Actors cannot have the same name. The rules in both the USA and UK state that no two members may have identical working names. So therefore an actor whose name has already been taken must choose a new name.

Yeah I had to change my name because there were two other actors registered at equity with that name.

Micheal Keaton

If you are an aspiring actor, you must be wondering if you can have an identical name with another actor. One question I have received from many budding actors is whether they need to change their name or can actors have the same name. Let us delve deeper into this topic due to public demand, shall we?

Why do actors change their names? Did someone name their child Blake Lively? As unbelievable as it may sound, that is someone’s real name, and so is Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron. Some names sound too good or too short to be real names. What point am I trying to make? Actors dont often change their names.

What is a stage name?

A stage name is simply a pseudonym used by actors or those in the entertainment industry, such as performers, comedians, and singers. Stage names can be adopted from nicknames, something identical to your birth name or anything you choose. As we mentioned, most actors rarely adopt their stage names as their legal name.

Talent agents and studios hardly recommend for an actor to change their name unless it’s the right way for them to go. Actors that change their names many times do it by choice. Carmen Electra is one actress that changed her birth name of Tara Leigh Patrick when the mentor recommended the change. We have a couple of other famous actors like Lindsay Lohan who maintained their names throughout their careers. Hallie Eisenberg is another actor who walked up to her agent and requested to shorten her screen name from Hallie Katie Eisenberg. She felt like she needed a shorter name and not necessarily because she wanted to change her name. An actor may adopt a stage name to avoid confusion with other family members with a similar or identical name.

An actor may legally change their name in court or just register a stage name instead of legally changing their birth name. Some even choose to use both their name and stage name simultaneously to separate their private affairs from their career. Take Rambo, for instance. We hardly ever refer to him with his real name as the stage name is more prominent in his career. The bottom line is actors don’t change their names for memorability or because they necessarily need a stage name. It is usually for more concrete reasons. The actor’s union outlines guidelines dictating that two actors or members cannot have the same exact screen name. How do you know whether to change your name or not?

Union rules

Unions or guilds that represent actors like the Screen actor’s guild (sag) in the united states and British Actor’s Equity Association in the United Kingdom stipulate that no two actors can have the same name. If the actor comes on board and their name is already in use, the union will require that the actor chooses a different name or varies the name to avoid confusion. The union has placed the rule in place to help in distinguishing the actors. It’s also only reasonable to adopt a stage name if another actor has beat you to union registration. Actors with the same name may be required to keep giving your description or even picture each time.

Examples of actors and entertainers who needed to change their names include;

Nathan lane
His birth name was Joseph lane, but it was already in use when he registered with the union.

Stewart Granger
He changed his name from James Stewart, who was his birth-given name to meet the union’s threshold.

Micheal Keaton
His real name was Micheal John Douglas, or Micheal Douglas, who intended to register with the union. He was forced to change his name to Micheal Keaton to avoid confusion with a famous actor who goes by the name Mike Douglas. He explains that he picked his name Keaton from his affinity with the comedy of Buster Keaton.

Other celebrities who altered their names include Diane Kelton, who took up her mother’s maiden name when she realized there was already a Diane hall. Katy Perry who released her first self-titled album as Kate Hudson must change her name from Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson to avoid confusion with an actress who goes by the same name.

You may relate to the executive producer of Futurama and the writer of the Simpsons. He changed his name from David S. Cohen to David X. Cohen. Vanessa Williams, who is popular for her ugly betty role, uses Vanessa L William as her official name to meet SAG requirements and avoid confusion with an actress with a similar name, Vanessa E. Williams. It may seem hardly notable, but even the smallest similarity can cause confusion.

The union does not always require you to change your whole name to a different name. It can be a small variation, such as attaching a generational suffix or adopting a middle name. A good example is David H. Lawrence Xvii, who adopted the name after realizing there were sixteen David Lawrence’s when he received his SAG card.

If you want to be a successful actor or entertainer under an actor’s guild, you will be required to change your name or choose a unique stage name. It crucial for your success to avoid evoking the other actor’s name, especially if the person is more successful in the business. So, be ready t suck it up and come up with a name so creative everybody will think of you alone when it brought up. If you plan on being an independent actor, however, we can keep your name.

If someone famous is already using your name

Even without union rules, you may need to consider changing your name or adopting a stage name if someone famous is already using your name. Competition in the acting and performing industry is already as high as it gets. The last thing you want is for everybody to think of someone else when your name is mentioned.

Popular actors who needed to change their names include the actor, writer, and director Albert Brooks. His real or birth name was Albert Einstein, and we can’t even question his reason for changing his name. Have talked about other actors liken Michael Douglas, who changed his name to Michael Keaton as there was already a famous talk show host going by the same name. Even if you don’t plan on getting registered under a union or guild, we recommend choosing an alias, stage name, or changing your name officially if there is someone in the same field with the same name.

Instances, where the name does not matter, are where you are in quite different work lines. If you are an actress and the person with the same name is a musician, it may not be very necessary to change your name. For instance, we have gene Simmons and Jean Simmons. The same name he works in KISS while jean is an Oscar-winning actress. Although they share a name, it hardly causes any confusion for the duo. Michelle Williams may also come as striking as one Michelle Williams was in destiny’s child, and the other is a renowned actress who took home a golden globe.

If you have a common name

As an actor, you may also find it beneficial to take a stage name if you have a common name. There are people with unique names that you even wonder how their parents figured out such names. There is most of us named David, Jane, Mary, or any easy name. Last names usually serve the purpose of distinguishing is from others. So, what happens when you have a popular or common last name like Johnson or smith? Actors with common last names are likely to choose a unique stage name or completely change their names. You can as well add a middle name to distinguish you from others.

For ease of remembrance or euphony

It is an added advantage for your fans to be able to remember your name as an actress. Some actors choose to change their name or adopt a stage name to make it easier for their fans to spell or pronounce their names. A simpler name will stick, unlike one that you struggle to pronounce.

Take Jason Derulo, the musician, and entertainer, for instance. He adopted his stage name Derulo from his surname Desrouleax. Even with his great music, it would still have taken his fans forever to learn how to pronounce and spell his birth name. Patrick Stump changed his name from Stumph by omitting the “h.” He wanted to ensure that nobody will make a mistake of pronouncing his name as Stumpf. The famous actor Rudolph Valentino adopted his stage name as American casting directors though his real name Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Piero Filiberto Guglielmi was challenging to pronounce and spell. I even forgot the first name by the time I got to the fifth! He needed to adopt a simpler name.

Actors may also change their names if their birth name is unfaltering. Surnames like Hooker, etc. have real meanings that may compromise one’s career. An actor may prefer to change his name legally in such a case to avoid putting their career on the line.

Good examples include Cary Grant, whose original name was Archibald leach. The name is not only difficult to pronounce, but it also less romantic compared to what paramount wanted from their lead man. Hal Linden was born as Harold Lipchitz but adopted the stage name to avoid ridicule. Ralph Laurens’s brother and guardian changed their family name from Lifshitz, which must have saved Ralph’s career. He was afraid that the obscenity of their family name would cause problems or even obsession at work.

Some fears that cause actors to change their names may also stem from their childhoods, thanks to weird surnames. Duran’s Nick Rhodes went by Nicholas James bate before changing his name. As a child, he was ridiculed and mocked, and kids would call him “master bates “he adopted the stage name and surname Rhodes, naming himself after a keyboard brand. Diana Fluck changed her name to Diana Dors to avoid profanity that comes with her birth name.


In the recent past, ethnic names were commonly anglicized to sound more English or American to suit American films. A stage name was usually used when an actor’s name was a bit too ethnic. It is a great idea to avoid discrimination. For instance, Anthony Quin (Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca) and Anne Bancroft (Anna maria Loise Italiano), who are both successful actors, were advised to change their names as they sounded too ethnic for Broadway and Hollywood at the time. Sophia Loren, born Sofia Villani Scicolone, Eydie Gorme, whose birth name is Edith Garmezano, Rita Hayworth born Margarita Carmen Cansino, is the most popular actors and entertainers we can cite as examples.

Jews in Hollywood were also historically encouraged to change their names to avoid discrimination. Danny Kaye and Mel Brooks are a great example. Their birth surname is Kaminsky, but they had to anglicize their surnames. Martin sheen, whose birth name was Ramon Estevez, adopted the stage name as he felt his real name was ruining his career prospects to bias and discrimination. He, however, maintained his birthname for official docs such as passports. He also allowed his children to make their own diverse choices, one adopting his surname as sheen and the other Estevez.

An actor may also change their name to sound ethnic to secure an ethnic role or a commercial gig. Steven Tyler, who is popularly recognized with aerospace, changed his name from Stephen Victor Tallarico, which was his birth name for promotional appeal. The same goes for Espera Oscar de Corti, who is a Sicilian American who has spent his whole career portraying native Americans. He eventually reinvented himself as iron eyes Cody, taking his stage name legally as his name, he even began insisting that he was native American. Jerry Rivers changed his birth name, adapting Geraldo Rivera as his professional name.

An actor may also avoid being branded ethnically by changing her name. For instance, a beautiful Latina actress who cannot speak Spanish may reinvent herself with a stage name representing who she is accurate. Currently, in the acting industry, an actor can change their name to highlight or obscure ethnic heritage, whatever works for their career.

To protect your identity

Some actors may feel the need to distance their professional lives from their private lives. Fame comes with its own downsides, and some actors prefer to enjoy their private lives without the interference of their jobs.

Stage names are even more important for child actors. Stage names help to mask their identity, which is especially important for underage children. It can help them avoid harassment and undue pressure. Their official names can be used on school enrolments, sports, and any local events but never for acting credits unless otherwise.

Involuntary name changes

At times, an actor may also have their stage name chosen for them by their agent or managers for whatever reason. The reason for adopting a stage name may be to mask the actor’s real identity, especially for kid actors or for a more professional outlook. Your agent may also suggest a name change to find something that represents who you are more. It can also be because of a common name or simply to give you a striking name for the enhancement of your career. Remember that most times, your coach, manager, or agent has years of experience and is aware of what the industry is like.

Popular actors who have had their stage names given by their agents include Barbara Eden, whose birth name is Barbara Jean Huffman. Hollywood studios gave the name. Joan Alexandra Molinsky rebranded herself, Joan Rivers, after her agent tony rivers who suggested changing her name. Patty Duke, whose child’s name is Anna Marie Duke, had her stage name chosen by her first manager as she was a child actor. Another inspired her stage name’s child actress’s name.

We can also think of the non-English speaking girl group trio. Their managers chose Their English names after they took personality tests. Cary Grant had his name changed from Cary Lockwood though his birth name is Archibald Leach. Paramount studios who suggested that he changes his name felt a close resemblance to other actors at the time.

Actors Takeaway:
can actors have the same name

As an actor, you do not necessarily need to change your name even if it ticks all the boxes on what we have discussed above. You can basically adopt a stage name, meaning your SAG card, credits on screen, and professional websites will use your stage name. Official documents, however, like checks and contracts, will be drawn to your legal name. As an actor; there are some difficult choices you will be called upon to make. Actors are restricted by SAG-AFTRA and such guilds when it comes to sharing a name. If you decide to change your name legally, it is important to decide why and what to change your name before going ahead.