Recurring Character

Janice: What a small world!
Chandler: And yet I never run into Beyoncé.

A character that does not appear in every episode, but is in enough of them to affect the storyline on a regular basis.

A Living Prop or Spear Carrier who appears repeatedly may become a Recurring Character. If there are so many of these characters any normal episode starts to look like an army, you might have Loads and Loads of Characters.

If they are popular enough to become a regular, they get a Promotion to Opening Titles. For a character who starts out as a regular but becomes recurring over time, see Commuting on a Bus. If they appear in most (or all, in some cases) episodes and get more appearances than even some of the show's regular characters yet continue to be recurring, then they'll wind up being a Fake Guest Star.

See also Ensemble Darkhorse, Breakout Character. Compare Inexplicably Identical Individuals, Regular Character, One-Shot Character, Recurring Extra.


Anime and Manga
  • Ranma One Half has a large cast of recurring characters. The only character who shows up in every story is the titular character. His romantic foil and fiancee Akane shows up in every story except one.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist loathes to use a character just once. If you see anyone, no matter how minor an extra they may be, expect to see them again in a later episode, often in a fairly central role (and often meeting a grisly end, but that's beside the point). The Movie, of course, took this even further.
  • Get Backers has a nice habit of switching up which characters appear from arc to arc, meaning that pretty much everyone besides Ban, Ginji, and their 'support staff' at the Honky Tonk is one of these. The most frequently-recurring characters are Himiko, Kazuki, Shido, and Akabane; once they were introduced, at least one of them appeared in every story line, and they all have some kind of connection to the Myth Arc.
  • Jellal from Fairy Tail crosses between this and Malignant Plot Tumor.
  • If a character shows up once in One Piece, they'll show up again. And again. And again.

  • The Deaf Man, in Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels.
  • Harry Potter has so many it's almost hard to count, but they include: Seamus, Dean, Parvati, Crabbe, Goyle, Pansy, Grawp, Charlie, Luna, Professor Binns, Susan Bones, Professor Sprout, Ginny (in the first few books), Mundungus Fletcher, Tonks, Lupin, Trelawney, etc.
  • Discworld has loads of them, the most notable probably being CMOT Dibbler (Moving Pictures is arguably his Day in the Limelight novel), Foul Ole Ron and the Canting Crew, and the Lancre Morris Men, and recurring wizards who may or may not count as part of "the Faculty" depending on how big it needs to be in a given book. Most recently, any novel calling for a sensible watchman who isn't a main character will probably use Constable "Kipper" Haddock.
  • Erek King and Toby Hamee are the main ones in Animorphs.
  • Melvin Sneedly in Captain Underpants.

Live-Action TV
  • Peter Florrick, played by Chris Noth, on The Good Wife
  • Mac on Magnum, P.I. is an example of this.
    • Magnum, P.I. had a lot of recurring characters — Robin Masters (The Voice), Lt. Tanaka, Icepick, Buck Green, Agatha Chumly, Keoki, etc.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has many of these characters. Some of the more notable ones are Joyce Summers, Buffy's mother; Faith, a second slayer; and Tara Maclay, Willow's girlfriend.
    • Gotta give the shout out to Jonathan and Harmony, if only for being there from the very beginning to the very end.
    • On the Angel end, Lorne started recurring, then graduated to regular later. Before him was Gunn who appeared in a few first season episodes and became a regular early in season 2.
  • Janice on Friends, who makes an appearance in all but one season.
    • Also some of the main characters' families. Particularly the Gellers.
  • Seinfeld had a few, Newman being the most common.
  • Jack Dalton and Penny Parker on MacGyver.
    • And who can forget the enigmatic, albeit evil, Murdoc?
    • Or Mac's grandfather, Harry Jackson?
    • Or the Colton brothers? ... Or perhaps everyone would rather forget them.
    • Pete was downgraded to this role in later episodes, probably due to Dana Elcar's unfortunate progressive loss of vision.
  • Mash had once-per-season appearances from psychiatrist Dr. Sidney Freedman and intelligence agent Col. Flagg.
  • Almost all villains in an Action Series, especially Super Hero based series, will be recurring. The ensemble of recurring villains is sometimes called a Rogues Gallery, after the police term for a collection of known criminals' photographs used to assist in identification. The use of the term to refer to a fictional hero's cast of recurring villains was popularized by Dick Tracy and emulated by Batman among others.
  • Miles O'Brien started as a Spear Carrier on Star Trek: The Next Generation (there's still some dispute as to whether Colm Meaney's Season One Living Prop was O'Brien or just looked like him), was bumped up to Recurring Character, and finally became a main cast member on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
    • Deep Space Nine had a massive list of recurring characters, from Garak (easily one of the best characters in the entire franchise), to the various sinister and not-so-sinister Cardassians, to the Bajoran officials and civilans around the station, to the Dominion villains, to the various Ferengi who made Quark's life Hell.
      • Being set on a space station allowed for plot-convenient run-ins with non-crew that might have seemed contrived on one of the more exploration-oriented series.
    • The Star Trek: The Next Generation finale "All Good Things" established that Meaney's battle bridge officer from "Encounter at Farpoint" is indeed Chief O'Brien. Still no word on Meaney's security guard from "Lonely Among Us."
    • Also from Star Trek: The Next Generation, we have Q. Appropriately enough, Q appeared in an early first season episode of Deep Space Nine and lamp-shaded O'Brien's move from recurring character to regular cast member.
  • The Fugitive had several of these, the most prominent being the One-Armed Man.
  • House tends to have one per season for an arc or two: Vogler in season one, Stacy in season two, Tritter in season three, and Lucas in season five.
    • Amber could arguably fit this role in series 4.
  • Many of the characters who seem to be most central to Lost's mythology are recurrers, such as Christian Shephard, Charles Widmore, and Richard Alpert. Thanks to the show's large cast, several prominent recurring characters (among them Ben, Desmond, Ilana, Richard, and Frank) have made the jump to regular.
  • Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis had quite a few recurring characters mulling about Stargate Command, the Atlantis base, various levels of the US Government, and other planets. Atlantis had, most prominently, Zelenka, who helped McKay with almost every technological problem on the series. Atlantis and SG-1 both had the various commanders of the Prometheus and the several Daedalus-class battlecruisers (William Ronson, Lionel Pendergast, Steven Caldwell, Abe Ellis, Paul Emerson, Ian Davidson, Col. Chekov). Then there were the commanders of Stargate Command, Generals Hammond, O'Neill, and Landry. Then there were the International Oversight Advisory representatives, chiefly Richard Woolsey. Then there were the doctors, Frasier and Lam at SGC, Beckett and Keller on Atlantis (both of whom got moved to opening credits).
  • The O.C. tended to introduce a wave of new characters each season; a couple like Anna or Theresa appeared in later seasons and Ensemble Dark Horse Taylor Townsend actually managed to get a Promotion to Opening Titles. Most of them only existed for individual arcs and then vanished, often pretty abruptly, never to be mentioned again.
  • Neighbours has quite a few, including businesswoman Rosemary Daniels, Janelle's husband Kim Timmins, Mickey's mum Kirsten Gannon, Zeke's girlfriend Taylah Jordan, and Dan's first wife Sam Fitzgerald. Allan Steiger went from Spear Carrier to recurring character.
  • Home and Away seems to have more recurring characters than regulars. Some notable ones are evil teacher Angie Russell, gangster brothers Johnny and Rocco Cooper, Jack's wife Sam Holden, Drew's mum Jazz Curtis, and schoolgirl Melody Jones.
  • In City of Men, Power Girl appears as a party girl, a drug dealer's girlfriend, and a first conquest...
  • Leverage has FBI agents Taggart and McSweeten and Massachusetts State Police officer Bonanno.
    • Bonanno's status as a recurring character is justified by the fact that Leverage Inc generally take their evidence to him, so that he can sort things out nice and legally, and make sure that the villain is sent to a deep dark hole to rot.
  • On Casualty, a blonde nurse, only ever referred to as "Cath" or "Kath", who is a semi-regular character (since at least 2008), seems to be popular with the fans, yet never really gets any storylines (not even a major one). She is never credited in the end credits. More information on this can be found on this page.
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess both shared the Greek gods (most notably Ares and Aphrodite), Autolycus and Salmoneus. HTLJ primarily made use of Jason, Morrigan and Alcmene. XWP, meanwhile, had Joxer, Callisto, Meg, Alti, Cyrene, Lila, Ephiny and Julius Caesar.
  • NCIS has built up quite a large contingent of recurring characters over the years: Tobias Fornell, Trent Kort, Mike Franks, Jackson Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo Sr., Paula Cassidy, Hollis Mann, Abigail Borin, Samantha Ryan, the Directors, and various other agents.
    • As did JAG too: Caitlin Pike, Thomas Boone, Jason Tiner, Clayton Webb, the SecNavs, Bobbi Latham, Carolyn Imes, Theresa Coulter, Mic Brumby, Victor Galindez, Catherine Gale, and many more.
  • Saturday Night Live, while not necessarily "characters", have had several Hosts that could almost be considered as such. This was highlighted during Tom Hanks' fifth time hosting the show, where his opening monologue included his being inducted in the "5-Timer's Club" with other hosts that hit that milestone, with another such club being referenced, and Steve Martin making an appearance in a club by himself.
    • And just to give an idea - in the earliest days of SNL, Steve Martin hosted the show so often that people mistakenly thought that he was a full-time cast member.
    • You could also consider some of the characters in skits to be recurring characters, even though their actors were regulars. And to go one step further, a few guest hosts have been on so often that they have had recurring characters of their own, like Hanks' Jeff Morrow (Mr. Short Term Memory) and Martin's Georgi Festrunk (one half of the Two Wild and Crazy Guys).
  • The Rockford Files had several, including sleazy con man Angel Martin, haples bodyguard Charles Martel, annoying super-detective Lance White, earnest young P.I. Richie Brockleman, and hardass Lieutenant Chapman. Weirdest were the idiot duo of small-time crooks Mickey Long and Ernest Conigliaro, who turned up in two episodes, with the same names, personalities, and actors, but were apparently different people.
  • Colonel Richmond turns up repeatedly as a higher-ranking Secret Service agent than the main characters on The Wild Wild West.
  • Mr. Lucky has sort-of-steady girlfriend Maggie Shank-Rutherford, as well as Friend on the Force Lieutenant Rovacs.
  • Angell, Lovato, Peyton and Christine on CSI NY. Angell was a recurring detective but died, and was replaced by Lovato. Peyton and Christine have been Mac's girlfriends, and Christine's his fiance now. Mac's stepson Reed probably fits too, but to a lesser extend, since he was only seen for two seasons.

  • Albums of the metal band Zed Yago (Velvet Viper after the namechange) has the eponymous pirate girl as a recurring character.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers have the character "Dani". She first appeared in the title track of Californication, as the "Teenage bride with a baby inside" in the second verse. The second time was in "By the Way" off of the album of the same name, and finally in "Dani California", off of Stadium Arcadium.

Video Games

Web Animation
  • Homestar Runner has dozens of recurrers, such as Strong Bad lookalike Senor Cardgage, the characters' "1936" (old-timey cartoon) and "20X6" (weird-haired anime characters) counterparts, Trogdor the Burninator, Eh! Steve!, Strong Bad's computers and others. Even a poster claiming to have "Everybody! Everybody!" is actually missing several characters.

Web Comics
  • Most minor characters in the webcomic Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire tend to recur, by the cartoonist's own admission.
  • Many in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!. Princess Voluptua is usually listed as part of the main cast, even though she doesn't appear consistently. Other prominent ones include Agent Ben and Agent Jerry, Hibachi the Dragon, and alien archcriminal Fructose Riboflavin.
  • There are officially only six main characters of The Order of the Stick, but there are dozens of recurring characters, too. While most of the villains qualify (Xykon, Redcloak, Nale, Thog, etc.), the good guys also have O-Chul, Hinjo, Celia, Lord Shojo, Kazumi and Daigo, plus a few recurring gag characters like the lawyers and the flumphs.
  • Known mostly for mystery filled story lines and humor, Sam and Fuzzy boasts a unique selection of Recurring characters, Three of the most notable being Skull Panda, Hazel the Thief and Mr. Sin.
  • In addition to the 8 main characters and their immediate family and close friends, El Goonish Shive, has quite a few recurring characters. Some of them were meant to be One Shot Characters: the Demonic Duck was created for a Look Behind You gag and George was created to lampshade a retcon. Both of those characters went on to influence the plot.
  • Yuri Zahard and Hwa Ryun from Tower of God.

Web Original
  • The News Parody Chigüire Bipolar will bring up the underpaid intern whenever they need someone from the agency to do something (such as holding an interview or time travel), and the poll analyst Erwe Von Esse when they need somebody to speak about statistics.

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons are much beloved because of their cast of Springfield characters, from Moe the bartender to the Comic Book Guy.
  • The second-string human villains on Transformers Animated, while rarely an outright challenge, often pop up to move things along. They even had their own episode in "S.U.V.".
  • Jorgen von Strangle is a recurring character in Fairly OddParents. Although in later series he was overused and pretty much became a main character. He even had his own episode.
  • Avatar The Last Airbender has built up a nice supply of these, both as good guys and bad guys — Jet, Suki, and Sokka's and Katara's father all come to mind, not to mention characters like Admiral Zhao in season one and Combustion Man in season three. Oh, and the cabbage guy.
  • The Legend of Korra has it's own set, such as Tonrak and Senna (Korra's parents), Varrik and Zhu Li, and General Iroh. However, as a result of the show's more compressed storytelling style (four 13 episode seasons vice Avatar's three 26 episode seasons), characters tend to either recur to the point of being nearly main characters during the season in which they're important or be completely obscure during other seasons.
  • Monique on Kim Possible.
  • While Futurama had many recurring characters, Zapp Brannigan was by far the most prominent.
  • Katz from Courage the Cowardly Dog is the most recurring villain on the show. Le Quack comes in second.
  • Bunto, Phaze, Koto, Gates, Bug, Zilla, Cables, the En, Roboto and Ms. Appie in Rollbots.
  • Robin (Dick Grayson) in Batman: The Animated Series was introduced as a college-age student, allowing the writers to only use him when they needed/wanted to. They did the same with Batgirl, but slowly began using them more in the second and third seasons (even putting Robin in the second season title).
  • A good amount of the Recess cast, most notably Randall, Cornchip Girl, Menlo, the Ashleys, Miss Grotke, the kindergartners, Lawson, and many more...
  • There are a number of characters that have made multiple appearances in Pound Puppies (2010). The most prominent are Rebound, Cupcake, and Patches (AKA the Super Secret Pup Club); dog catcher Lenard McLeish's mother and Rebound's human, Agatha; Pound Puppies leader Dolly; and Similar Squad/occasional rivals, the Happy Valley Shelter Kennel Kittens.
  • The Venture Bros. has Loads and Loads of Characters, the majority of which are regularly recurring.

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