Watching Columbo reruns I noticed that a lot of actors have repeat performances in different episodes portraying different characters. This page has a big list of such actors, one of them played as many as 19 different roles. It's slightly distracting seeing the same actor again in a different role.

Why did they reuse actors instead of casting new people to fill the roles? Surely it wouldn't have been hard to find more than enough eager actors in Hollywood.

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    "Surely it wouldn't have been hard to find more than enough eager actors in Hollywood." Why risk hiring an unknown when you have a capable actor available? Also note that originally a new Columbo was broadcast about once a month. And that one actor having 19 roles include such gems as "bartender" and "investigator" -- I doubt' he'll be on screen for any significant time. I don't mind the repeat performances; it's kinda like a theater troupe putting on a new play every month.
    – BCdotWEB
    Oct 5, 2015 at 9:45
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    Because Robert Vaughn and Robert Culp were bad ass bad guys.
    – trevorc
    Oct 6, 2015 at 2:17

1 Answer 1


As a director, you know what you're going to get from the actor.

BCdotWEB hit the nail on the head. The director knows exactly what the actor is capable of, which means you probably spend less time auditioning and more time filming. (Admittedly, I have no source to support this.)

Plus, tt's not just Columbo.

The TV Trope entry for You Look Familiar lists loads of shows that reused actors in different roles, so it's obviously common practice in the industry.

Speculation alert: There may be financial reasons for reusing actors too (i.e. the actors were contacted to the production company that made Columbo meaning that they had to be used), but I need to do some more digging...

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    I have refused to go to that TV Trope entry, but as a personal anecdote, I remember watching the original Wild Wild West TV Series as a child and that being the first time that I ever realized "hey! the bad guys were the same bad guys they killed last week!?!?
    – CGCampbell
    Apr 7, 2021 at 11:48

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