cast' part, isn't it? – Walt Aug 12 '14 at 3:12

Darius Perkins played Scott Robinson in the first series of Australian soap Neighbours. The part was re-cast with Jason Donovan

Perkins returned 27 years later as Marty Kranic.

(I haven't watched the show since the early 90's, I just took a few flying guesses as to people who'd been re-cast in soaps I know about, and searched for information on them making cameo appearances. This was the first I found!)

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Not quite a soap but Ian Whyte played The Mountain in the 2nd season of Game of Thrones, then that role was given to Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson starting with the 3rd season. Ian Whyte was then recast as Dongo the Doomed for the 3rd season.

LINK

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The 1990-1993 television adaptation of Jeeves and Wooster (starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry) was very confusing because they kept rotating who was playing whom!

  • The character Madeline was originally played by Francesca Folan (1990). She was replaced by Diana Blackburn (1991) and then Elizabeth Heery (1992-1993). Francesca Folan returned in 1993 to play Florence.
  • Actor Richard Braine originally played Rupert Steggles (1990). Richard Garnett played Gussie (1990-1991) and was replaced by Richard Braine (1992-1993).

Although these are the only examples I can find of an actor coming back to play a character previously played by someone else, or to play a completely different character after their part was recast, this is just the tip of the iceberg! Some characters were played by four different actors over the course of the whole series (only 23 episodes!)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098833/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm

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