Follow TV Tropes


Bit Character

Go To

"There he is... Ponpon's second. He's appeared in one other panel so far! Good for him."

A Bit Character is a minor character in the cast. They have a slightly larger part than the extra or the Spear Carrier, but isn't a well-known actor taking a small part, like a cameo. The British television industry often refers to these as "under sixes" (six being the number of spoken lines required to no longer be a bit part). Similarly in the US, they are "under fives."

While an extra is the guy walking down the hall carrying a stack of papers — basically a piece of animated furniture — the bit character is the receptionist who briefly interacts with the heroes, telling them that Mr. Jones is too busy to see them right now, before turning to do other things.

The Bit Character may have a small role, but that part can move the plot along in ways big or small (possibly for the worse), or let them serve as a Foil to a major character to flesh out the characterization. They could even be someone who gives the hero a piece of useful information, when the hero's usual source has run dry or is unavailable for whatever reason. While they might have some eccentricity to make them interesting, a bit character is generally a Flat Character, to prevent the question of What Happened to the Mouse? from arising.

Some actors make a decent living playing bit characters throughout their careers, never moving up the hierarchy to "star." Such actors are called "bit players," and can make you wonder why he appears in the background of every movie made in that country. Before she played the lead in the 1957 TV series The Adventures of Tugboat Annie, Minerva Urecal was a bit player in the movies.

Super-Trope of Bit-Part Bad Guys, Very Punchable Man. When the apparent Bit Character returns with importance, it's Chekhov's Gunman. If he suddenly becomes hugely popular in the fandom, then it's an Ensemble Dark Horse.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Dorothea Ernst from Code Geass is a member of the elite Britannian Knights of the Round, serving as the Knight of Four... and that's it. She shows up in one scene, and is promptly killed by Suzaku and his Lancelot Albion. She literally exists simply to be quickly killed off in the same scene she was introduced, and no Adaptation Expansion past that has ever elaborated on her beyond that.
  • Daigo Aoki and Shoji Sato from Food Wars!, despite being in the same dorm as the protagonist, their only role in the story is to fool around in comedy scenes and just "be there" cheering for some major character to win a shokugeki or something, and in the last arc they are almost erased from the story aside from some panels here and there.
  • Is It My Fault That I Got Bullied?: Riho doesn't have an overwhelming presence in the story and is usually seen hovering around the Gang of Bullies, but she does enjoy picking on Shiori.
  • The opening sequence of Lupin III: Dead or Alive features four examples in a prison. One turns out to be important to the plot later, as a Chekhov's Gunman. One shows up again as a bit character, helping Emerah to escape. The other two are just there to be saved, and don't contribute anything else.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: While the other Bridge Bunnies get a bit of focus, Shigeru Aoba barely gets anything, technically not counting as a background character because he's named. He mainly serves as a glorified extra for the most part.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena: Yuuko and Aiko, members of Nanami's Girl Posse exist for little reason other than to pine after Touga and kiss up to Nanami.
    • Mari, Tsuwabuki's childhood friend exists just to argue with him and doesn't have much depth.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Cyndia is one, although she is important to the plot. She also serves as a Foil to flesh out Pegasus' character through his backstory.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Foam Bath: Though prominent on one of the posters, Nándi the boxer ends up being this. He drives the story indirectly and even joins in on one of the musical numbers, but quickly gets knocked out and spends most of the movie unconscious. Anna, who practically wished for a man at the start, doesn't even seem to notice that there's a hunky one lying on her bed.
  • The BIONICLE Direct to Video films:
    • Mask of Light has the kolhii players Hewkii (with only one line), Hafu, Macku (no lines) and the unnamed announcer who only show up for the game at the start. Outside the movie, Hewkii, Hafu and Macku were pretty important characters. Of the six Turaga elders, only Vakama gets a major role, though Nokama helps out and Onewa have some lines too, and each give some exposition.
    • Kongu in Legends of Metru Nui is forced by the Dark Hunters to reverse the chute's flow so they can capture the heroes traveling in it, which both hinders and indirectly furthers their quest. In other media Kongu played important roles and became one of the protagonists, but here he only gets two lines and is named only in the credits.
    • Most named characters in Web of Shadows don't get to do much, but they had to appear as they were parts of their respective teams. Of the six Toa, only Vakama and Matau play meaningful roles, though the others are still important side characters. Of the six Rahaga, Norik is the only important one. Gaaki translates a text that drives the plot, Iruini acts as a flashlight and gets to say one meaningful line alongside Bomonga, Kualus only gets one word and Pouks doesn't say or do anything. Bomonga and Kualus at least have more to do in the Motion Comic DVD bonus feature. All of them were flashed out in the books and comics.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Mars Attacks!: Joe Weinberg only gets about five minutes of screentime. Within those five minutes, he reveals he is a lawyer and offers his services to a Martian who quickly zaps him. They really wanted to make sure the audience didn't sympathize too much just before bumping him off.
  • Ralph Hapschatt says four lines in a conversation with Brad at the start of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Though he's notable for becoming an Ascended Extra and being the only actor to return as the same character in the sequel, Shock Treatment.
  • The Mall Santa from SHAZAM! (2019) gets a a small number of lines and a few reaction shots whenever the main villain menaces the public, but doesn't affect the plot or seriously interact with the protagonists.

  • Adrian Mole: Months after an incident in which William threw his lunch at a goat during a nursery school visit, the teacher makes William play a goat in the Nativity play. Adrian is appalled that his son is playing a lowly goat, and notes that a goat rarely or never appears in pictures of the Nativity. However, he enlists the help of Tania Braithwaite to make a goat costume. He also notes that his other son Glenn is unlikely to be chosen to play any part in a nativity, even a goat.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: With the huge expanse of characters found in the series, there are a number of people that show up for bit parts. Some entire Houses might even be called Bit Characters, usually with a defining characteristic that makes them at least slightly memorable. Ex. House Smallwood/Lady Smallwood.
  • In Vampire Academy, several of the teachers and students of St. Vladimir's Academy are no more than this. Appearing for one or two scenes and then vanishing into obscurity. A few are more recurring than others. Dr. Olendzki turns up whenever a protagonist is injured or shows signs of mental instability, Deirdre is the therapist appointed to Rose and Lissa, Camille Conta acts as one of the Academy's most popular girls and a power-player in the social scene, Xander Badica is a student who wants to taste what Rose's blood tastes like and figures in social gathering scenes, etc.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Many, many sitcoms employ bit characters to set up jokes, advance the plot or otherwise add to the story in that episode. Common bit characters include bar staff, waiters/waitresses, airport check in attendants, flight attendants and taxi drivers. If the bit character in question is interesting enough or proves popular with the writers and/or fans, they may ascend to Minor character status.
  • Breaking Bad: Walt Jr./Flynn's best friend Louis. He has maybe six lines and less than five minutes of total screen time (and even changes actors), but appears or is mentioned in almost every season, usually as a convenient excuse for why Flynn is out of the house during one of the more secretive, plot-important conversations between Skyler and Walt.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Deputy Mayor Finch's death marks the third murder investigation involving Buffy in less than two years: she is previously suspected in the deaths of fellow Slayer Kendra and her would-be stepfather, Ted. Each investigation is headed by the same detective (played by James MacDonald).
    • A harried teacher exhorting his students to "be somber" about the new year at the beginning of Season 3. He pops up again on Graduation Day, grimly making the kids play Hangman.
    "Heh heh. They always go for the E."
  • Doctor Who:
    • Sgt Benton has an interesting relationship to this trope—after playing a yeti, his actor John Levene filled out scenes as a UNIT member extra in "The Invasion" (still visible crammed right at the back at certain early shots), and got bumped up to being a bit character when the director sacked the actor originally cast as Benton. A drastic retool to focus the show around UNIT meant they decided to make Benton a companion, which he was for seven years. Apparently accidentally landing a large part despite having no acting training beyond some bit-part experience resulted in Levene experiencing severe stress and Impostor Syndrome.
    • Occasionally the Classic series will contrive to give the Doctor a 'bit companion' for him to talk to while separated from his main one, if he's trying to rescue her. A good example is Bettan in "Genesis of the Daleks", who shows up to take the companion role after the Doctor believes Sarah Jane is dead, and leaves as soon as he finds her - she has a little to do later in the story, but the fact that she's the only female Thal makes her role as a companion substitute more obvious.
  • Degrassi Junior High used the same group of kids every week for random reactions and as background studentry; everyone was a bit player until they unexpectedly got their own episode. This laid the groundwork for the huge ensemble casts used in later installments in the franchise.
  • In all of the Law & Order shows, the one-scene characters who are interviewed by the detectives in the first act are usually these. Usually these actors are credited at the end of an episode rather than the beginning, and it's a fun game to count the number of lines they have to see if it's five or more.

    Video Games 
  • Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory: Shakeko, one of the more fleshed out Scouts.
  • Despite making up half, then three-quarters of the main characters, Rokhan, Chen and Cairne end up being this in the orc campaign of Warcraft III's expansion. In Chen and Cairne's case, they get a few lines to explain their presence and motivation before joining you, Rokhan only gets two lines, and even in cutscenes Rexxar is addressed and speaks as if he were alone.
  • In Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair, there's Henshin Akadori, Nobara's father. The ten teenage members of the cast play various roles in the murder mystery, from victims to suspects, and even Raiko's parents help shed light on her past in an optional scene. Henshin's only role is to drive his daughter and Raiko to the party.

  • Company0051: Ally, originally the counterpart to Sam, appears the least of all the characters now that Sam has risen in prominence. However, it's fitting given she's a much quieter, non-comedic character, and she actually does get one moment in the limelight with the Chief following Maria's confrontation.

    Web Original 
  • Brave New World Universe: Cloak, the first bad guy, is barely introduced in the first arc of the story, only showing up to remove the brain of an FBI agent and sic some killer robots on our intrepid heroes. After that small appearance as a bad guy, he has fewer than ten lines, and is rarely seen again until he tries to double-cross The Benefactor. He is quickly killed in the ensuing Curb-Stomp Battle.

    Western Animation 
  • Gravity Falls: Tad Strange is a character with just a couple of lines and a small appearance, but he earned a surprising popularity because of his voice actor.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Most of the recurring special ponies with a job or role are these. You'll see them whenever the cast goes to their place or require their services. They'll usually appear in an episode, do their thing, maybe even have a little chat or two with the major characters and then leave or disappear until they are needed again. They also help move the plot along through their own little way (you can't have a spa scene without the spa ponies operating the spa itself, right?). Without them, the cast would have to do everything themselves. If they get really lucky and get an important role, they may be promoted into minor character. Of course, the fandom has fleshed them out to the point that every last one has many devoted fans. Sometimes Ascended Fanon happens (Hasbro uses their Fan Nicknames when possible.)
  • The Simpsons has been around for so long that almost every character who originally served only a bit role has now evolved into a more developed, ongoing character. There are a couple exceptions, though.
    • Sherri and Terri have been around since the beginnings of the show, but they have never gotten a single A Day in the Limelight episode (though they get major roles with the other kids in "Das Bus" and briefly had a role in the subplot for "Sleeping with the Enemy"), nor any characterization aside from "Single-Minded Twins" and "kind of stuck-up."
    • A couple characters who work in the Springfield service industry, despite being re-occuring and even beloved, still just exist primarily to sell or serve things to the more important characters in brief scenes. Examples would be Luigi the chef, the squeaky-voiced teen, Akira the sushi cook, and the sarcastic guy with the mustache.
    • Lindsey Naegle is a character who has evolved simply to serve situations where the plot requires a female executive or businessperson for a scene or two.
  • Hey Arnold!: Sheena has been around since the unaired 1994 pilot, yet never got her own episode and is more or less a Living Prop.
  • Daria has Andreanote , a Hollywood Pudgy, bitter Goth. She had a few lines in early episodes and then mostly became a background character, only to unexpectedly gain some moments of prominence in the last two seasons. The creators seem fond of her—she got Alter Egos and even some Character Development over her few speaking appearances—and she has become an Ensemble Dark Horse among fans as well.
  • Kamp Koral has a fair amount of original campers who have distinct designs and names, but often don't show up for more than a few scenes in an episode.
    • A good example is Roh and Rea, Upturn's cabin-mates, are two snooty twins who have a good amount of appearances but no major roles.
    • Elwood is a generic background fish from the main series episode "Old Man Patrick", who was given a name and promoted to being slightly more prominent. He has a Character Catchphrase of "This is fun!" and is often portrayed as quite stupid and oblivious.
    • Tall Tail is a gag character whose face is never shown on-screen, but he is sometimes seen around the camp. His biggest role is a 30 second gag in "Gimme a News Break".
    • Fellow jock campers Mo and Craig are always seen in the Frigate cabin and appear consistently, but don't usually get any lines. Craig does get a starring role in "Eye of the Hotdog", but Mo has yet to have anything.
    • Outside of "Regi-Hilled", Lady Upturn's butler Regigilled mainly sticks to background roles and maybe says one or two things in a scene.