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3 Different Types of TV Acting Roles

If you’re new to life on a television set, the hierarchy can get a bit confusing. Unless you’re a series regular or recurring role, how is everyone else defined? Essentially, it comes down to the size of the role, the rate of pay, and logistics. Here is a quick overview if you need a brush-up.


Extras are the largest group of actors and the lowest-paid. They generally don’t interact much with the other talent and are organized separately. Speaking parts are rare, and they are often grouped together on set during waiting hours. Extra work can be booked with or without an agent, and they aren’t always professional actors or even actors at all. It’s a good way to get a feel for life on set and can be one of the many ways to become SAG-eligible.

If you are an extra, remember that your role is to support the bigger picture. You want to blend in, not draw focus. Be respectful, stay alert and ready, and above all, follow directions. This is not the time to exercise creative freedom.



A co-star is basically the next level up. Co-stars are paid more and might support a scene or two — waiters, grocery store clerks, etc. They often have lines, although there can be non-speaking co-stars, and they will likely work a single day. If you are a co-star, you want to do your character’s job. You’re filling the scene, helping the main characters, and unless directed, probably don’t have much of an emotional arc. A co-star might get a trailer, but it would usually be very small. The film equivalent of a co-star would be a “supporting” role.


Guest Star

Guest stars are the step above co-star, and the meatiest of the three. They are generally larger roles and better pay, closer to a supporting lead in film. While a guest star doesn’t have to be recurring, that is sometimes the case. They normally have multiple scenes, a character arc, and may appear in opening credits. 


The more you work your way up the ladder, the better exposure, more money, and better opportunities you get. However, many people make an excellent living staying in one role and excelling there. There are career extras and regularly booking co-stars. The main thing is to be specific about your purpose in the on-set hierarchy. Contracts may vary from project to project, but the purpose of each role remains more or less consistent. The better your understanding of that, the more effective you will be, and the easier you are to work with. At the end of the day, that is what your directors will remember. 


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