The Kevin Bacon Manifold: Or How There Is Actually Only One Fictional Universe
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The Kevin Bacon Manifold: Or How There Is Actually Only One Fictional Universe

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Think Pieces | February 27, 2013 | Comments ()


I have a strange hobby when watching movies and television in which I imagine that different characters spanning different shows and films played by the same actor are in fact the same person. My mind invents entire back stories for how exactly it is that Willow married Marshall. Maybe it's just because I'm a writer and I like little exercises in creative silliness, or maybe it's a deeply seeded mental disorder in which I cannot separate fantasy from reality. And therefore I cannot separate one fantasy from another and my mind only maintains its nominal stability by inventing elaborate excuses for why an actor plays different characters in order to integrate all of the stories into one fantastic larger story. It's called Clinical Abedism.

This works better for some characters than others. Here's a list to get the conversation started, with the added bonus of stringing the characters together in an insane version of six degrees of Kevin Bacon in order to further demonstrate that all television shows and movies are actually occurring in the same fictional universe.

Nathan Fillion. Richard Castle is obviously just the day job for Captain Hammer.

Neil Patrick Harris. Ground into pseudo-sociopathy by the pressures of being a teenaged doctor, Neil Patrick Harris decided to stop being sad and instead be awesome. Doctor Horrible is clearly a persona from Barney's playbook.

Alyson Hannigan. After the final episode of Buffy, Willow kicked that Kennedy idiot to the curb, and went to Wesleyan to finish her college education. It's not a coincidence that flashbacks of young Lily are essentially variations on Evil Willow.

Jennifer Morrison. After leaving Chase, Cameron moves to New York City, immediately marries the Captain, and channels her irritating goodie two shoeism into protecting decrepit buildings instead of genocidal dictators.

Omar Epps. After being unable to take any further abuse from Eriq La Salle, Epps faked his own suicide, and left Chicago to find work as a doctor on "House." This is especially notable because working for a miserably masochistic drug addicted narcissist was preferable to working another day for Eriq La Salle.

George Clooney. I find it absolutely plausible that Doug Ross left County General on "ER", failed in an attempt to become Batman, and then after his career as a bank robber in Out of Sight, was recruited into the CIA in Syriana, and finally went back to his robbery roots to become the con man of the Ocean's 11 franchise.

Julianna Margulies. Carol and Doug only lasted one night before she returned to Chicago, got her law degree, and married Chris Noth.

Originally a detective in New York City, after being fired from the force Chris Noth quickly became extraordinarily wealthy (I assume that he worked at Barney's firm) and attracted the attention of one Carrie Bradshaw. That fell apart off screen and Noth moved to Chicago and met Julianna Margulies. Little known fact: the actual person with whom Noth cheated on Margulies was his one true love, Lenny.

Lenny later partnered with Benjamin Bratt, who after years of going to medical school after hours between murder cases, became a successful fertility expert and moved to Los Angeles.

Bratt worked at the titular "Private Practice" with Taye Diggs, who before becoming a heart surgeon was a secret service agent in the Bartlett White House. He left to become a doctor after being unable to cope with losing Zoe to kidnappers.

After his disastrous run for a congressional seat, Rob Lowe had a mild stroke, leading to various verbal tics like his pronunciation of "literally." Recalling that a certain lovable bear enthusiast was from the great state of Indiana, Lowe moved there to become a government consultant, his dreams of political office forever crushed.

Rashida Jones only went to nursing school after the collapse of the American paper industry and the loss of her branch of Dunder Mifflin.

On "The Office", wonder salesman Timothy Olyphant was actually Raylan Givens on an undercover mission to establish Creed's connection to Boyd Crowder.

And Walton Goggins' Boyd is of course Shane Vendrell, having faked his own death and gotten the hell out of Los Angeles. This of course implies that the massive police presence due to the visit of the President at one point in "The Shield" was in fact Bartlett's visit to Los Angeles in support of Sam Seaborn's congressional campaign.

Also on "The Shield", Jay Karnes' character Dutch joined the ATF after the series, as seen on "Sons of Anarchy".

I could go on, but I think the evidence speaks for itself that all television shows and movies occur in the same fictional (or non-fictional universe). Perhaps most horrifying is that due to the propensity for guest starring as villains, and thanks to the various iterations of "Law and Order", most characters have apparently visited New York City in order to murder someone at one point or another.

As for pieces set in the future or the past, there are two answers. First, actors playing roles in different time periods are clearly playing direct descendants. Second, time travel. "Doctor Who" truly does bind the entire universe together.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at You can email him here.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Rob

    The other one I really love here is Apocalypse Now to The West Wing.

    At age 16 Jed Bartlet rebelled against his father and entered the army with the assumed name of Willard.

    Whenever Jed Bartlet is looking at a general in West Wing I always imagine he's thinking, "you're no Walter Kurtz."

  • Rob

    For this one, Bill Pullman is always Daryl Zero to me. No mattter what movie, he is Daryl Zero. This works particularly well in Independence Day because not only does Daryl Zero defeat the aliens in a fighter jet. He also convinces the entire nation he is president.

  • zeke_the_pig

    And of course ever since ol' Nicolas Cage got really drunk and died in Las Vegas he's been an aimless wandering spirit, ghosting in and out of sets without any direction or choice. It's the only explanation for his 'mostly shite; at times incredible' film resume since.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    I'm pretty sure this makes Russell Crowe an immortal Roman general, inspiration for the Robin Hood myth, later a sea captain, dangerously unbalanced singing French police officer dude (immortality takes a toll?), Old West outlaw, boxer, mathematician (again with the immortality loopiness), New Jersey cop and... And... My God, Russell Crowe is totally a fucking Highlander.

  • kirbyjay

    You forgot muscular Los Angeles cop boinking a beautiful hooker

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    I noticed after I posted it, but then I was too lazy to correct it. Maybe we can say he has an evil twin.

  • prince_of_montagu

    OMG. i totally used to do (sort of) the same thing when i was a kid. I legitimately thought people were the same person from film to film.

    I was *crushed* when i saw Kirstie Alley kiss another man who wasn't John Travolta because i thought they had such a happy marriage in the Look Who's Talking series.

  • Three_nineteen

    Lennie. Lennie Briscoe.

  • Ben

    The one me and my friend always go for is Sean from Psych after getting married to... the blonde chick whos name I forget, gives up on police work and moves to California where he changes his name to Patrick Jayne and becomes a tv psychic.

  • BWeaves

    “Doctor Who” truly does bind the entire universe together.

    Simon Pegg was in Doctor Who as some sort of engineering manager for an evil alien AND he was in Star Trek as some sort of engineering genius with an alien sidekick AND he traveled around in a Winnebago with alien Paul, AND he's rumored to be doing something with the new Star Wars.

    Simon Pegg: Universal geek of the Universe.

  • Dragonchild

    Elijah Wood is a time jumper?

    Bonus: Gary Oldman WTF

  • Semilitterate

    You really need to stop smokin' that stuff. Very funny

  • PDamian

    Does this mean that after his marriage irrevocably failed, Ed O'Neill left the shoe sales industry and the Midwest, moved to L.A. and became a hard-bitten police detective for a short time, then gave it all up to marry an insanely hot Colombian?

  • Buck Forty

    I think 'failed' is a bit of an understatement, given that his first wife Peggy was kidnapped by bikers and, like in one of those weird Nonconsent/reluctance stories on loved it so much she made her abductor her 'old man'.
    (And don't get me started on the kids)

  • Arran

    How does Detective Munch fit into all of this?

  • In this theory, Munch is a deity by singlehandedly tying in the universes of the X-Files, Arrested Development, Homicide, and the Wire. In 2020 we'll find out that Detective Munch is actually the 15th Doctor.

  • e jerry powell

    So Munch has never been to New York? I mean, out of 441 total episodes, 315 are with NYPD.

  • eag46

    I like this...a lot. Now, to get Richard Belzer to agree to it.

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