Created By: Excelion on October 2, 2010 Last Edited By: Excelion on October 23, 2010
Troped

Ensemble Cast

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In short, this is when a show doesn't have a clear-cut protagonist or "most important" viewpoint character. Rather, it shares a cast of characters with (almost) equal screentime and importance to the plot. Rotating Protagonist is a subtrope of this.

  • Pulp Fiction, considering all the protagonists follow their own plot and their ways only cross at random.
  • Inglourious Basterds. Despite the Basterds being in the title of the movie, it puts the same focus onto them, Col. Landa and Shosanna Dreyfus.
  • Baccano!, in the same way Pulp Fiction does it. There's no main character here either.
  • Durarara!!, from the same creator as Baccano, may fit as well, although most people would say Celty is the protagonist and Mikado the deuteragonist.
  • Stargate Universe doesn't really have a single main character either. Dr. Rush is usually listed first among the cast, but this may have more to do with the fact that his actor is the biggest name among the cast. You could easily claim Young or even Eli is the main character.
  • The Westing Game doesn't have a clear main character. However, the not well-known movie adaption had Turtle as the main character.
  • Modern Family really doesn't have a main character, and focuses on all three branches of the family pretty much equally.
  • Homestuck, thanks to its extremely large cast and tendency to switch between their points of view very rapidly.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has something like twenty-five viewpoint characters, and switches between them every chapter. The upcoming TV series apparently mimics this structure by switching viewpoint characters for each episode.
  • Another example is The Sound and the Fury, which has four viewpoint characters that each get equal time, and Faulkner has said that the actual "hero" of the story is Caddy, who is not given a viewpoint at all.
  • Lost is a borderline case. There is an Ensemble Cast, but Jack has a more central position than the rest (as was finally made clear in the last season). Just not enough to call him the "protagonist".
  • Friends
  • Final Fantasy VI, though some members of the ensemble do get more screen time and Character Development than others.
  • Heartbeat originally focused on village bobby Nick Rowan, but as the cast changed and expanded, the show developed an Ensemble Cast.
  • TheSubspaceEmissary. Ultimately, the "star characters" are whoever you prefer to play as.
  • Honorable Hogwarts did this to the Harry Potter universe, giving Loads And Loads Of Characters roughly equal focus and Simultaneous Arcs.
  • Stephen King has a couple of books that could arguably fit this trope, chief among them It and The Stand.
  • Lonely Werewolf Girl and Curse of the Wolfgirl, while Kalix is the titular charcter, all the rest of the cast have equally important and almost seperate storylines. Especially noticeable in Curse where Thrix, and Malveria's story arc have no contact at all with Kalix's.
  • The movie Crash focused on several characters and the racial tensions between them.
  • Justice League
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was one of these. Unlike the other Trek series where the focus was firmly on The Captain, DS 9 gave pretty much equal airtime and weight to all its characters from Rom on upwards.
  • The Animorphs series features six characters who swap first person narrations between books. While you can argue that Jake is the central most character, there really is no true main character.
  • Casualty: has a regular turnover of cast and no fixed stars so everyone gets a storyline.
  • 'Allo 'Allo!: Started with the focus on Rene, but the comedy hijinks and the sheer number of Once An Episode catchphrases necessitated the whole cast share the limelight (this is quite common with UK sitcoms, Red Dwarf, Are You Being Served, Dads Army, Mongrels et al all have an Ensemble to spread the weight and storylines.
  • The first book of the Hyperion Cantos. All the pilgrims have equal importance.
Community Feedback Replies: 45
  • October 2, 2010
    chihuahua0
    The Westing Game doesn't have a clear main character. However, the not well-known movie adaption had Turtle as the main character.
  • October 2, 2010
    DBAce9Aura
    Can result in a Rashomon Style plot structure.
  • October 2, 2010
    AmazinglyEnough
    Hm. It's been a long time since I read The Westing Game, but I was always under the impression that Turtle was the protagonist in the book.

    I'm currently in the midst of reading it so I might be wrong, but it seems that Gormenghast is like this, at least for the first book, since the character who is referred to as the protagonist is only a baby.

    Another example is The Sound And The Fury, which has four viewpoint characters that each get equal time, and Faulkner has said that the actual "hero" of the story is Caddy, who is not given a viewpoint at all.
  • October 2, 2010
    Sweet Madness
  • October 2, 2010
    Kobie
    Modern Family really doesn't have a main character, and focuses on all three branches of the family pretty much equally.
  • October 2, 2010
    Starry-Eyed
    Hes Just Not That Into You - Some of the storylines get more screentime than others, but there's no "main" couple or storyline.
  • October 3, 2010
    nashimi
    Inglourious Basterds. Despite the Basterds being in the title of the movie, it puts the same focus onto them, Col. Landa and Shosanna Dreyfus.
  • October 3, 2010
    Glucharina
    Does Lost count?
  • October 3, 2010
    Taeraresh
    A Song Of Ice And Fire has something like twenty-five viewpoint characters, and switches between them every chapter. The upcoming TV series apparently mimics this structure by switching viewpoint characters for each episode.
  • October 3, 2010
    Vree
    This is not "no main character". This is "more than one main character".

    And "showing both sides of the story" (ie. both sides are both protagonist and antagonist) is yet another trope.
  • October 3, 2010
    Stratadrake
  • October 3, 2010
    Vree
  • October 3, 2010
    Glucharina
    Obviously not Informed Protagonist (Not nessesary even informed) I like multiprotagonist in that case
  • October 3, 2010
    Rhatahema
    ^^^^I think "main character" might be a little too loose of a term, though I don't know about an of an alternative.--- May be a result of You All Share My Story. Often leads to Simultaneous Arcs. Possible video game example: Final Fantasy VI. While some characters have more plot relevance than others, the player's perspective isn't dominated by any one character.
  • October 3, 2010
    AmazinglyEnough
    I feel that there is a difference between a work that has no protagonist and one that has multiple protagonists. For instance, I would say that in The Sound And The Fury, none of the characters could be called the protagonist, whereas I would say that Final Fantasy VI has a number of protagonists. I'm not sure how to explain the difference, though.
  • October 3, 2010
    Rhatahema
    ^You're right about that. I'm not very schooled in literature, but Wikipedia informs me that we're working under the assumption that the protagonist is also the focal character and also the viewpoint character, which it is not always the case. Not sure what I'm getting at, except that this trope has a lot more variability then the two sentence definition accounts for.
  • October 5, 2010
    TrustBen
    The movie Short Cuts, partly because it was adapted by several short stories with different protagonists by Raymond Carver.
  • October 5, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Isn't this called an ensamble show?
  • October 5, 2010
    Sheora
    The term is Ensemble Cast. There are a group of protagonists, whether they have any relation to each other or not, and no one is stressed over the others.
  • October 5, 2010
    Excelion
    Ensemble Cast is what it is. Should it be renamed then? Problem is that Ensemble Cast currently redirects to Ensembles, which is an index.
  • October 5, 2010
    TheGirlWithPointyEars
    Agreed, definitely Ensemble Cast.
  • October 5, 2010
    AlexRandom
    Lost is a borderline case. There is an Ensemble Cast, but Jack has a more central position than the rest (as was finally made clear in the last season). Just not enough to call him the "protagonist".
  • October 5, 2010
    Vree
    Yes, rename to Ensemble Cast. I think there's no problem with it having a trope too, you can even put it in the description that one should look at the index (Ensembles) for variants of this & subtropes.
  • October 5, 2010
    dotchan
    Final Fantasy VI, though some members of the ensemble do get more screen time and Character Development than others.
  • October 6, 2010
    DouglasFir
    Heartbeat originally focused on village bobby Nick Rowan, but as the cast changed and expanded, the show developed an Ensemble Cast.
  • October 6, 2010
    TBTabby
    The Subspace Emissary. Ultimately, the "star characters" are whoever you prefer to play as.
  • October 6, 2010
    Pinata
  • October 9, 2010
    CrypticMirror
    Lonely Werewolf Girl and Curse Of The Wolfgirl, while Kalix is the titular charcter, all the rest of the cast have equally important and almost seperate storylines. Especially noticeable in Curse where Thrix, and Malveria's story arc have no contact at all with Kalix's.
  • October 9, 2010
    skzip887
    The Straight Man, The Kirk, or the square may be present to contrast the other characters, but, by no means, should be mistaken for "the lead".
  • October 11, 2010
    MetaFour
  • October 11, 2010
    Kinitawowi
    Any show that uses Rotating Protagonist.
  • October 11, 2010
    ElementX
    • The movie Crash focused on several characters and the racial tensions between them.
    • The Animorphs series features six characters who swap first person narrations between books. While you can argue that Jake is the central most character, there really is no true main character.
  • October 13, 2010
    CrypticMirror
    I would argue that Star Trek Deep Space Nine was one of these. Unlike the other Trek series where the focus was firmly on The Captain, DS 9 gave pretty much equal airtime and weight to all its characters from Rom on upwards.
  • October 14, 2010
    CrypticMirror
    • Casualty: has a regular turnover of cast and no fixed stars so everyone gets a storyline.
    • Allo Allo: Started with the focus on Rene, but the comedy hijinks and the sheer number of Once An Episode catchphrases necessitated the whole cast share the limelight (this is quite common with UK sitcoms, Red Dwarf, Are You Being Served, Dads Army, Mongrels et al all have an Ensemble to spread the weight and storylines.
  • October 14, 2010
    Impr3ssion
    • The various Star Trek shows fall under this.
  • October 14, 2010
    SeanMurrayI
    Is there any reason why we can't just file any examples here under the most appropriate trope in the Ensembles index? In fact, Ensemble Cast is already a blue link directing tropers straight to that page.
  • October 14, 2010
    ElementX
    You forgot to add Animorphs example.
  • October 14, 2010
    BlackWolfe
    The Westing Game starts off without a clear protagonist, but by about halfway through the book, it's clear Turtle's the main character. The mock trial cinches it, as from that point on, the book is clearly about her - it's either from her perspective, or Judge Ford trying to keep up with her thought process. And then she wins.
  • October 16, 2010
    GymQuirk
    Subverted in The West Wing. It was supposed to be an ensemble cast show, then Martin Sheen goes and steals the final act of the Pilot, causing the show to refocus on President Bartlett as the primary character for 5 seasons. (The presidential campaign of the final 2 seasons resulted in parallel plotlines with occasional intersections.)
  • October 19, 2010
    randomsurfer
    The Cartwrights on Bonanza would be either this or Rotating Protagonist, I'm not sure which. They even rotated their Opening Credits listings.
  • October 23, 2010
    pyroclastic
    Every Robert Altman movie ever made.
  • October 23, 2010
    Blork
    Caprica has about four characters who could be considered the main character - Daniel Greystone, Zoe Greystone, Joseph Adama and Clarice Willow.
  • October 23, 2010
    TJ
    I agree with SeanMurrayI; we already have an enormous Ensembles index, and any example of an ensemble is likely to fit under at least one of the tropes listed in that index.
  • October 23, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Not sure how this would differ enough from Loads And Loads Of Characters or some of the multiple plot tropes to be worthy of it's own page.
  • October 23, 2010
    Excelion
    Okay, none of the tropes in the Ensembles index have the fact that there's no protagonists and that there are multiple characters with equal importance as a prerequisite. A Five Man Band or a Power Trio can still be lead by a protagonist (most of them are) and so can a Badass Army etc. Conversely, an Ensemble Cast does not have to form any of the groups in the Ensembles index. Enough of the examples don't, in fact. Apart from having similar names, I really don't see how they overlap.

    I'm not even going to bother explaining how this is different from Loads And Loads Of Characters. The trope has absolutely nothing to do with this one.

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