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“Really, really … I’m the other guy. The other one,” a perturbed Samuel L. Jackson shouted to a Los Angeles TV entertainment reporter who confused him with actor Laurence Fishburne.

Was Jackson’s righteous indignation really justified? The embarrassed reporter did apologize profusely, after all. Besides, Jackson and Fishburne are confused by people on a regular basis. Both have said as much in interviews over the years. And months after the 2014 snafu Jackson even joked about the situation with Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show.”

The which one is who? Mistaken identities appear to be as common as they are tough to resolve. Once the mix-up takes root in our memory, it becomes irrelevant however much alike or dissimilar the connections may actually be.

For example, multiple online quizzes attest to the widespread confusion of veteran actors Bill Pullman and Bill Paxton. In everyone’s defense, their names, appearances and film roles are similar. “The Simpsons” made fun of the confusion in an episode in which Homer corrects someone in a movie theater who identifies the wrong Bill. (This past February Bill Paxton died, which for now will likely distinguish him as the “dead one.”)

Other notable which one is who? actors include Jessica Chastain and Bryce Dallas-Howard; Thandie Newton and Zoe Saldana; and the ever-indistinguishable Tom Bosley from “Happy Days” and David (“Bosley”) Doyle from “Charlie’s Angels?”

How do these crisscrossed connections get started? Like most subconscious issues, they probably originated in our childhood. Think of all the clueless, impressionable little kids trying to grasp the difference between Donald Duck and Daffy Duck; Goofy and Pluto; and Snow White and Sleeping Beauty? Or Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin …?


  • Matt Perry says:

    For years I have confused Stuart Greenbaum with George Clooney, and have to apologize profusely to Clooney each time I see him.

    My top all-time favorite story about identify confusion is this one. I had recently moved to San Francisco and was working in China Basin, which is dotted with warehouses, many of them featuring textile sweatshops. One day I was in a building I’d never visited before and got on the rickety old elevator in a dimly-lit industrial hallway. Behind me entered a tiny Chinese woman in her 60’s. As she saw, me her eyes lit up. “Ohhhh, yooouuuu!” she said excitedly, pointing her index finger directly at me. I smiled and said politely “Hello, but I don’t think we know one another. I’m new to town and I’ve never been in this building before.” Her enthusiasm waned, and she replied disappointedly “You all look alike!”

  • Haha, then I suppose I should apologize to George, too. … Curious, Matt, was the woman in the elevator comparing “you all” as in aging journalists, or simply as in other sketchy characters?

  • Matt Perry says:

    As you know EVERYONE in aging is a bit sketchy. But what I loved about her politically incorrect honesty was that she admitted she struggled with white faces just as many white folks like me struggle sometimes differentiating black and Asian identities.

  • Gary says:

    This was one of your most entertaining pieces. I was happy to see the “Bosley” entry made the cut.

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