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 some way (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.
- 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 other than to pine after Touga and kiss up 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.
- 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.
- Mars Attacks!: Danny Devito's character that 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.
- 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.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
"Heh heh. They always go for the E."
- 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.
- Doctor Who:
- Sgt Benton has an interesting relationship to this trope - his actor John Levene started out playing a UNIT member extra in "The Invasion" (still visible crammed right at the back at certain early scenes), 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 the stress of 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Gravity Falls: Tad Strange is a character with just a couple of lines and a small appearence, 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: 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, nor any characterization aside from "Single-Minded Twins" and "kind of stuck-up."
- 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.