Created By: ArsThaumaturgis on January 10, 2012 Last Edited By: ArsThaumaturgis on February 14, 2012

Secondary cast

A set of secondary characters who have their own sub-plots

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Main
Page Type:
Trope
A group of secondary characters who have their own plot threads (potentially interacting with or related to the threads of the main cast).

Note that these are not characters who simply appear for a scene or two as part of the main plot thread; to be a Secondary Cast, they should have their own plot thread, even if it's in service to another thread.

For example, a character who is contacted by the main cast for information, gives it to them, and then disappears from the plot does not compose a Secondary Cast. If, however, they didn't have the information on them, and a new plot thread followed their searching it out, then for the duration of that thread they would be a Secondary Cast.

Some shows might have standing Secondary Casts, while others may split off characters as called for.

Overlaps with Two Lines, No Waiting, with the most prominent characters (usually) in the A plot and the secondary characters in the B plot.

Supertrope to Geodesic Cast. In cases in which the group is not secondary, but simply split for the sake of reducing the complexity introduced by having Loads and Loads of Characters, you may have a Cast Herd and not a Secondary Cast.

See also Lower-Deck Episode, for when a Secondary Cast is featured as the primary cast. Compare Deuteragonist, where one character is the secondary focus of the work.

Examples:
  • The Fourth: The main plot follows Skärva (an evil overlord), his main henchman and their adopted ally. Parallel with this we have a connected plot following a group of named minions, currently acting on his orders as part of his overall plot.
  • The Phoenix Requiem has Robyn and Petria.
  • Perry and Dr. Doofenshmirtz in Phineas and Ferb.
  • Zig-zagged in the anime Honey and Clover: it has this so extensively that season 2 seems to have reversed supporting and main..... Each season also causing a good amount of clashing amongst fans over who actually counts as main/supporting.
  • Unsounded has two secondary casts: Quigley, Matty and the slavers, and Toma and Elka, two members of the Peaceguard. Both sets have had run-ins with each other and the main cast, but it remains to be seen how their threads may yet bear on the main cast.
  • The Cutie Mark Crusaders of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fill this role, as they are always on adventures to find their cutie marks.
  • The Mythbusters have the Build Team. They may collaborate with Adam and Jamie on large scale myths, but more often they will work on separate projects.
  • Niobi, Ghost, and related characters from The Matrix. Ghost and Niobi's story is greatly expanded on in Enter the Matrix where the actors actually filmed new scenes, some with the primary cast.
  • Final Fantasy II Dawn of Souls. Four characters who die as part of the plot have a plot of their own to defeat Emperor Mateus' Heaven form while the heroes defeat his Hell form.
Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • January 11, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    Geodesic Cast seems to be related.
  • January 11, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    I'm not clear how this is distinct from Geodesic Cast. Please clarify.
  • January 12, 2012
    Koveras
    Nah, Geodesic Cast seems like something else. It is specifically for cases when secondary cast is comprised of counterparts of the main cast.

    However, it seems to be currently misused for any plots with separate groups of characters. For instance, Lucky Star does indeed have interlocking girl trios with their own plots but none of them are immediate counterparts to the other.
  • January 12, 2012
    ArsThaumaturgis
    Indeed, Geodesic Cast seems to be a sub-trope of Secondary Cast, in which the sub-casts are made up of counterparts or reflections in some way of the main cast.

    To use my example above from The Fourth, the main cast would be Skärva, his main henchman and their adoptive ally, as mentioned there; they are a Big Thin Short Trio (thin, big and short, respectively), one of whom has Healing Hands. On the other hand, the secondary cast comprises four characters: A bossy, hot-tempered ghost as team leader, a laid-back (and lazy) minion, a naive, friendly minion and a confident, perhaps aggressive minion (who has a somewhat prickly relationship with the team leader). Both teams do, admittedly, have one character each that is new to the (established) group, making both cases of With a Friend and a Stranger.
  • January 16, 2012
    TonyG
    Perry and Dr. Doofenshmirtz in Phineas And Ferb.
  • January 16, 2012
    TheCaffeineChill
    The anime Honey and Clover has this so extensively that season 2 seems to have reversed supporting and main..... Each season also causing a good amount of clashing amongst fans over who actually counts as main/supporting.
  • January 23, 2012
    ArsThaumaturgis
    Are there any further comments on this? Should it be launched, or does someone object?
  • January 23, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    You might want to elaborate on the description, and probably wait for hats... I think you're right, that this would be a supertrope of Geodesic Cast.

    This may or may not be a broad-enough trope that it doesn't need examples, but if it does you should probably comb through the tropes it's already been compared to to see if there may be examples in them that would fit Secondary Cast better.
  • January 26, 2012
    ArsThaumaturgis
    Thank you. ^_^

    I've updated the description; my main reason for thinking to launch was that this kept slipping down with no comments.

    I'll hopefully look into further examples later.
  • January 26, 2012
    c0ry
    See also Lower Deck Episode, for when a Secondary Cast is featured as the primary cast.
  • January 26, 2012
    WaxingName
    The Cutie Mark Crusaders of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic fill this role, as they are always on adventures to find their cutie marks.
  • January 26, 2012
    GuyIncog
    • The Mythbusters have the Build Team. They may collaborate with Adam and Jamie on large scale myths, but more often they will work on separate projects.

    Will overlap with Two Lines No Waiting, with (usually) the most prominent characters in the A plot and the secondary characters in the B plot.
  • January 26, 2012
    ArsThaumaturgis
    Ah, a good point regarding Two Lines No Waiting; both that note and your example should be in the draft now. Thank you! ^_^
  • January 26, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    Seems we don't have this yet. Would The B Cast be a better name though?
  • January 26, 2012
    Rognik
    I'm not certain how finely you cut this trope. Would Those Two Guys from police procedurals, like Castle's Ryan and Esposito or BodyOfProof's black guy and nerd (I forget their names right now) count? While they are often part of the main case, they are usually paired together and have their own plot going. Or is it more like Law And Order, where there are the detectives for the first half hour, and then it shifts to the lawyers for the second half; rarely to the two mix. Or then there's Marlon from How To Be Indie, who seems to exist solely for a B-plot and very rarely gets tangled up in the A-plot of the episode and even when he does, usually does so for just a scene or two.
  • January 26, 2012
    Unknown Troper
    For the description:

    Compare Deuteragonist, where one character is the secondary focus of the work.
  • January 27, 2012
    IanWhoWas
    • Niobi, Ghost, and related characters from The Matrix. Ghost and Niobi's story is greatly expanded on in Enter the Matrix where the actors actually filmed new scenes, some with the primary cast.
  • January 27, 2012
    ArsThaumaturgis
    @Rognik: Hmm... I'll confess that the distinction between this, Those Two Guys and perhaps even the main cast is a little arbitrary and artificial; it's a matter of asking "are they members of the main cast?" - the answer to which question seems to me to depend on where one separates the main cast from other cast members.

    As to your examples, I don't know those shows, I fear, but based on the page for Those Two Guys and your description, I'd guess that if they have their own little secondary threads, then they may well be a Secondary Cast. Are they part of the main cast, or are they side-characters that happen to interact with the main cast?

    @Dragon Quest Z: Is the main cast usually referred to as the "A cast"? (I ask that genuinely.) My impression is that "main cast" is the standard term, and "secondary cast" seems to me to be a reasonable extension of that. However, if there are standard terms for these, then those might be better trope names.
  • January 28, 2012
    Rognik
    ^That's what I'm trying to figure out. Where exactly is the line drawn between main cast and secondary cast? Are these people who are usually on the outside looking in with the odd A Day In The Spotlight? Are they usually the focus of the B plot (which could be where the suggested "B cast" name came from)? Are they the annoying comedic squad that lightens the mood when the main plot gets too dark? (Example of this one: the animal mascots in Pocahontas. They don't affect the story at all, merely showing up to antagonise each other.) Do all three count? There should be a guideline to easily establish who falls where.
  • January 28, 2012
    ArsThaumaturgis
    A good question.

    Intuitively, I think that those three count.

    More concretely, I think that the distinction might be this: the main cast is those around whom the plot revolves, and those that work with them - the hero and his True Companions, for example, or a Villain Protagonist and his main henchman, for example, along with their main antagonists. The secondary cast would then be those who have plot threads, but are not members of the main cast.

    However, please note that this is my current attempt to concretise a definition that seems to have started off as something more intuitive than I had perhaps expected, so I very much welcome further suggestions for defining it.

    It does occur to me that I might be making a pointless distinction; perhaps any characters with plot threads should be considered part of the main cast. Indeed, it does seem to me that this is likely somewhat of a continuum from protagonist/antagonist down to random extra:

    Protagonist - True Companions - B-plot characters - Minor characters (such as those present for comedic relief) - nameless but salient characters - red-shirts and mooks - irrelevant extras

    (It more or less came about as a result of attempting to classify the characters mentioned in the example above from The Fourth.)

    Given your explanation of the suggestion of "B Cast" (thank you for which), I do agree that it might be a good name; at the least one name might be a good re-direct to the other.
  • January 28, 2012
    ArsThaumaturgis
    Looking at that continuum of mine, I suppose that you could say that this is the (perhaps slightly arbitrary) spectrum covering those characters less important than the True Companions / "party" but above nameless characters or characters with no plot threads.
  • January 30, 2012
    BlueIceTea
    I think this looks like a good trope, I'm just a little unclear on exactly what it means. Needs more examples I've heard of! ;)

    For instance: Merry and Pippin and Aragorn & Co. in The Lord Of The Rings? Or are they considered "main cast"?
  • January 30, 2012
    Rognik
    ^That's probably a good example. It actually involves three different parties: Frodo and Samwise, Merry and Pippin, and The Fellowship crew. Who the secondary cast members are, however, would probably depend on who gets the most attention.
  • January 30, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    The Deryni novels have this problem as well, especially as some of the books in places go into Three Lines Some Waiting and even Four Lines All Waiting (such as one very busy day in The King's Justice). There are definite repeating structures of duos and groups, so I'm inclined to say it's an example of geodesic casting.

    I agree this one is a supertrope to Geodesic Cast. I guess the question really is where to draw the distinctions.
  • January 30, 2012
    Rytex
    Final Fantasy II Dawn of Souls. Four characters who die as part of the plot have a plot of their own to defeat Emperor Mateus' Heaven form while the heroes defeat his Hell form.
  • January 30, 2012
    ArsThaumaturgis
    At the moment my intuitive division is more or less "does it seem as though the story is about or is centred on them?" - so I'd call Merry and Pippin from The Lord of the Rings part of the main cast. If, for example, we had a chapter following Saruman and Wormtongue after they escape from Orthanc, then they would probably be considered to be a Secondary Cast. I forget whether we had much insight on Faramir or Denethor; if so, then they too would be considered "secondary", I think.

    In the case of The Lord of the Rings, I tend to sort most of the Fellowship into the main cast - while Frodo and Sam may logically have the central and most important roles, but the others still "feel" to me like main characters, or at least as part of the core set of characters, as poor a divisor as such intuition may be. (The only exception to that inclusion would be Boromir, I think.)

    The story seems to me to be "about" the entire Fellowship (perhaps sans Boromir) as much as it is "about" anyone (I would argue that it's less about characters than events, perhaps).
  • January 31, 2012
    BlueIceTea
    Then how about the chapters of The Lord Of The Rings dedicated to Faramir and Eowyn's courtship? Or the ride of the Rohirrim?
  • January 31, 2012
    ArsThaumaturgis
    (It has been some time since last I read The Lord of the Rings! ^^; )

    I would count them as secondary casts, at least for the duration of those sections. I'm inclined at the moment to see one's place in the cast as potentially fluid, I think; minor characters could reveal themselves halfway through to be of great importance to the plot, secondary casts may be formed and broken up, etc.
  • February 14, 2012
    ArsThaumaturgis
    All right, I think that I should perhaps take this to the fora for further discussion - I'm having trouble coming up with a good, clear definition, especially since I've come up with an example in which characters that might be classified as secondary cast don't have their own plot threads (I'm thinking of the companions in {{Rusty and Co.}}). I'll likely transplant the description, examples and salient points from this discussion into a forum thread soon. :/
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=n8lsozz6y0322pek50o1hb2e