You won’t believe how many shows there are about fictional actors out there!

Marcus Goh

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as fictional actor Rick Dalton and the fictional stunt double Cliff Booth, respectively. But what makes it come to life is the fact that they’re surrounded by real-life actors from history, such as Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch), and James Stacy (Timothy Olyphant), among others. This makes the fictional actors seem even more real, but affords director Quentin Tarantino the chance to tell his own story, since it revolves around fictional characters.

But Once Upon A Time In Hollywood isn’t the first show to depict fictional actors – there have been several others that also depict fictional actors, so as to give some sort of commentary on the state of the acting industry (or just to make them the butt of the jokes of the series). Here are several shows that have real actors playing fictional actors in lead roles. We bet you never knew there were so many!


1. The Big Bang Theory (Penny) 

Penny (Kaley Cuoco) in 'The Big Bang Theory'. Credit: Glamour

Penny (Kaley Cuoco) in The Big Bang Theory. Credit: Glamour

The beloved sitcom ended its run just a few months ago, but The Big Bang Theory was every geek’s fantasy come true. After all, the nerdy Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) married bombshell Penny (Kaley Cuoco). The romance was so real that the two actors even had a relationship for two years while filming the show – no wonder that chemistry was so sizzling!

Although Penny eventually became a pharmaceuticals salesperson towards the end of the series, she started off as a waitress who was an aspiring actress. However, that aspect of her character is played for laughs, as she mainly gets roles for pornographic films or terrible cheesy films. But we bet you never realised that Penny was never really given a surname in the show – she’s referred to as Penny Hofstadter after marrying Leonard, but her maiden surname remained unrevealed all the way to the end.


2. Entourage (Vincent Chase)

Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) in 'Entourage'. Credit: Billboard

Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) in Entourage. Credit: Billboard

Entourage was a television series that followed the adventures of successful A-list movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his entourage of three friends. Vincent’s most famous role in the show was that in the (then fictional) movie Aquaman, where he played the lead character. We’re betting they picked Aquaman because nobody ever expected that there would one day be a live-action movie about the aquatic superhero – but there you go!

It aired in 2004, and it had loads of guest stars playing their real selves. Jessica Alba was one of the most frequent recurring characters – the entourage and Vinnie would usually meet her at some outdoor cafe. If Vinnie looks familiar to you, that’s because he also appeared in The Devil Wears Prada as the boyfriend of Andy (Anne Hathaway).


3. 30 Rock (Jenna Maroney & Tracy Jordan)

Jenna (Jane Krakowski) and Tracy (Tracy Morgan) in '30 Rock'. Credit: Tumblr

Jenna (Jane Krakowski) and Tracy (Tracy Morgan) in 30 Rock. Credit: Tumblr

30 Rock was one of the most meta television shows on television, period – because of its premise. You see, 30 Rock was a television show about a fictional television show – The Girly Show with Tracy Jordan. In the show, TGS with Tracy Jordan was a sketch comedy that starred Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) and Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), who were both fictional comedians in the show itself.

Jane Krakowski was pretty hilarious as the self-obsessed Jenna, but Tracy Morgan was a painful, dumb caricature as Tracy Jordan. Perhaps that was the whole point of the show – Tracy was always more popular than Jenna, but it was never quite clear why, since he was not funny at all, which somewhat mirrors real-life actors. Ditching Tracy would have made the show excellent, but we guess that would have made the show less… relevant?


4. Episodes (Joey Tribbiani)

Matt LeBlanc in 'Episodes'. Credit: Variety

Matt LeBlanc in Episodes. Credit: Variety

Criminally underrated comedy series Episodes was a wonderful fusion of American and British comedy (it was a co-production between both countries, and aired in both countries as well). It revolved around a pair of British comedy writers who are brought to America to develop a US version of their hit comedy – only to discover that it’s going to be horribly dumbed down, and they have to write in a role for an aging comedy star – Matt LeBlanc.

If you’re wondering if that’s the same Matt LeBlanc as the one in Friends – yes, he is! He’s played by Matt LeBlanc himself, but this is a fictionalised, obnoxious version of Matt. In Episodes, Matt LeBlanc is a sex-crazed narcissist who means well, but tries to bone everyone – leading to some incredibly awkward situations.


5. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (Rick Dalton)

Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton in 'Once Upon A Time In Hollywood'. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Tarantino’s ninth and latest film is an examination of and love letter to the Hollywood industry. But don’t be fooled – even though Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is about fictional actors, there are plenty of heavyweights who appear in the film. If you’re wondering why everyone keeps focusing on the fact that this is Tarantino’s ninth film, it’s because the director has said that he will quit after making ten films.

Personally, it sounds like just the sort of thing that he’d say, but we’ll see. We’re quite sure that if the returns were big enough, we’d see an 11th film from Tarantino.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

So which other real-life characters (played by different actors, of course) appear in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood? There’s Bruce Lee (Mike Moh), Charles Manson (Damon Herriman), and Harvey Miller (Rage Stewart), as well as many others. Set in 1969, it takes place in Los Angeles (since it is about Hollywood, after all), and deals with many issues that are still relevant in today’s society – like change. But for many of us, spotting all these “cameos” of famous characters will be the biggest treat of the movie.

So if you want to find out the full list of historical characters who appear in the film itself, you’ve got to catch Once Upon A Time In Hollywood in theatres for yourself!


Credits: Glamour, Billboard, Tumblr, VarietyGolden Village Cinemas


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