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A dual role (also known as a double role) refers to one actor playing two roles in a single production. Dual roles (or a larger number of roles for an actor) may be deliberately written into a script, or may instead be a choice made during production, often due to a low budget. In film and television, dual roles are often used for comic effect, or to depict identical twins. In a theatrical production where more than one actor plays multiple characters, it is sometimes referred to as an "Ironman" cast.
In theatre, the use of multiple roles may be budget-related, may be intended to give an accomplished actor more stage time or a greater challenge, or may be of thematic significance to the story. The combination of factors leading to such a decision may often remain unknown. For example, debate exists over the significance of William Shakespeare's use of dual roles, with a notable example being whether the characters of Cordelia and the Fool in King Lear were intended to be one and the same, or whether the mysterious Third Murderer in Macbeth is actually Macbeth himself.
In the musical Hamilton, four actors/actresses are cast in dual roles, each a major supporting character, with a change of roles between the first and second acts. The actors who play John Laurens/Philip Hamilton, Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, and Hercules Mulligan/James Madison wear identical white costumes in the opening song, "Alexander Hamilton", and were given lines with intentional double meanings that would fit either of their dual roles.
In some low-budget films, actors have been cast in more than one role to save money.
Multiple casting has often included the casting of an actor as multiple members of the same family.
- "Enter Three Murderers - Was Macbeth the Third Murderer". www.shakespeare-online.com.
- "Possibilities for the third murderer". shakespeare.nowheres.com.
- Miranda, Lin-Manuel; McCarter, Jeremy (2016). Hamilton: The Revolution. Grand Central Publishing. pp. 17 n.9. ISBN 978-1-4555-6753-9.
- Gulazāra; Nihalani, Govind; Chatterjee, Saibal, eds. (2003). Encyclopaedia of Hindi Cinema. Popular Prakashan. p. 213. ISBN 978-81-7991-066-5.