Character vs the Actor

Is there any show like That’s 70s Show? I struggle to find modern comedies similar to That’s 70s Show where I could laugh at any episode and enjoyed the dynamics between each cast member. Friends and How I Met Your Mother have a similar style to That’s 70s Show—but the cast is definitely more grown up.


I have not found any show similar to That’s 70s Show that’s currently on TV. I was curious to see if there were any articles written about the show when I found one about how Wilmer Valderrama.has tried to distance himself from his role as Fez on the show.

“Valderrama told PEOPLE at an event for his new partnership with Old Spice in Sharps Barber and Shop, in Le Parker Meridien, New York, that “Fez will never happen again.”


This made me think about how such successful sitcoms, and many other popular television shows, establish relationships between the cast and the audience. Some people identify with the characters or have a favorite. In That 70s Show my favorite character is either Eric or Kelso. It’s funny because when I see some these characters in other films I automatically think about them as their character in the show and it’s hard to see them differently. In That’s 70s Show, Fez is an “oversexed” foreign exchange student. Although he is not my favorite character I do believe he adds a different type of humor in an episode.


Wilmer Valderrama apparently has been trying to distance himself from the role, and in an article published in 2006 by EW, they clearly address the contradiction between Wilmer and Fez.

“To sit down with Wilmer Valderrama is to bear witness to a bizarre contradiction: He’s fidgety, friendly, and low-key, sporting a backward baseball cap — but at the same time he delivers everything with such polish and panache that it almost seems scripted. It’s hard to get a clear read on him, and that’s exactly how he likes it. “People have no clue who I really am,” he asserts.” And that’s a fact. People can only make assumptions about me.”


Do characters within a popular sitcom risk their opportunities to be casted in a new show or movie? Does anyone see David Schwimmer beyond Ross in Friends, or Alyson Hannigan beyond Lily in How I Met Your Mother? In my opinion, it depends on what the actor did before the show and whether or not the show made them famous. For example, when I think of Jason Segel I do not automatically see him as Marshall from How I Met Your Mother; I think about his role in Freaks and Geeks, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, or I Love You, Man. But still, most of the films were released after How I Met Your Mother. How do actors from such popular sitcoms avoid being associated with that role once the show is over? Why do some actors, like Wilmer, try to avoid even bringing it up if it made them so famous?

– Ziba


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7 Responses to Character vs the Actor

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I like how you questioned whether actors in popular sitcoms risk opportunities to be cast in other roles. I do think this is crucial and partially true for sitcoms that have long running seasons. For example, Grey’s Anatomy, although a drama situation, has main characters such as Meredith and Derek that even when cast in other roles, still inherently exhibit traits and characteristics of their characters from Grey’s. I think this is also true because if you aren’t knowledgeable on the person in the sitcom, simply seeing their face already connects their previous role to their current one if the show is different. It’s interesting to see how roles affect their careers.

    -Meghan Murphy

  2. Serena says:

    I think you bring up an interesting point about separating iconic characters from the people who play them in real life. We can see this in the adjustment for a lot of female Disney channel stars like Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez who took roles as over-sexualized women, to distance themselves from their Disney Channel, family friendly, personas. In reality, both women are flawed to a high degree and are sexual beings. However, that transition from teenager, to sexually active adult in reality, is difficult to portray on screen. –Serena Daya

  3. mediaphiles says:

    Daniel Radcliffe and Hugh Jackman both went to Broadway after their major roles as Harry Potter and Wolverine respectively. This helped show people that they could fill more roles than just the ones that they are most associated with. It can be very hard to break away from that character, but with enough effort it can be done. Radcliffe’s new movie, “Imperium”, looks amazing and is nothing like his role in the Harry Potter movies

    -turner arrington

  4. mediaphiles says:

    You definitely bring up a good point here about actors and actresses only being known for their role in “that one show.” Take Emma Watson for example. Although her performance in “Perks of Being a Wallflower” was phenomenal, she will always be seen in my mind as Hermoine Granger. I find it interesting that although I think of certain actors and actresses from their major role in a film or television series, there are also those who I’m able to accept for their various roles instead of just one. Perhaps this has to do with what exactly made them famous, as you mentioned, but how do certain actors and actresses avoid this? Thinking about the new hit series, “Stranger Things”, will these kids only be known for this show or will they be able to get out and develop a name for themselves in the future?
    – Eleanor Raether

  5. mediaphiles says:

    I agree with you that there are few shows that are as entertaining as That 70s Show or other older sitcoms. The true test of a show’s value is its success over time; for a show That 70s Show, which is set almost 50 years ago, to still be relevant and entertaining today proves that its unique content is still relatable. I think the challenge for actors to separate themselves from their characters is even more difficult when they play a fan-favorite character in a successful show or movie. Picturing Daniel Radcliffe without thinking immediately of Harry Potter seems impossible; while this was probably one of the most iconic roles to play, it has undoubtedly made his adult career more difficult to navigate. In everyday life we do not think of the people around us as anything other than what they project, so it is difficult to make this separation when watching television and movies.

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