Nathan Petrelli died on Heroes, but that hasn't stopped Adrian Pasdar from being one of the show's mainstays. He's joining a long line of actors whose characters vanished, but they still stuck around. Here are our favorite zombie TV stars.
Oh, and there will be some spoilers for recent TV episodes here — most notably Fringe.
This is mostly a list of people whose characters died or departed forever, but then they went on to play a totally different character. This doesn't include people whose characters died and then came back to life, which is a totally different trope. (And I'm not including actors who played more than one minor character in a show, or a minor character followed later by a major character.)
Garret Dillahunt on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
This amazingly versatile actor plays Cromartie, a Terminator sent from the future to kill John Connor. And after a season and a half of cat and mouse games, Cromartie finally gets blowed up good. But then his body gets repurposed and used as a UI for the childlike AI known as John Henry. (You could also say the same for Brian Austin Green, but that's slightly different — he came back as the exact same character, Derek Reese. It was just a different timeline where Derek hadn't died (yet.))
Sheryl Lee on Twin Peaks.
Laura Palmer dies (as you may have heard), but then actor Sheryl Lee shows up as Laura's nearly identical cousin Maddy. Good thing they wouldn't kill off the same actor twice... right?
Ali Larter on Heroes.
Larter plays the troubled webcam girl Niki, who's also the psychotic killer Jessica sometimes. But then Niki/Jessica dies... but it turns out Larter has an identical sister named Tracy. (And another one named Barbara, but apparently we'll never actually meet her.) And there's a mad scientist guy involved, who decided to give one sister weird water powers, and the other sister weird "psycho mirror" powers, because hello, mad scientist!
Doctor Carson Beckett on Stargate Atlantis
This jolly Scottish doctor is great at cooking up retroviruses and coming up with last-minute saves... but after he died at the end of the third season, fans were outraged. Good thing he was able to come back as his own clone. Also notable: Elizabeth Weir dies, but comes back as a machine intelligence (although I'm not sure if Torri Higginson ever played the mecha-Weir.)
Kirk Acevedo on Fringe .
This is the somewhat spoilery one: Acevedo's character, Charlie, dies at the end of the first episode of season two. But he's been replaced by an evil (or at least morally suspect) shapeshifter from an alternate world — where, presumably, there may also be another Charlie Francis running around. So we could eventually see Acevedo playing a third character. (And then a fourth, when the shapeshifter impersonates alt-Charlie?)
Amy Acker on Angel.
We were heartbroken when Fred died, but then chilled and shocked when she was reborn as the psychotic demon god Illyria. And then we learned to love her new persona almost (well maybe half) as much as her original one.
Terry O'Quinn on Lost.
Locke appears — emphasis on appears — to be stone dead, although maybe he's alive in another timeline? In any case, after Locke died, someone (or some thing) impersonated him, allowing O'Quinn to stretch his acting muscles and play Locke as, well, kind of a dick.
Denise Crosby on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Oh. The pain. Tasha Yar dies, but then Crosby later reappears as Tasha Yar's daughter (from an alternate timeline) with a Romulan. You see, Picard sent alt-Tasha back in time to the Enterprise-C so it could be destroyed by Romulans and the timeline could be repaired, but alt-Tasha didn't die, and so she shacked up with the Romulans, and... oh, whatever. It's Crosby with pointy ears. Look!
Steve Bacic on Andromeda.
He plays Gaheris Rhade, who betrays Dylan Hunt and is killed in the show's pilot episode — although Gaheris reappears several times in flashbacks and one alternate history episode later. And then in later seasons, Bacic takes on a new character Telemachus Rhade, who's the descendant of Gaheris. (Thanks to Xicer for the heads up!)
Lalla Ward on Doctor Who.
Okay, so Ward's character, Princess Astra, didn't actually die — but she did get written out of the show forever. And then the Doctor's Time Lady companion, Romana suddenly decided to regenerate, and randomly chose to refashion herself into the guise of Princess Astra. You could also mention Anthony Ainley, who played Tremas in "Keeper Of Traken." Tremas died — but then his body got taken over, and he became the new incarnation of the Master — but Tremas was always just intended to be a new host body for the Master.
Katee Sackhoff on Battlestar Galactica.
This is another edge case — Starbuck definitely died, because there was a body. But did she come back to life? Is Sackhoff playing a different character in the final season of BSG? Your theory is at least as valid as mine, because I haven't a clue. Like the video says, "You Will Know The Truth."
Thanks to Alexis Brown, Meredith Woerner, Sam J. Miller, Paul McEnery, Sean Passmore, Katrina James, Rus McLaughlin, Kathleen Warnock, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, S.J. Edewards, David Daw, Debcha, Barclay Sylvester, Karen Meisner, Brooklyn Erica, and "Dillahunt News" on Twitter (is that actually Garret Dillahunt, or a fan?), plus anyone else who helped out.