The Different Types of TV Acting Roles
From Background Actors to series leads, there are a variety of acting roles on TV sets. Whether you’re booked by Central Casting as a Background Actor, Stand-In, or double, it’s important to know who you’re working with and their role on set.
Keep in mind, an actor’s responsibilities can vary by contract and, in some cases, actors can negotiate the way they are credited, so these classifications are just a general overview of the various types of acting roles in television.
Background Actors appear in non-speaking roles, often in the background of scenes, and perform in a variety of categories, like jurors in Law & Order, football players in All American, starship crew in Star Trek: Picard, and firefighters in 9-1-1. Background Actors bring life to movies and TV shows to help them look and feel authentic.
Whether you’re interested in advancing your career in the entertainment industry or just want an opportunity to see how your favorite TV shows are made, being a Background Actor with Central Casting gives you a chance to work on popular productions. Not signed up yet? Talent Onboarding is free and easy! Visit our Sign Up page to learn more.
A series regular is a principal actor and part of the main cast. They are contracted to work on a show for a period of time, often for multiple years.
Actors may be credited as series regulars even if they don’t work on every episode. The opposite is also true. Even if an actor appears in most episodes of a season or if they are part of the main storyline, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are series regulars.
Recurring actors appear in multiple episodes, either over the course of a season or the entire series. Sometimes these actors are under contract for a specified amount of time or are brought on as the story demands.
Guest stars are actors who appear in one episode (sometimes more) whose characters are often in multiple scenes and play a significant role in the story. If the role is particularly meaningful, a show may cast a well-known actor as a guest star.
Co-stars and day players play characters with a limited number of lines allowed and are typically only in one or two scenes. The term co-star is used more often when describing the screen credit while day player is more commonly heard when referring to the type of contract or role. Day players could be roles like a witness being interviewed at a crime scene on FBI, a fan asking Deborah Vance for a picture in Hacks, or a bar patron on How I Met Your Father.
Sometimes actors will refer to each other as “co-stars.” In this context, they mean “co-worker” instead of a day player who appears on a show.
A cameo is when a well-known actor or celebrity briefly appears in a scene. Depending on the reason for the appearance, the actor may or may not have a line. Cameos are used for many reasons, from creating a fun moment to honoring creators like Stan Lee in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Knowing the types of acting roles and who does what on set helps you be successful the next time you’re booked as a Background Actor, Stand-In, or double on a TV show. For more about who works on set, check out our articles Who’s Who on a TV and Film Crew and The Three Stages of Production.