9 times TV actors referenced their other famous roles in Doctor Who, Supernatural and more

Sometimes, even if an actor has a long career, it’s one particularly iconic role that’ll stick with them. And when that happens, you can bet that a reference to their most famous part will pop up in their future projects.

Here are some of our favourite examples of actors cheekily referencing old roles on new shows.

1. Christopher Eccleston references Doctor Who in Heroes

One of Christopher Eccleston’s first lines in Heroes, where he played invisible man Claude Rains, is: “Fantastic!”

Seeing as that was his catchphrase on another sci-fi show you may have seen, Doctor Who, it’s probably not a coincidence. Neither is what appears to be a vaguely underwhelmed delivery – Eccleston’s on record as stating Doctor Who was one of his worst professional experiences, so we’re sure he loved having to reference it on another show.

(Bonus: Eccleston’s character name is also a reference: the real Claude Rains played The Invisible Man in Universal’s monster movie of the same title.)

2. Julia Louis-Dreyfus references Seinfeld in The New Adventures of Old Christine

When Christine yells “Get out!” and shoves Barb’s chest, it’s a fairly clear reference to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ iconic comedy character, Elaine from Seinfeld. You can see a compilation of Elaine’s signature move in the above video.

3. Samuel L Jackson references Pulp Fiction on Agents of SHIELD

In Agents of SHIELD‘s season one finale, we see Nick Fury’s grave (first glimpsed in The Winter Soldier movie – see above). The Scripture reference on the headstone is to Ezekiel 25:17.

Samuel L Jackson famously recited Ezekiel 25:17 when he played the hitman Jules in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. While this isn’t Jackson directly referring to another role, with the power he has in the MCU, you can bet he gave his approval.

4. Jessica Lange references Frances in American Horror Story: Asylum

In American Horror Story: Asylum, Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) ends up wrongly institutionalised. In 1982, Lange received an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the wrongly institutionalised actress Frances Farmer in the film Frances. Showrunner Ryan Murphy is an obsessive cineaste and constantly references movies on the show, so we can’t imagine this is a coincidence.

5. Sarah Michelle Gellar references Funny Farm in Buffy The Vampire Slayer

At the end of the ‘What’s My Line’ two-parter, Buffy says goodbye to Kendra, a rival Slayer, by telling her not to watch the in-flight movie if it has dogs or Chevy Chase in it. This is almost certainly a reference to the terrible comedy Funny Farm, which features dogs, Chevy Chase and an uncredited cameo by Sarah Michelle Gellar. Watch the trailer above – if you dare.

6. Danny DeVito references One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

As it’s not the most contemporary reference in the world, it feels pretty bizarre that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia took the time to directly spoof One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in ‘Sweet Dee Has a Heart Attack’ – an episode which aired in 2008, 33 years after the film was first released.

But when you remember that Danny DeVito, who plays Frank on the show, had a minor role in the film – the subplot where Frank is committed to a mental institution, meets a character dressed as Nurse Ratched, and makes friends with a deaf and blind Native American – it all starts to make sense.

In a nice touch, the Native American is played by Tim Sampson, the son of Will Sampson, who played the original character on Cuckoo’s Nest. Now that’s dedication to a reference!

7. Michael J Fox references Back to the Future on Spin City

While we appreciate the effort to bring Back to the Future‘s Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd back together, we don’t massively enjoy the cash-in angle of the episode’s title ‘Back to the Future IV: Judgment Day’, and we like the on-the-nose time-based in-jokes even less. You can see some of their reunion above, but get ready to cringe.

8. David Tennant references Hamlet in Doctor Who

This is a deep cut, but knowing Russell T Davies, it was almost certainly deliberate. In ‘The End Of Time – Part 2’ an Ood tells David Tennant’s Doctor that “the universe will sing you to your sleep”. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Horatio prays that “flights of angels will sing [Hamlet] to [his] rest”, and Tennant famously played Hamlet during his time as the Doctor, so this could very well be the most intellectual reference on this list.

9. Jared Padalecki references Gilmore Girls on Supernatural

Speaking of awkward, Jared Padalecki used to be on Gilmore Girls, and he used to date the show’s star Alexis Bledel, who plays Rory Gilmore. (Jared played Rory’s boyfriend Dean on the show.)

So when Supernatural‘s Sam and Dean take a studio tour that’s about to stop off at the set of the Gilmore Girls, offering the potential to meet the show’s stars, Jared makes a WTF face and insists he and his brother leave. We’ve heard of wanting to avoid your ex, but this is next-level.

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