"Have you ever met someone you don't know, again? Like, you don't actually know them, but they keep popping up, like God is running out of extras for the movie of your life."
Character(s) with no relation to the main story who keep popping up when the important cast is doing something in the vicinity, usually to their inconvenience or discomfort. They usually have nothing to do with the plot whatsoever, and the cast doesn't even notice them. For obvious reasons, this can become a Running Gag
, although their appearances often culminate in a formal introduction into the cast
A level or two below Those Two Guys
and the Recurring Traveller
. Also see Memetic Bystander
for when the fans take a shine to these characters. If he's always getting maimed or in trouble, he's an Unlucky Extra
. May overlap with Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?
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Anime and Manga
- Menko ("Miss Noodle") and Shiruo ("Mr. Soup") in Urusei Yatsura, a terminally shy couple who are always just about to declare their love for one another at the moment another Thundering Herd runs over them.
- Similarly, Ushiko ("Miss Cow") and Umao ("Mr. Horse") in Kimagure Orange Road.
- A similarly named couple showed up in Akane's soaps in Ranma 1/2. Usually they inadvertently fanned Akane's fears that someone was going to get raped.
- Cowboy Bebop had a trio of senior citizens who kept popping up all over the solar system, and even appeared in The Movie. The old men do have names, and Theme Naming pops up yet again — their names are Antonio, Carlos and Jobim.
- Sister Princess has several people about the island — including a salesgirl, a fellow dressed like a stereotypical Frenchman and a short dumpy guy in coveralls — who are constantly seen in the background (and once in a while in the foreground). In a twist, they gather together during the climax of the series to see if there's anything they can do to help the hero or his sisters.
- Trigun has Kuroneko-sama ("Lady Black Cat"), a small black cat with giant green eyes. She appears in every episode; even in the one Whole Episode Flashback over 100 years earlier (albeit cryogenically frozen). Her entrances tend to come out of left field (example: as Wolfwood digs through his bag looking for a book, he pulls Kuroneko-sama out of it). There are rumors that suggested the black cat is put in as a game between one of the animators and his children to see if they can find the cat in every episode.
- Canaan has a taxi driver who always ends up driving the cast around, he is a big fan of Nene-chan's songs.
- Throughout Satoshi Kon's Millennium Actress, there are three schoolgirls who appear in her flashbacks, which tend to take place within many different time periods (Edo Japan, for example) and locations, while either sneering at her dreams or trying to pry her secrets. They make a cameo in Tokyo Godfathers. To some degree, every single character forms a Recurring Extra to Chiyoko's movies/lives/events.
- Mahou Sensei Negima!:
- The Mahora Festival Story Arc has Haruki and Yuki, the adorable kid couple who randomly popped up in all three days of the festival. They served as one of the background characters Negi saved from Mana's gun, one of Negi and Ako's opponents in the Best Couple in Mahora contest (they won), and some of the cannon fodder in the Mages vs. Martians war game.
- A high school couple also appeared in all three scenes. Don't believe their names were given, though.
- The '90s anime YAT: Anshin Uchuu Ryokou is about an intergalactic travel agency, where this old couple would be present in the space-tourbus on every single trip no matter where in what galaxy they were going.
- The old men in the Love Hina anime.
- Fullmetal Alchemist has its own couple of Recurring Extras who frequently appear in order to have their car 'requisitioned' by various military characters.
- Street Fighter II V — Gouki/Akuma appears in the background of several scenes but has absolutely no place in the plot. This stretches belief that somehow, in an anime all about the main characters trying to find the best and greatest street brawlers, Ryu and Ken both overlook a huge muscular man in a karate gi with burning red hair who seems to show up wherever they go...
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, a hippie couple pops up from time to time, especially when something dealing with the Earthbound Gods is going on.
- Infinite Ryvius features two background characters, a girl wearing a blue mascot costume and a boy wearing only a towel, who appear at least once in every episode.
- Sailor Moon:
- There is a little girl with pigtails that shows up quite a lot, though several "sightings" are pretty big stretches. Scroll down about halfway on this page to see an article on her.
- There is a one other character that serves as this, with a twist. There is a fat, unnamed woman in burgundy that appears only once in any media, but has an appearance in the manga, the anime (first episode) and the RPG as a NPC who tries to set the girls up with her son. Considering she's a one-off character in the manga, it's odd that the creators of both the anime and the game thought to include her.
- One Piece:
- Oda seems to like this trope.
- A door repairman is commonly seen, along with a drunk who tends to get involved with mobs very easily. It doesn't help that his fans tend to egg him on about adding these characters.
- Past THAT, in almost every arc, there are always a handful of nameless characters that will continually keep showing up; for example, the egg-shaped Franky Family guy with tiny glasses. No name, hardly spoke, WAS ALWAYS THERE.
- One of Iva's okama squad, whose bunny ears and flowing mustache earned him the Fan Nickname of "Bunnystache."
- In any scene with the Navy, you can expect the same crowd of minor sailors and officers to show up, doing basically the same stuff each time. Especially notable here are Vice Admiral John Giant, who is decked out with excessive Bling of War and seems to specialize in Rousing Speeches, Petty Officer Masshikaku, who follows Smoker and Tashigi around, and Commodore Brannew, the briefings officer who shows up whenever there's an Info Dump to be had.
- The Pokémon anime has a number of recurring character designs used in the background of various shots, which are occasionally given a Palette Swap.
- Dramacon has a raccoon that first appears plastered to the bumper of the car Brett is driving to the convention. The little guy pops up in the background every so often throughout the series, usually scavenging snacks. He even makes a cameo appearance in Nightschool, another one of the author's works.
- Samurai Pizza Cats has the mother bear and her son that watch the pizza cats be launched from the shop every episode.
- Desert Punk features a tragic comedy example: a recurring set of parents and young girl who always suffer a misfortune such as being robbed, having no food/water or having their livelihood destroyed, the parents will usually break down in tears or cower in terror of their mortal peril while the punchline is the young girl pull a parents sleave and exclaim 'I'm hungry'.
- Tiger & Bunny features a young redheaded woman with a scarf◊ involved in the events of just about every episode.
- Hajime No Ippo has exactly one referee and two commentators. They're the same in absolutely every official match; the only ones that don't show them are unofficial or the ones done in the past.
- We finally got a different ref in a present-day official match for Vorg vs. Mike Elliot fight, mainly because he took bribe from Elliot's trainer. Can't have your only one ref being a crook, can we?
- For some reason, a group of monks passes by the house in Oku-sama wa Mahou Shoujo awfully often.
- In Eyeshield 21, there's a trio of super-fangirls who can be seen in the stands whenever singer/model Haruto Sakuraba is expected to play. Sakuraba had a lot of fans, but those three stuck by him even after he quit modeling and remade himself as a serious athlete. Of the three, the most notable is a short chubby girl with pigtails who faints every time she sees Sakuraba.
- Autor from Princess Tutu first starts off as one, but later becomes a full-fledged character in the plot.
- The French comic Astérix features a band of pirates (who themselves are caricatures of characters from the Belgian comic Redbeard) who kept getting their ship wrecked whenever they ran into Asterix.
- The Belgian comic De Kiekeboes has a fat woman in a red sweater who is always being run over by the main character. To date she has appeared in EVERY De Kiekeboes comic that was written, equaling the four main characters and doing better than every other character.
- The various helicopter pilots, particularly the French one and his extended family, who encounter main character Shautieh Ley's Rushmore Refacement everywhere they go in Bowling King.
- The alien inhabiting the Negative Zone in Twisted Toyfare Theater, whose life is constantly screwed up by the antics of a rowdy Thing.
- The woodcutter couple in Usagi Yojimbo. They appear in the background of every other issue or so, sometimes interacting with the main cast (unwittingly helping Usagi foil the Neko Ninja's plans, even more unwittingly helping him feed and clothe Princess Kinuko, and very nearly getting killed by Inazuma...) and often telling one another that samurai are crazy.
- In Watchmen, the Bernards appear repeatedly yet have nothing to do with the plot, save to sell other characters newspapers and be a Framing Device for the Black Freighter story arc. The lesbian couple who get into a fight just before the squid-alien appears have even less connection to the main characters. Subverted with the "End Is Nigh" sign-carrier, who looks innocuous until it turns out he's Rorschach.
- Some examples from Marvel:
- Walter Collins, for a long time landlord to the Fantastic Four in the Baxter Building, and their mailman, Willie Lumpkin.
- Mamie Muggins, Peter Parker's landlady from his moving out of Harry's apartment until his own wedding.
- Harry Morrell, landlord of the bar nearest to the X-Mansion.
- If not Jolyon Wagg himself, then the members of his family in Tintin.
- A pair of hipsterish cops appear in the background of a huge number of Marvel, DC, and Transformers comics aimed at younger readers.
- In "Manos" The Hands of Fate, the action keeps on cutting to two teenagers making out in a convertible. This is for no apparent reason, other than to tell a policeman that nobody ever goes the way the main characters did.
- In Time Bandits, a couple named Vincent and Pansy show up in different time periods throughout history, presumably reincarnated, as they are slightly different each time. Vincent always has an embarrassing personal problem they're trying not to talk about, and they're swamped by the wake of the main characters each time.
- In the Widget Series (well, movie), Battlefield Baseball, a group of people, including a girl in old-fashioned school uniform, a guy wearing just a fig leaf, and someone with a broken arm, appear out of nowhere to create a crowd several times during the movie. There's also a drunk and his dog who are seen multiple times, including the end, where it's implied that the dog is the narrator of the movie. Yeah.
- In Young Frankenstein, there is a couple at the train station when Dr Frankenstein boards the train who are having a strange conversation about some guy named Harry. When he arrives at his destination, the same couple is there, having the exact same conversation, but in German, and the guy is now named Hans.
- In Trick 'r Treat, Sam starts out as one of these, but from how much attention the camera pays to him, as well as his frequent appearances in the title montage and the fact that he's on the cover of the movie, you can tell he'll be pretty important later on. A more conventional example would be the three kids dressed as clowns, who can be very helpful in putting together the film's complicated time line.
- Eric Idle's character in National Lampoon's European Vacation just happens to turn up at the same spots all over Europe at the same time as the main characters, suffering increasingly grievous injuries due to their actions. He returns for more of the same 18 years later in the Made-for-TV Movie Christmas Vacation 2.
- A woman with a large hat shows up multiple times in the background of The Double Life of Veronique (La double vie de Véronique). As this occurs in scenes taking place in different countries, and the film itself is concerned with the idea of doppelgängers, it seems intended by the filmmaker.
- In Shaun of the Dead, all of the extras seen over the course of the beginning of the first half of the film appear as zombies in the second half.
- Gregory's Girl has a character dressed as a penguin who wanders through several of the scenes at the high school. There's never an explanation.
- In the Roger Moore James Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only, the man who keeps seeing Bond do crazy stuff in Italy, probably without ever realising it is the same man (emerging from the sea in his car-sub; driving around the streets of Venice in his land-gondola; and escaping from armed assassins on skis in the Italian alps, respectively). In each case he is drinking and in the first two, finds what he's seeing so bizarre that he seems to wonder if he's been drinking too much (though not enough to stop, evidently). Played by Victor Tourjansky, who was the assistant director for these Italy-set scenes in all three films.
- Done literally for a scene of Space Mutiny, with a scene in a corridor with Ryder and Lea having a conversation whilst extras pass them back and forth in the background. Quite plainly, the same two extras again and again.
- In Airborn, the Lumiere triplets are mentioned in all three books and Matt sees them at a restaurant in Skybreaker.
- In the Discworld Watch novels:
- The dwarf watchman Stronginthearm is mentioned in passing a few times between Men at Arms, when nonhumans first join the police force, and Night Watch, when he is suddenly and shockingly murdered by a fugitive.
- Constable Haddock also started off as just a placeholder that there were more Watchmen about than the main characters, but quickly became an Ascended Extra.
- The many courtiers around King's Landing in A Song of Ice and Fire play this role, although some like Lord Giles Rosby and the Stokeworths do become more notable as time goes on.
Live Action TV
- In Auction Kings, All the experts, who are only on if there's a piece for them to appraise. Paul's dad and son also show up from time-to-time.
- A few of the buyers and sellers are also repeat customers. Paul will occasionally mention items they've bought or sold in the past.
- Pawn Stars:
- Scrubs has a few, including Snoop Dogg Intern / Resident / Attending (that's right, baby) Dr. Beardface (pronounced Beard-fa-say, dammit!), Colonel Doctor, and Dr. Mickhead.
- How I Met Your Mother has Ranjit, the... various vehicles driver.
- Leverage has a burgeoning pair in the form of two FBI agents tangentially involved in their projects, who tend to benefit significantly by the association.
- My Family uses the same actor as receptionist in any hotel the family visit. They never comment on it, but he always has the same personality.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a number of these:
- The most famous was their go-to victim, played by Danny Strong, who eventually became a minor named recurring character and then a villain in season six, Jonathan.
- Should you be watching reruns of season 3 episodes, look for a shortish Asian guy carrying a skateboard. He's in many episodes and is referred to as "Asian Dan" by the cast. In the season 4 DVD, Seth Green, Joss Whedon, and Marti Noxon joke about his frequent appearances in the "Wild at Heart" audio commentary.
- Jacob Collins in Trailer Park Boys is this until the later seasons of the show when he's promoted to a full character. Initially he is the cashier at whatever store Ricky is currently robbing.
- The live-action version of Moyashimon has the Four-Eyed Explorer, a bespectacled member of the university's Explorer Club who keeps showing up in the background. When he appears outside of Kawahama and Misato's room in episode 4, Sawaki even asks him who is he and what he's doing here.
- SG1 and Atlantis directors Martin Wood and Peter Deluise were rather fond of putting themselves (and occasionally each other) in their episodes. If you look closely, you will often see them discussing something technical in the background or pointing guns at the gate during an unscheduled activation.
- The actor Frank Nelson literally made a career of this, playing essentially the same character (an antagonistic and smarmy shop-clerk) on numerous television and radio shows including The Jack Benny Show, The Flintstones, and Sanford and Son.
- In the early going of Sliders, whenever the group arrived on a new parallel world and ended up taking a taxi anywhere, the same bearded Russian guy was always the driver.
Rembrandt: So.. you enjoy driving a taxi?
Driver: What is to enjoy? It is my destiny.
Rembrant: You don't know the half of it.
- Used to unsettling effect in the first episode of The Prisoner: a mechanic appears and repairs McGoohan's radio; while he does that, McGoohan leaves, and moments later runs into the same, instantly-recognizable guy coming from the opposite direction, except that guy is apparently now a gardener. Although he is an extra only twice, he is very memorable for having a distinct bald, lumpy appearance and visibly unnerving McGoohan.
- In the first two seasons of Wizards of Waverly Place, Amanda Tepe portrayed various oneshot characters, earning her the Fan Nickname "The Monotone Lady".
- Parks and Recreation has a few. For example, the titular events in the episodes "The Banquet", "Beauty Pageant", and "Telethon" all feature the same guy as the MC.
- In Star Trek: The Original Series, there is a cadre of about half a dozen recurring redshirts, some of whom appear more frequently than some of the regulars, and all of whom are played by extras. The most famous of these is Lt. Leslie, "King of the Redshirts", who died and then came back to life, with nary a mention from anyone. Another is Hadley, who appeared in 62 episodes, but never had a single line. There's also Brent, Lemli, and Galloway, among others - though many of these characters had inconsistent names anyway, so it's a wonder they were given ones that stuck.
- Due to its fixed location, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had a high number of recurring extras. Fan-favorite and bar fixture Morn is the most notable, although there were many recurring station residents- Ferengi waiters and Dabo girls at Quark's, Starfleet personnel like Ensign Tannenbaum and Nurse Bandee, and Bajoran officers like engineer Neela.
- Star Trek: Enterprise had a small pool of MACO extras, most of whom became very quickly recognizable. This made it awkward whenever they needed a MACO to have a large speaking role, because they were the only one we had never seen before.
- LOST went to a great deal of trouble to keep its extra pool consistent over years: Main Camp, Tailies Camp, Ajira Survivors, The Others (both post-crash and during the 70s), Kahana crew etc. all spotted mostly the same share of background faces who contributed absolutely nothing to the plot except when being suddenly killed as a Red Shirt deserves. In some cases extras were even asked to reprise their roles years after their original appearance, simply because events of a scene would happen at the same time and place.
- The late actor Ed Peck played five different characters in all five seasons of That Girl and three different characters in three different seasons of The Odd Couple.
- I, Claudius spans the lifetime of the eponymous character (and a couple generations before his birth), yet the same actors always play the Roman soldiers.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus: In the first season a knight in armor would knock various characters over the head with a rubber chicken at least once in every episode.
- Frasier uses a few recurring baristas at the Café Nervosa set. A particular Indian actress appears for eleven episodes in the first through third seasons as the most commonly-seen one.
- Likewise, its parent show, Cheers had a number of background bar regulars, most notably Paul who became something of a minor supporting character.
- The first season of The Vampire Diaries has Tina Fell, who appears in multiple episodes and even gets a line in one, but never does anything important.
- Seinfeld has Ruthie, the Monk's cashier. Despite having at most one speaking part in the entire series, she racked up more appearances than any recurring character.
- Buck Henry, a 10-time host on Saturday Night Live, played the same customer, Mr. Dantley, in seven different John Belushi "Samurai" sketches.
- Glee had a few, all of whom became ascended extras to differing degrees. Lauren Zizes actually joined the club, Stoner Brett auditioned and got a few lines in later episodes, and Jordan Stern (the neck-brace cheerio)...well, she got named at least.
- Ted from Dilbert. Word of God says he basically appears whenever an extra character is needed.
- Cathy had one nameless character who would fill the role of shopkeeper, waitress, receptionist, etc, wherever needed.
- In On the Town, Flossie can be seen wandering through several scenes with a friend, telling her the middle of some story about Mr. Gadolphin.
- In the 1919 Broadway musical Apple Blossoms, a young Fred Astaire and his sister Adele played two characters who were named Johnny and Molly in the program and appeared only in dance numbers, having no sung or spoken lines.
- Pretty much every single Fire Emblem game has had Anna show up, who usually either provides tutorials or mans the Secret Shops. A full thirteen games into the series she ascends to the role of full-fledged playable unit in Awakening.
- Tony Hawk: Ollie the magic bum in the games. He appears in some capacity or another in almost every game (mysteriously; as noted, he's homeless, but appears in diverse locations the world over) and never plays an important role, but Ollie was playable in the third game. He hasn't appeared in a game since the Underground games, which were the triumphant finale of the original soulful series.
- Stachenscarfen and Pavel in the Professor Layton games.
- The Up'n'down from Rockman 4 Minus Infinity and it shows up in most of the Robot Master stages with different forms and patterns of attack.
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has a trio of Toads who travel to the various locations Mario visits.
- Likewise that Disco Dan who seems to be either a step behind or a step ahead of where you visit.
- Big the Cat from the Sonic the Hedgehog series, although he used to play important roles on occasion.
- Katawa Shoujo has Kenji, Hisao's legally blind neighbour in the dorms who appears in a few scenes in every path. His bizarre personality makes any interaction with him highly comedic, so his few scenes come off as Breather Episodes.
- In 8-Bit Theater, the Onion Kid character suffers repeatedly as a side effect of Black Mage's actions, even as they travel to different cities and continents. His family and two foster families are killed by Black Mage, he is put on trial for one of those murders, and he is kicked out of an orphanage for being bad luck when a delivery is destroyed. Eventually this was subverted by the revelation that the Onion Kid is actually Sarda's past self.
- Another example are the Real Light Warriors, which Missed the Call that hired Black Mage & Co., and now always one step behind the Light Warriors (or being screwed by them).
- The Order of the Stick has a pair of Flumphs, floating, white, tentacled creatures, who wander around and get landed on by (and save the lives of) falling main characters in almost every appearance.
- Lampshaded with a towering side of spoilers here.
- Keychain of Creation has a young man with yellow eyes and brown hair who reappears numerous times in various roles, such as a horse trader and bartender. He turns out to be a Sidereal Exalted who knows Ten Winds. Probably a Chosen of Journeys, given his yellow color scheme.
- Real Life has Alan Extra whenever a background character is called for.
- Sakana has a guy with a cap with the phrase "THIS GUY" on it showing up frequently in the background. He seems to be a Chekhov's Gunman, because the artist revealed that he will have a bigger role in the future.
- El Goonish Shive has the Shy Girl who, despite only appearing in the background a few times, garnered quite a few fans. Eventually Dan merged her with a supporting character.
- There are also several students that appear many times whenever random bystanders are needed, as well as the boys that hang out at the comic shop.
- The FAN has the character Mustache Bob appear every now and then, usually in a panel's lower left corner.
- This little guy from Zap! appears at the site of every major disaster.
- There's a kid in Zebra Girl who used to appear in front of Sandra's house.
- Princess Pi has the man in the third panel of this scene constantly appear during disasters and assure onlookers that the victims will survive.
- Homestar Runner has the old lady who often makes remarks on Strong Bad while off screen, prompting Strong Bad to yell "Shut up lady!"
- Parodied in this 5secondfilms short.
- In Return of the Cartoon Man, Kim and Donnie start out this way, but they end up affecting the plot in a minor way when they help Valerie. They also take part in the third movie's final battle.
- Vaguely Recalling JoJo turns the Villains of the Week in the Stardust Crusaders arc into comedic background characters.
- In Noob, the webseries and comic tend to have T-Man show up whenever the scene needs a lone or extra Coalition player for a scene or gag, but not necessarily one of the other known characters from the faction. In later instllments, he and some of the protagonists treat each other as acquaitances.
- As Julian Smith once put it about Facebook: "You know how on 'People You May Know', there's always that ONE DUDE that you know for a fact you don't know and never met him a day in your life, but he just NEVER GOES AWAY? I feel we should all just go add that guy." There are some people who you never talk to (and vice versa), and may not know your name (again, and vice versa), but is always seen all the time. Of course, to them you might be a Recurring Extra as well. This is evident especially in schools.