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Fake Guest Star

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Cloris Leachman was part of the main cast in all but billing.
An actor who is, to all outward observation, a member of the regular cast, but who still receives guest billing. This usually has something to do with their contract and whether or not it stipulates that they receive main cast billing (and possibly with how much they get paid), though in some cases, it may be done as a gimmick to call attention to an actor whose reputation vastly exceeds that of the rest of the cast.

This can also happen if a guest star becomes an Ensemble Dark Horse and is written into future episodes to capitalize on their unexpected popularity, which may eventually lead to a Promotion to Opening Titles. Other times, however, they remain guest stars due to difficulties modifying the opening titles.

Often with many cases exclusivity can have an effect. If a cast member is a regular, then that show has them somewhat "locked down," and they have to stay at the cost of other projects. However, if they're merely a "guest star," that can often give them the freedom to work on other projects if they want to.

Occasionally, you even see a "Special Guest Star" credit on a movie. How exactly someone can "guest star" in a production that doesn't have a regular cast is left as an exercise to the reader.


Compare Advertised Extra, where a character who is supposed to be part of the main cast ends up feeling like a guest star. Also compare Award Category Fraud and "And Starring."


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    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • The TV movie credited Eric Roberts, who played The Master, as a guest star—probably because it was intended as the pilot to a new TV series, but said show failed to materialize.
    • During the Ninth Doctor's tenure, only Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper's names were featured in the title card. Despite Jack Harkness being a second companion during the last five episodes, John Barrowman's name isn't included in the opening credits. He wouldn't get main credits billing until he returned for the Master story in series 3.
    • This was the case for Noel Clarke as Mickey Smith, and most noticeable in series 2, where he actually travels with the Doctor and Rose from "School Reunion" through the end of the Cybermen two-parter, but only David Tennant and Billie Piper's names are in the opening credits.
    • Arthur Darvill was recurring often enough to appear to be a regular from the start of the Eleventh Doctor's tenure at the start of series 5, but remained a guest star until he was finally promoted to the opening titles in series 6.
    • An aversion, at least on screen: William Hartnell's last story as the actual star of Doctor Who was "The Smugglers". For the First Doctor's final adventure, "The Tenth Planet", recorded at the start of a new production block with his replacement in the wings, Hartnell was contracted as a guest artiste. His on-screen billing, however, remained the same.
  • The Americans has Richard Thomas playing Frank Gaad, Stan Beeman's supervisor at the FBI. Nearly 2 seasons in and Thomas has appeared in every episode of the series except one. Keidrich Sellati and Holly Taylor, who play the Jennings children, have appeared in fewer episodes, despite being main cast members.
  • Bosch: A fair number of the cop characters at Hollywood Division get focus and major roles in the stories, but only Titus Welliver, Jamie Hector, Amy Aquino, Madison Lintz, and Lance Reddick get main credits billing.
    • This applies at Hollywood Division to Gregory Scott Cummins and Troy Evans (Crate and Barrel) on a show-length basis.
    • DaJuan Johnson (Rondell Pierce) and Paul Calderon (Jimmy Robertson) are also big offenders. This is most notable in season 4's adaptation of Angels Flight, where they're in every episode as members of the Elias task force. The same is true in season 4 for Winter Ave Zoli, who plays Amy Snyder.
    • Mimi Rogers as Honey Chandler gets this during the fifth season (when Bosch retains her to help defend himself against Preston Borders' accusations of evidence tampering) and sixth season (where Bosch's daughter is interning at her firm).
  • Bonanza: Done once, in 1972's "The Lonely Man" for regular cast member Victor Seng Yung, who played Hop Sing, who was a regular and appeared in 80 percent of the episodes. This was the only episode where Hop Sing — who falls in love with a white woman (in an episode about unjust interracial marriage laws) — is the primary character.
  • Blue Bloods does this to a good part of the cast (Jack & Sean, Garrett, Baker, Jackie, Eddie, Baez, and Sid). To be fair, the opening sequence is about 20-30 seconds long.
  • Little House on the Prairie: This was done occasionally with regular cast members (outside of those playing the original Ingalls family) credited as guest stars for episodes in which they were the main focus. Some examples: Season 6's "Second Spring" (with Richard Bull and Katherine MacGregor promoted to "Special Guest Star" status) and Season 8's "A Promise to Keep" (Victor French, who had just rejoined the cast).
  • Sharon, Lois, and Bram's Elephant Show always had Eric Nagler listed as a guest star despite long runs of episodes in which he continuously appeared.
  • Saturday Night Live has always had two "categories" players appeared in; "repertory" players and "featured" players, note excepting a couple of seasons in the Dick Ebersol era which saw a smaller overall cast and greater use of variety acts. The repertory cast, for years, was considered the "main" cast, and all the other players were there to supplement the main cast. Starting at about season 16, the line between featured player and repertory player began to blur, to the point that by season 38, the only real difference between a "featured" player and the main cast is how they're billed. New players always spend at least one season (usually two) being billed as "featuring" and then get moved up. This is a change from seasons 1—23 wherein new players intended to be used regularly would always be moved straight to the main cast. Ana Gasteyer and Tracy Morgan were the last players this happened to; everyone hired since has spent at least a season as a featured player (with the exception of Amy Poehler, who was introduced as a featured player, but was promoted to the repertory cast later in her first season).
    • In season 42, Alec Baldwin appeared in more than half the episodes as Donald Trump, so in the eyes of the Emmy Awards he was considered a cast member and was nominated in the comedy Supporting Actor category (which he won).
  • On Community:
    • Jim Rash is listed as a guest star in the first two seasons although he appears in almost every episode and often drives the plot. (He had the first lines of dialogue in the Pilot) He eventually made it to the titles in season 3.
    • Jonathan Banks is only listed as a guest star in season 5 although he appears in every episode except for the season premiere, which is focused on rebooting the series with (most of) the original cast and the fourth episode, which was a bottle episode revolving around Pierce's death.
    • Paget Brewster and Keith David are only credited as guest stars in season 6, though they appear in most of the episodes (in Brewster's case, all 13 episodes of the season; David appeared in all but the premiere).
  • On Angel, Andy Hallett, the actor who played Lorne, was listed as a guest star or special guest star until the late 4th season, despite appearing in all but a handful of episodes since his debut in Season 2, Episode 1.
  • Both incarnations of Battlestar Galactica have a veritable parade of "guest stars" who've appeared in almost every episode.
    • The new series upped the ante by listing some actors before guest stars but without a "Guest Starring" credit, leaving them in some strange netherworld between "guest star" and "regular". Actors listed this way included Helo, Cally, Dee, Gaeta, Billy, Sam, Tyrol, Crashdown and Tigh — who may just be the Most Triumphant Example of this trope, as Michael Hogan appears in more episodes than most of the actors who are actually in the opening credits.
  • An odd example with Danielle Fishel as Topanga on Boy Meets World. She doesn't appear till the 4th episode and appears in very few for the next handful of episodes. By mid season onward she gets a significant amount of screen time equal or more than Lee Noris as Minkus who receives top billing while Fishel is relegated to guest star. Ironically she finally received top billing in season 2, but has significantly less screen time, with only a few early episode feature her getting any significant focus after that she has very little to do with any of the story-lines. By season 3 she becomes Cory's girlfriend and settles into being part of the main cast.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Jason Momoa, who played the not-at-all insubstantial role of Khal Drogo, was never credited in the opening titles of the first season, despite his character out-living several starring characters. Instead, his name appears at the end of guest star credits in the ending credits of each episode with an "Also Starring" attached to it. This was purportedly because Momoa wanted an "And Starring" credit, which would put him on equal billing with Peter Dinklage — despite the fact that his character was written out at the end of Season 1, while Tyrion Lannister has gone on to be the protagonist (insofar as the Ensemble Cast with Three Lines, Some Waiting has one) and Dinklage received first billing in place of Decoy Protagonist Sean Bean. (This was also Momoa's breakout role; while he might have had the clout to demand such billing after the season ended, he didn't when it started.) The compromise was for Momoa to get the "Also Starring" in the guest credits instead.
    • Neither Julian Glover (Pycelle) nor Conleth Hill (Varys) are credited as regulars in the first season, even though they are arguably as important, and appear just as often, as regular Aiden Gillen (Littlefinger). And for that matter, Julian Glover never got the Promotion to Opening Titles, even though his character outlived a lot of those credited as regulars.
    • In Season 2, Donald Sumpter (Luwin), Joe Dempsie (Gendry), Gwendoline Christie (Brienne), Natalia Tena (Osha), and Tom Wlaschiha (Jaqen H'ghar) are all credited as guests even though they appear as often as several characters credited as regulars. Two of them even survive the Series Finale!
    • Roose Bolton's actor is only billed as a guest star from Seasons 2-4 despite Roose being one of Robb's top lieutenants and eventually The Starscream. He eventually gets the Promotion to Opening Titles starting Season 5 which doesn't last long because he dies early in Season 6.
  • John Glover, who played the Devil on every episode of Fox's short-lived Brimstone, was always credited as a guest star. In fact, the only name in the opening titles was Peter Horton.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The show had quite a few, including Anthony Stewart Head after he rejoined the cast for the final season, Amber Benson in all but her final appearance (despite appearing in almost 50 episodes) and Eliza Dushku, who appeared in a key role in over half the third season episodes yet never got billing beyond "guest star". Anthony Steward Head was billed as a Super-Duper Extra Special Guest Star though.
      • Amber Benson only got billing as a main in her last appearance because Joss Whedon wanted to kill off someone in the first episode that they got their name in the main titles. Joss originally wished to do this with Xander's friend Jesse in the pilot episode, but financial restrictions did not allow for it.
    • Anya (Emma Caulfield) appears in 15 out of season 4's 22 episodes. They got the hint and she received a Promotion to Opening Titles in the next season.
  • Kristine Sutherland (Joyce) appears in more episodes than most of the regulars, including 15 episodes of Season 3 and all bar one of the episodes prior to her death in Season 5, but never made it past "guest star".note 
  • The third season of Bugs used the same opening titles as the second, meaning only Craig McLachlan, Jaye Griffiths and Jesse Birdsall were credited. Jan Harvey was given a special credit at the start of each episode (and, strangely, Leslie Ash was accorded the same honour for the first two episodes as well as appearing in the season's publicity photos), but Paula Hunt as new team member Alex was simply listed on the closing credits, despite appearing in every episode. Harvey and Hunt were Promoted to Opening Titles on the fourth season.
  • John Ratzenberger appeared as Cliff Clavin in every episode of the first season of Cheers, but wasn't made a regular until season 2.
  • The only actors on the opening titles of Crime Traveller were Michael French and Chloe Annette, with Sue Johnson getting an extra credit post-titles. Despite this, Paul Trussell and Richard Dempsey as the other members of CID appear in every episode and Bob Goody as caretaker Danny only missed one.
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show has a couple, most notably Richard Deacon as Mel Cooley, who has appeared in more than half of all episodes on the show.
  • Drive (2007) listed Dylan Baker as a guest star for five of its six episodes. He was finally moved to the opening credits for the finale. Oddly, Rochelle Aytes, Riley Smith, and Mircea Monroe were not in all six episodes, but were listed in the opening credits.
  • Tim Curry as the main antagonist of Earth 2 is given away by his performance and billing, despite being in more episodes than some of the regulars (also not helped when the show was cancelled).
  • ER is a frequent offender, since it had Loads and Loads of Characters and they had to draw the line somewhere. In consequence, many regular nurses and receptionists who appear in every episode receive guest star billing.
    • Of particular note are Laura Ceron (Chuny) and Deezer D (Malik), who each have been in more episodes than everyone except Noah Wyle and Laura Innes, but all their appearances were under normal guest star billing.
  • Frank Dekova appeared in every episode of F Troop save one from the show's first season as Chief Wild Eagle, the grumpy and grizzled but goodnatured leader of the pacifistic Hekawis tribe. The producers felt he was such an important part of the show that he was added to the credits for the second season.
  • Jool, Noranti, and Sikozu on Farscape. Actresses Melissa Jaffer and Raelee Hill, who played Noranti and Sikozu respectively, were credited as guest stars even in the small handful of Season 4 episodes they didn't appear in.
    • Not to mention Jonathan Hardy, though this is somewhat justified in that he was only a voice actor. Still, he appeared in every single episode of the show.
    • An interesting version is Lani Tupu. He was credited in the main cast in Season 3, where he was a regular cast member, but (if memory serves) never as a guest star, even in episodes he guest starred in as Captain Bailar Crais. The kicker? He's in nearly every episode (if not every episode) as the voice of Pilot. The latter role is credited in the ending credits.
  • Flash Gordon (2007) listed Jonathan Lloyd Walker, who played Rankol, as a guest star, even though he was in every episode (albeit only via stock footage in the Clip Show), meaning he appeared more than Jody Racicot (Zarkov) and John Ralston (Ming) who were on the opening titles.
  • Frasier: Dan Butler played Bulldog, and appeared in nearly every episode for the first few years as a guest. During the latter years, he was moved to the opening cast credits — but appeared in very few actual episodes because Butler was touring with his one man show The Worst Thing You Could Have Ever Told Me.
  • Busy Phillips was credited as "Also starring" following the main credits of Freaks and Geeks throughout the series' run, but she gets just as much screen time and dialogue as any of the actors featured in the opening sequence. One of the DVD commentaries states that Kim Kelly was intended to be a minor character, but the creators ended up liking her too much to not keep her around. It's likely she would have been added to the main credits if the show hadn't been cancelled after one season.
  • Edward Herrmann is listed as "Special appearance by" in the Title Sequence of Gilmore Girls despite being in nearly every episode.
  • Aaron Hill as "Beaver" and Derek Mio as "Wade" on Greek. As Kappa Tau's right and left hand men, both were relegated to "Also Starring" in the end credits until Chapter 3, when they were Promoted To...the guest star list.
  • Heartbeat ended up with an extensive ensemble cast and sometimes had as many as 13 actors on the opening titles...but Claire Calbraith, who was on the show for two years as Tricia Summerbee and was effectively the female lead on Season 11 and the first half of Season 12 was never given the honour. (Curiously, soon after she left, several more minor characters were added on, as if they'd been waiting for her to go before putting them on.)
  • Heroes has several, but the only recurring characters to be promoted are HRG in season 1, Sylar and Ando in season 2, Angela in season 3, and Samuel in season 4. Important characters who were not promoted include Sandra, the Haitian, West, Daphne, Knox, and many more. Indeed, season 3 demoted several characters - and one of them, Elle, has grown to being a true fake special guest star.
  • Home and Away has many examples. Most notable are Sam Holden, Melody Jones, and Angelo Rosetta who appear just as much as the regulars and have several major storylines.
    • This appears to be the exception, as although they're involved in major storylines, none of them have had anywhere near as much screen time as the regulars.
    • Morag Bellingham's actress had a special contract allowing her to come and go from the show as she pleased, which is why she was never credited as a main star.
    • Angelo's now a regular.
    • Given regular characters only appear in two or three episodes out of five in each week anyway, most of these do actually appear as much as the regulars. Melody was set up as a new foster child and considered a regular by many, so her sudden decision to go back to her evil mother who apparently wasn't evil anymore, just a few weeks into a new season and having just had two episodes to herself, was a bit of a shock.
    • However, characters like Sam and Angelo did have a story arc to follow which ended in them leaving the bay (in a body bag and police car, respectively). They weren't intended to stay for very long.
    • Angelo returned just three months after his apparent exit, was rapidly Promoted to Opening Titles and stuck around for another two years.
    • Stacey Macklin was a curious case in the early years, she appeared as much as anyone and outlasted several regulars yet was always credited as a guest star.
  • Pushed to an extreme in the latter half of the fourth season, and the entire fifth season, of House, where House's new team of doctors, whom he spends most of his time ordering around interacting with, are guest stars, whereas two members of his former team, played by Jennifer Morrison and Jesse Spencer, have been relegated to occasional roles but are still billed as regulars. Justified in the first half of the fourth season in that there were far more potential members of the new team than would actually end up on it and revealing which ones were to become regulars would spoil it.
  • The TV miniseries/DTV movie series Josh Kirby...Time Warrior! effectively had two sets of opening credits (one which played as a typical TV series intro, another that was simply the rest of the cast and crew for the movies on a black background, like a regular movie). The TV Show credits played up the roles of Corbin Allred (Josh Kirby), Derek Webster (Dr Zoetrope) and Jennifer Burns (Azabeth Siege), yet Barrie Ingham (Irwin 1138) is relegated to the rest of the cast, spoiling a major plot point.
  • Justified: Walton Goggins appeared as Boyd in 9 episodes of the first season's 13, but wasn't promoted to part of the regular cast until season 2.
    • This example is somewhat of a *ahem* justified one since initially Boyd Crowder was supposed to die in the pilot, just as he does in the short story the series is based on, but was so popular in test screenings that he was Spared by the Adaptation.
  • Dame Thora Hird, Jean Alexander and Dora Bryan made a "Special Guest Appearance" virtually every episode for years on Last of the Summer Wine. They finally started being listed as members of the regular cast in 2002.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Tamara Tunie, who played Medical Examiner Melinda Warner in nearly every episode of seasons 4—6, was always credited as a guest star because of a conflict with her contract for As the World Turns which wouldn't allow her to take top billing on any other show. That contract ended in 2007, however, and she was immediately promoted to SVU's opening credits.
  • Leslie Hendrix as Medical Examiner Elizabeth Rodgers on Law & Order and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. She's been on the original series longer than any of the current cast members.
  • On Lost, some recurring characters have appeared more than some members of the main cast, and yet are relegated to guest status. Examples include Tom in season three, who only appeared in one less episode than cast member Claire, and Frank in season four, who has appeared more times than Michael and Desmond, and just as many times as Miles. As of the season 5 finale, Richard Alpert has appeared more than any other guest star, to the point where some confuse him as being a member of the main cast. This may stem from rumors that Richard would join the main cast in season 4, which then repeated themselves prior to season 5, but Richard is still a guest star. (Promoted To Opening Credits in season 6).
    • Nikki and Paulo in season 3 and Daniel, Miles, and Charlotte in season 4 are all credited as guest stars in press releases but as main cast members in the episodes themselves. While this discrepancy was fixed for Daniel and Miles in season 5, the issue persisted with Charlotte...though it didn't matter for long because she dies five episodes into season 5.
    • Almost every recurring character got a Promotion to Opening Titles in the series finale.
  • Jonathan Harris (Dr. Smith) was billed as a "Special Guest Star" on Lost in Space, despite being a regular member of the cast. This is because he was not added to the show until after the original pilot was produced, and none of the other cast members were willing to renegotiate their contracts for lower billing. To compensate for sticking Harris at the end, the "Special Guest Star" credit was invented to give him featured billing. This was the beginning of the And Starring custom in credits to put featured players at the end of the list with a special notation.
    • According to a documentary on the Lost in Space 3rd season DVD boxset, Jonathan Harris also got paid more for his "Special Guest Star" status. The studio apparently tried to get him moved into the credits with the others starting at the beginning of season 2, but he refused.
  • In the first season of Mad Men, John Slattery was credited as a guest star in spite of Roger Sterling's major part in the first season and seasons that would follow. He appears in 10 of the 13 episodes of season 1. Notably, Maggie Siff (Rachel Menken) is a main cast member in season 1 but only appears in 7 episodes.
  • Cloris Leachman was always billed as a special guest star during her time on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, probably due to her Oscar win before the show aired.
  • Heather Locklear was billed as "Special Guest Star" for her entire run on Melrose Place, despite being the main character for the last several seasons and appearing in all but the first 20 episodes of the show.
    • Additionally, Laura Leighton appears in all but two episodes in the second season, though isn't promoted until season three. Also, Marcia Cross appears in every episode (barring one) in season three, though is only upgraded to series regular status in season four. Plus, Patrick Muldoon and Rena Sofer play major roles in the show's fourth and seventh seasons respectively and appear in almost every episode, yet are never given anything above "guest star" billing.
  • Martin Landau appeared in all but two episodes of the first season of Mission: Impossible, with his character Rollin Hand being an important part of the IMF team and having a major role in nearly every mission... and each time he was credited as a "Guest Star" or "Special Appearance". The story goes that Landau was wary about committing himself to the series out of fear that he would be unable to appear in other projects at the same time and thus he didn't want to be bound to contract, so he didn't officially join the cast until the second season.
  • The opening of Murder, She Wrote only listed Angela Lansbury as a star, and true to that, she's the only person to star in even 20% of the series' episodes. Frequently recurring actors like William Windom, Ron Masak, and Tom Bosley (who each took on major roles when featured) were only billed as part of the ensemble "also starring" roll at each episode's opening. As they were listed in alphabetical order, Windom was often billed last among the episode's actors as a result.
  • The series Mutant X had Tom McCamus as the villainous Mason Eckhart. Despite appearing in every single episode (not to mention the show's title sequence montage) of the first season, he was billed as a guest star.
  • Sean Murray appeared in roughly a third of the episodes in season one of NCIS, and was billed as a guest star. He was promoted to the main cast in season two and has remained there ever since.
    • Brian Dietzen has played Jimmy Palmer, ME's assistant, longer than Cote de Pablo, Lauren Holly and Rocky Carroll have been regular cast members (having been introduced in season 1), but is still relegated to the guest stars' robot roll call. He was credited as a Special Guest Star starting from Season 6 and appeared on the DVD boxset covers (the only person to do so and not be a main cast member at the time) from Season 7. Heck, he's even had whole episodes about him! Which made it all the more heartwarming when he was finally Promoted to Opening Titles for the show's tenth season.
  • Katya, Will, and Lolly (in her second stint) on Neighbours were always credited as guest stars despite being regular characters. Why this was the case for Katya is anyone's guess but the actors playing Will and Lolly left very soon after joining the show, which is probably why they were never promoted.
    • Though all three were included in the opening credits, however briefly.
  • Jon Gries as Broots in all but the final season of The Pretender.
  • In Sanctuary, Ryan Robbins was listed as a guest star for all of season one, despite appearing in thirteen out of fourteen episodes.
  • In Scrubs, at least four guest stars have appeared in over 50 episodes- Christa Miller played Jordan in 79, Sam Lloyd played Ted in 83, Aloma Wright was Laverne or Shirley in 90, and Robert Maschio played Todd in 105.
    • In season 1, Neil Flynn isn't considered part of the main cast, even though he appears in every single episode of that season. Ironically, he does get promoted to the main cast in season 2, but doesn't appear in "My Lucky Day", meaning he appeared less in that season than he did in the season where he wasn't part of the main cast.
  • Only Benedict Cumberbatch (as Holmes) and Martin Freeman (as Watson) are credited in the opening titles of Sherlock. Rupert Graves (Lestrade), Una Stubbs (Mrs. Hudson), Louise Brealey (Molly) and series co-creator/writer Mark Gatiss (Mycroft) appear in every episode of Series 2 and 3 (and all but one episode of the first), and are incredibly important characters, but are still just guest-stars.
  • Smallville lists Erica Durance (Lois) as a guest star on Season 4, despite her appearing in over half the episodes. She was Promoted to Opening Titles on Season 5.
  • The Sopranos: Jerry Adler guest-starred as Hesh Rabkin in 27 episodes throughout the course of the series yet never received billing. This was in a series that tended to eventually give in-episode billing to actors in recurring roles.
  • Stargate SG-1: Dr. Janet Frasier had regular appearances from season 1, Episode 3, until midway through season 7. In season 1, Episode 11, she's standing with SG-1 as the recipients of the US flag during Daniel's military funeral, and her role remains pivotal to both SG-1's military and personal plotlines until season 7. Despite the producers and writers regarding her as a main character, she is never billed as one. The reason she dies in "Heroes" is because the producers needed to kill off a main character that the fans were heavily invested in.
  • Stargate Atlantis: Zelenka, Major Lorne and Colonel Caldwell were regularly-appearing characters and considered important enough to be referenced even in episodes in which they didn't appear, sometimes to create justification for why the characters aren't appearing when the plot indicates they really should be. None of them were ever billed as main characters.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: Initially only William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were billed as main cast. Everyone else was viewed as a regular. From season 2, DeForest Kelley was billed as main cast. The rest of "main characters" were billed in the closing credits as "co-stars".
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • Dr. Pulaski is never added to the main cast list, despite being Dr. Crusher's replacement for the whole of season 2. Diana Muldaur declined the offer to ensure her availability for other projects.
    • Chief O'Brien starts off as a background character who eventually achieves a great deal of prominence and importance. Even though entire episodes centre around him, he never officially joins the "main cast" list. When he leaves the show, it's to join Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, where he receives main cast billing.
    • From Season 2 to Season 6, Guinan appeared in 29 episodes, nearly a quarter of the remaining show, and she was featured in two official cast photos.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Garak begins as a one-episode character who eventually becomes incredibly important to the show's plot and Myth Arc. He is never billed as a member of the main cast, despite having that importance in the show. Andrew Robinson was given the opportunity, but declined the offer, and remains as a special guest star.
    • Dukat is the major villain of the show, has personal involvement with several of the main characters, and also with Garak, and becomes absolutely pivotal to the resolution of the Myth Arc. He never joins the main cast, remaining a special guest star.
    • Rom and Nog are both introduced in the pilot and appear in several episodes each season, eventually joining the station crew. Neither of them join the main cast, continuing to be listed as guest stars.
    • The Voiceless Morn appears in over 90 episodes of the show. To put that into perspective, he appears in more episodes than Jake Sisko, who was in the main credits.
  • John Travolta, who played Tony Manero in 1977's Saturday Night Fever, and Danny Zuko in in 1978's Grease, was given this status when he appeared part-time on Welcome Back, Kotter as Vinnie Barbarino during the show's fourth and final 1978-1979 season.
  • Chris Noth as Peter Florrick on The Good Wife seems to be in most episodes, even if he's in prison.
  • Tim Conway appeared on every episode of The Carol Burnett Show for several seasons as a "guest star," before becoming an official regular.
  • In The Tudors, there's Anthony Brophy. He played Eustace Chapuys, and is in more episodes than anyone except Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Henry Cavill - who are the only actors who appear in every episode. Joely Richardson (Katherine Parr) probably qualifies as well; she's in the main credits but billed as a "Special Guest Star", presumably because she's, well, Joely Richardson, a member of the Redgrave acting dynasty.
  • Roseanne in its nine years never added actors to the main billing whose characters were newly introduced. The only character who was dropped from actor billing was Crystal after she never appeared anymore, but numerous other characters were introduced that became indispensable to the show's plot, particularly Bev, David, Jerry, Leon, Mark, Nancy and Scott. But none of their actors ever got more than a guest credit, as the main billing became strictly limited to the fictional immediate family (minus Jerry who was born later) and Jackie.
  • Similar to Roseanne, The Nanny never added actors to its main billing. Val, Yetta, and especially Sylvia became much more prominent as the series wore on, yet Rachel Chagall, Ann Guilbert, and Renee Taylor were always guest stars.
  • The U.S. version of Shameless has Joan Cusack playing Shelia, who continues to be credited as a guest star despite her major role in all 4 seasons. This has helped her secure Emmy nods for Outstanding Guest Actress every year.
  • Matthew Timmons, who plays Woody on The Suite Life on Deck, never received anything other than guest star billing.
    • Which is actually quite odd since when Doc Shaw showed up in the Second Season, he automatically got Star Billing even though they play comparable roles.
    • The same is true for Adrian R'Mante who played Esteban in the parent series appearing in most episodes.
  • 24 is a regular offender of this. Carlos Bernard (Tony Almeida) spent the whole first season as a guest star, despite getting ample screen time in nearly every episode. Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe O'Brien) spent two whole seasons as a guest star before finally being added to the main cast, again despite appearing in nearly every episode of both seasons. This is especially odd as Sarah Wynter (Kate Warner), James Badge Dale (Chase Edmunds), and Leslie Hope (Teri Bauer) all appeared in only one season each, yet received regular cast billing for their respective seasons.
    • Roger Cross (Curtis Manning) spent the greater part of season four as a guest star before finally being bumped up to regular cast billing for the last third of it, and has remained at that position for the rest of his stay on the show.
    • Oddly, Lana Parrilla (Sarah Gavin) was also moved up to main cast mid-season in season 4 despite only appearing in half of the season and never appearing in any other season. On the other hand, Jude Ciccolella (Mike Novick) appeared in more episodes than all but seven other actors and never got billing above guest star—though he did get the "special appearance" billing reserved for returning cast members in the first episode of Season 5 along with Reiko Aylesworth (Michelle Dessler) and Dennis Haysbert (David Palmer), both of whom were killed off in that episode.
      • The opening credits of the season 5 premiere are somewhat of an indirect spoiler, as while Aylesworth is listed as a guest star, Carlos Bernard is listed with the main cast.
      • It's also a little ironic since Bernard was actually an Advertised Extra in season five.
    • Reiko Aylesworth, D.B. Woodside (Wayne Palmer), and Louis Lombardi (Edgar Stiles) all notably appeared in all 24 episodes of a season (notably remaining vital to that year's events the entire time) before being upgradged to main cast the following one. In Woodside's case, he actually appeared in a little bit of the fifth season as well (he wasn't in the fourth) before finally joining the cast in season six. Similarly, like Carlos Bernard, Penny Johnson Jerald (Sherry Palmer) was in nearly every episode of the first season and didn't join the main cast until the second.
    • Jude Ciccoella (Mike Novick) is also a notable case, as he was heavily involved in the first, second, fourth and especially fifth seasons, even going so far as getting a promotional photograph for the latter, but was never credited as a main cast member. Similar cases where an actor or actress was never officially part of the main cast but had a large enough role they might as well have been include Zachary Quinto (Adam Kaufman) in season 3 and Necar Zadeganj and Nazneen Contractor (Dalia and Kayla Hassan, respectively) in season 8
  • Beverly Hills, 90210: Kathleen Robertson (Clare) in season 5, plus Jason Wiles (Colin), Emma Caulfield (Susan), and Cameron Bancroft (Joe) in season 6. Most appear in over 25 episodes of their respective seasons, though still credited under "guest star" billing (though Kathleen Robertson was Promoted to Opening Titles come season 6). Also, when Luke Perry returned, he was credited as a "special guest star" though he appeared in every episode from his return until the end.
  • Bonita Friedericy remained a "guest star" on Chuck for three seasons, despite being in almost every episode. She was upgraded to the main cast for Season 4. In an earlier example, Season 1 had Ryan McPartlin and the actors for the Buy More staff, who appeared in most of the episodes (or in the case of both Scott Krinsky and Vik Sahay, every episode) but would have to wait until Season 2 before they were credited in the main cast.
  • Amy Acker appeared in all but three episodes of the first season of Dollhouse, playing the important, highly recurring role of Dr. Claire Saunders. Despite occasionally appearing in more scenes than some of the regular cast, Acker was still considered a guest star. Reed Diamond, playing security chief Laurence Dominic, had similar treatment.
    • This makes a little more sense in light of Season 2, where both of them are largely written out. Even better, Joss Whedon received early warning that the show would be canceled and brought them back in for the finales, but who knows how much his original plan involved them.
  • Kirsten Vangsness spent the entire first season of Criminal Minds as a guest star before being promoted to the opening credits in Season 2. As of season 11, Vansgness appeared the most out of all the actors, even with original cast members Shemar Moore, Thomas Gibson, and Matthew Gray Gubler (though the former two have since left).
    • Aisha Tyler appeared in all but four episodes of the eleventh season, though credited as a guest star, which eventually led her to be promoted to the opening credits in the twelfth season.
  • In season 4 of Friday Night Lights, Zach Gilford was listed as a guest star, despite being a main character for the past three seasons. This was allegedly a gambit so that he could be nominated for Best Guest Role in a Drama Series at the Emmys, which is less competitive than the main and supporting actor categories. It didn't work.
    • Buddy Garrity, played by Brad Leland, was a fixture of the show for all 5 seasons, appearing in all but 13 episodes, but Leland was never billed above guest star. Even in season 5, where he appeared in every episode.
  • In season 2 of Dawson's Creek, Meredith Monroe and Kerr Smith were both credited as Special Guest Stars. Kerr Smith was in every single episode of the season except the premiere and Meredith Monroe was in all but the finale. They were both upgraded to regulars for the third season.
    • Busy Phillips stays a guest star throughout the entire 5th season, despite living with one main character and dating another while featuring in 22 out of 23 episodes. (The one she didn't appear in was a Joey-centric episode which none of the main cast but Katie Holmes appeared in). She actually featured less after her promotion to the main cast in season 6, missing 7 episodes of that season, including the finale.
  • In Kath and Kim Magda Szubanski (who played Sharon Strzelecki) is credited in the opening as "Special Guest", even though she is a main character who appeared in every episode.
  • On Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Michael Hurst was initially credited as a guest star. This was somewhat justified in the first season, as Iolaus only appeared in half the episodes and was established to have a home of his own. However, while he doesn't appear in every episode of Season 2, Iolaus still appears in the majority (even getting his first A Day in the Limelight episode) and is by this time established as a traveling hero like Hercules. In Season 3, Michael Hurst was promoted to the opening credits with "Also Starring."
  • Jesse L. Martin was listed as a guest star throughout all eight episode of The Philanthropist, even though he had a larger role than Neve Campbell, who was given second billing.
  • In the first season of Glee, Naya Rivera (Santana) was in every episode, and Heather Morris (Brittany) all of them but the pilot (both were made regulars in season 2) — Harry Shum Jr. (Mike) has been in every episode so far but the first three, but was billed as a guest star until his third and final season.
    • This trope was the case in Season 2 for Chord Overstreet (Sam), who appeared in all but one episode of the season. The producers' refusal to upgrade him to main cast member caused him to walk out between season 2 and 3. He returned in episode 8 of season 3, and finally got his main cast billing in season 4.
    • True with all of the new cast members for season four. Most of them have appeared in every episode (and played cental parts too), but they are all billed as guest stars.
  • Prison Break has had several - Stacy Keach (Warden Pope) appeared in 20 out of 22 episodes in season 1, Frank Grillo (Nick Savrinn) appeared in 18 out of 22, Muse Watson (Charles Westmoreland) appeared in 18 out of 22, Carlo Alban (McGrady) appeared in every episode in season 3, and Leon Russom (General Jonathan Krantz) appeared in every episode in season 4.
  • In the first season of Big Time Rush, Tanya Chrisholm who plays Gustavo's assistant Kelly, wasn't put on the cast billings, despite being in every episode. The second season however added her to it.
  • Shake it Up has Tinka Hessenheffer, who is played by Caroline Sunshine, who appears in every episode along with her twin brother Gunther, but is billed as a recurring character while Gunther is included as a regular in the opening credits. She was promoted to opening credits from the second season onwards.
  • The long-running BritCom Last of the Summer Wine always listed (Dame) Thora Hird and Jean Alexander as being special guest appearances which at first they were as they appeared first in Christmas specials but later were in most or all episodes with Jean staying till the end, Dame Thora having died a few years previously.
  • Even though the only episode of Joan of Arcadia that "guest stars" Becky Wahlstrom and Christopher Marquette weren't in was the pilot, they weren't added to the opening credits until season two.
  • Parks and Recreation:
    • Chris Pratt (Andy) got this for the first season. He got a Promotion to Opening Titles (he was actually always there, just labeled as a "guest star") for season two. Interestingly, he was only supposed to be a temporary character, but that quickly changed before season two.
    • Retta (Donna) and Jim O'Heir (Jerry) were also billed as guest stars despite appearing in most episodes. However they were Promoted to Opening Titles halfway through season 6 after the departure of Rashida Jones (Ann) and Rob Lowe (Chris).
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 is an unusual case, aside from all credits appearing at the end. In seasons 2 and 3, the Mads and other visitors were billed under "special guest villains". In all other seasons (including season 1), they were billed under "also featuring", with the Satellite of Love portion of the cast billed under "featuring". Of special note: show creator Joel Hodgson didn't even get credit for playing Joel Robinson in the first season! (Fortunately, he still got credit for everything else he did, and the cast issue was rectified in season 2.)
  • Hawaii Five-O, the original version of, is an unusual case - while Jack Lord receives starring credit and is the only person not to have the name of his character included in his billing, the other cast members aren't officially credited as co-stars; James MacArthur (second-billed in all but the final season, which he wasn't in) and all the other cast members listed in the opening credits are billed under "With."
  • In Eureka, Chris Gauthier has notably appeared in most episodes of the series and maybe misses 2—3 per season at most, yet still has remained a guest star on the show.
    • An even better example is Neil Grayston as Douglas Fargo. He's appeared in every episode of the series from the beginning and often plays an important part in the events of an episode (as opposed to Gauthier who often only appears in one scene an episode), yet somehow he didn't get credited as part of the main cast until the beginning of season 3.
  • The Wire is this trope all over the place.
    • In five seasons, only 37 actors out of the over ninety characters that appeared regularly or semi-regularly were ever credited in the opening sequence. This includes actors like Clarke Peters, Jim True-Frost, Seth Gilliam, Domenick Lombardozzi, JD Williams, etc., who in all honesty were regulars in every way from the first season onward, but didn't get promoted to the opening titles until later (in some cases, MUCH later).
    • Used still more with actors who were regulars but NEVER got promotion to the opening titles, such as Delaney Williams, Hassan Johnson, Felicia Pearson, Julito McCullum, Maestro Harrell and several others. In the case of the latter two, it was particularly strange since arguably both actors were portraying the central characters of season four.
    • What makes it all the more odd is that the show would frequently introduce new regulars who were only around for one season (Chris Bauer, Paul Ben-Victor, Amy Ryan, Clarke Johnson, Thomas McCarthy, Michelle Paress) or promote background characters to "regular" status (Gbenge Akkinagbe, Neal Huff), or just promote people to the opening credits who'd been with the series for a while, regardless of whether their role increased at all (Michael Kostroff, Isaiah Whitlock, Jr.) without even thinking of promoting the above actors who unquestionably deserved it.
    • Of course, the argument could be made that if everyone on that show who appeared regularly received billing in the opening sequence, the sequence would take up half the episode. However, it does seem odd and random who was and who wasn't credited as a regular.
  • The X-Files does this frequently. Mostly because the show had the same opening titles through seasons 1—7, which only billed David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as characters in the show. Everyone else, even highly recurring characters, were guest stars. This continued through season 8, when the credits were changed to reflect David Duchovny's absence from the show, but still only had Gillian Anderson and Robert Patrick in it. Even Mitch Pileggi, who played Walter Skinner and appeared in 81 episodes, did not get a main title credit until the show's final season, season 9.
  • This fate befell Janel Moloney in the first season of The West Wing, whose character Donna Moss would become one of the most prominent and popular characters amongst the show's Ensemble Cast (she appears in every episode during season 1, in fact); the situation was remedied by Season 2, with Maloney given a slot in the main titles.
  • Allison Scagliotti as Claudia Donovan in the first season of Warehouse 13. Since her introduction in episode four, she received more screen time than Daniel Dickinson (Simon Reynolds), appearing in every episode since. She was Promoted to Opening Titles for season two.
    • Aaron Ashmore as Steve Jinks is introduced as Myka's replacement in the first episode of season 3, and appears in a major role in almost every episode of the season, but remains in the guest cast. He's killed in the season 3 finale, but revived in the second episode of season 4, and eventually promoted to the 'Starring' cast midway through that season, although he still doesn't appear in the title sequence with the main four characters.
  • Karri Turner never received star billing on JAG despite regulary appearing on the show for 9 seasons.
  • Meghan Ory as Ruby/Red Riding Hood on Once Upon a Time appeared in eight more episodes than regular cast member Raphael Sbarge in season one. She was Promoted to Opening Titles for season two, where she only appeared in 11 of the 22 episodes, becoming an Advertised Extra, the exact inverse of this trope.
  • Grey's Anatomy has problems with this. Throughout the show's run there have been a number of characters billed as guest stars but treated by the writing staff as Main Characters, culminating in the current season (9) in which five New Meat interns are sharing, and in some cases stealing, the spotlight from the 11-member Ensemble Cast. ...Of course, combining that number with the budget might explain this trope.
  • Jim Beaver for his role as Bobby Singer on Supernatural. After becoming more prominent in the second season he started appearing very frequently as the Team Dad and become arguably the most important character after Sam and Dean, yet he was always billed as a guest star, even when you take into consideration that the few other actors aside from the main two to also be billed as series regulars (Katie Cassidy and Lauren Cohan in season 3 and Misha Collins in seasons 5 & 6) actually appeared in less episodes in their seasons than he did (with the exception of Collins in the fifth season). Though with Bobby being killed off in season 7 and thus limiting his appearances, his role as a guest star is a bit more justified now.
    • There was actually a bit of a push from the fans of the show to make him a regular cast member around the same time Misha Collins became one. Beaver actually spoke out against this, saying he was flattered by their concern, but it just wasn't necessary, as his status as a guest star left him free to float in and out and work on other projects if he wanted to, and becoming a regular cast member wouldn't allow him that.
    • There was also the concern of Beaver being a single father and raising a special needs daughter. The guest star status also allowed him more freedom to return home.
  • Richard Karn didn't get promoted to the main cast on Home Improvement until season 2, despite appearing in every season 1 episode (and being credited at the end). This may be partly due to the fact that Al, his character, was meant to be a temporary replacement for the intended Tool Time assistant during the original actor's unavailability, and managed to stick around instead. (Interestingly, Earl Hindman's credit is the only one in the season 1 opener not to portray the actor, perhaps in keeping with Wilson's "invisible" status. He showed up starting in season 2.)
  • Jenilee Harrison was this during season 5 of Three's Company. Due to her salary dispute, Suzanne Somers had her appearances reduced to only the tag scene of each episode, and Jenilee's character Cindy moved into the apartment as the replacement roommate. Instead of making a new credit sequence mid-season, they simply kept the one that listed Suzanne as a star and credited Jenilee at the end of each episode as a guest, even though, for all intents and purposes, it was the other way around.
  • On American Horror Story: Coven, Gabourey Sidibe, Jamie Brewer, and Angela Bassett are credited as "special guest stars" despite appearing in most episodes and getting at least as much screen time as many of the credited leads.
  • Kai Owen was credited as a guest star for his appearances as Rhys in Series 1 and 2 of Torchwood, despite the fact that he appeared in twenty episodes out of twenty-six, note  and was basically The Sixth Ranger after discovering the truth about Torchwood in Episode 2x04. Contrast with Freema Agyeman as Martha (3 episodes), Indira Varma as Suzie (2 episodes) and Bryan Dick as Adam (1 episode), who were all credited as main cast during their appearances! note  Series 3 and 4 rectify this by promoting him to the main cast, however.
    • Tom Price as Andy Davidson has also appeared in fourteen TV episodes, a couple of the radio episodes, and has narrated a number of the audio books (a job usually reserved for the series' lead actors). In Series 3 and 4 in particular he appears in more than half of the episodes, and has more appearances to his name than the new leads introduced in those series, but is still billed below them as a guest star.
  • Arrowverse:
    • Caity Lotz has appeared as Sara Lance / The Canary in every episode of the second season of Arrow save one, which is still more than most of the show's other second season series regulars (only four of the nine credited leads have appeared in as many or more episodes than she has), and plays a very prominent role in the season, yet is credited as a guest star throughout. However, she's then killed off in the third season premiere. If anything, this act may have helped with the surprise of her death - if Lotz had been credited as a regular in the second season and then a guest star just in the third, it would have been pretty apparent to the viewers that she wasn't going to survive the episode.
    • Interestingly played with regarding Katie Cassidy. She is part of the original cast members of Arrow and gets the regular credit. However, her character is killed off in Season 4, but Cassidy continues to be a part of the Arrowverse, albeit playing a doppelganger of her character, who guest stars in The Flash. When said doppelganger appears in Arrow Season 5, Cassidy is credited with "special guest star" since she only appears in three of the season's 23 episodes. The next season, she is promoted to series regular again, but instead of simply updating her to regular credit, she gets "with", which makes her kind of a guest star. The singling out carries on until the end of the series; the final season updates her to "special appearance by", the same as Matt Ryan below.
    • Matt Ryan retains his "special appearance by" credit for every episode of Legends of Tomorrow, even after joining the main cast in Season 4.
    • Gary Green has been a constant face in Legends of Tomorrow since Season 3. Despite this, Adam Tsekhman is always credited as a guest star. This continues to Season 5, where Tsekhman is still a main character but continues to be credited as guest, yet Olivia Swann (Astra Logue), who debuts in the final two episodes of Season 4, is immediately promoted to series regular when Season 5 is confirmed.
  • Hitchcock and Scully of Brooklyn Nine-Nine are credited as recurring co-stars, despite appearing in every episode and having lines in nearly every ensemble scene alongside the main cast. They finally get added to the full titles beginning in Season 6.
  • Mackenzie Lintz as Norrie on Under the Dome appeared in every episode of the first season and was fairly important to the plot throughout as one of the Four Hands, but didn't get credited as a regular until season 2.
  • Veronica Mars always had an interesting relationship with leads v. guest stars. The actor portraying Ms Dent was listed as main cast in Season 1, despite only appearing for a handful of scenes over four episodes (and disappearing from the credits, though not promotional materials, after seven). In Seasons 2 and 3, new one-season-arc characters Jackie, Piz and Parker were promoted to leads above some recurring co-stars who played equally significant roles in all three seasons. Season 1 recurring characters Dick and Cassidy were promoted to lead cast in Season 2, though it's rumoured that Dick was only promoted to disguise the fact that Cassidy's promotion was due to him being the Big Bad of the season, as his role didn't really expand until Season 3. Meanwhile in all this, Tina Majorino as "Mac" appeared in at least as many or more episodes than Dick, Cassidy and Jackie, played a more significant role in the main plot than two of the three, yet wasn't promoted to lead credits until Season 3, along with Michael Muhney as Don Lamb, another actor who'd been with the show since the first season.
  • Oz is this Up to Eleven. Most seasons are only 8 episodes long (except for season 4 which had 16) so many characters appear in every episode. Perhaps the most egregious example of this is George Morforgen as Bob who appeared in every single episode of the series but never received starring billing.
    • Oz had three levels of billing for its opening credits during the first two seasons: Starring, Also Starring and Guest Starring. Ernie Hudson, Terry Kinney, Harold Perrineau and Eamonn Walker were the only ones billed as "Starring" for the first season, while Kirk Acevedo, Edie Falco, Rita Moreno, Tony Musante, Leon, J. K. Simmons, Lee Tergeson, Sean Whitesell, Dean Winters and B.D. Wong were "Also Starring". In the second season, Acevedo, Moreno, Simmons and Tergeson were moved up to "Starring" while Adewale Akinnouye Agbage, Željko Ivanek, George Morfogen and Lauren Velez were moved up to "Also Starring". With the exception of Ivanek, every new addition to the "Also Starring" list had appeared prominently in every episode of the first season. The "Guest Starring" billing disappeared from the opening credits of seasons three to six, which meant that many actors were credited as "Also Starring" despite only appearing in one or two episodes. Numerous "Also Starring" and "Guest Starring" actors played major characters on the series, despite never being moved up to "Starring" or, in some cases, ever being credited as regulars. Philip Scozzarella, Otto Sanchez, Carl DiMaggio, Timothy L. Brown, Steven Wishnoff, Blake Robbins and many others too numerous to mention never had their names in the opening credits at all, despite appearing as major characters for entire seasons, or longer, and others like Granville Adams, Robert Clohessy, Seth Gilliam, Tom Mardirosian, Craig "muMs" Grant, Kristen Rohde, JD Williams Scott William Winters were listed as "Guest Starring" for the first two seasons, and only became "regulars" by virtue of the "Guest Starring" billing being removed. All of them played major characters.
  • Orange Is the New Black credits Laverne Cox as a guest star, even though she's in practically every episode, and it takes place in prison so her character is not going anywhere any time soon. It's especially jarring since it made Cox into a bigger celebrity than any of the actual main stars. Season 3 added Ruby Rose as Stella, who also wasn't credited as a lead actress but quickly soared to superstardom immediately upon the season's launch.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide always had its official main cast limited to the three lead actors: Devon Werkheiser, Lindsey Shaw, and Daniel Curtis Lee, plus Daran Norris as Gordy (and Jim J. Bullock as the original mentor character who instead remained a side character). As such, key players like Christian Serratos, Kyle Swann, Carlie Casey, Don Creech, and Hamilton Mitchell were never given anything other than guest credits.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. started with a fairly straightforward six character ensemble, all of whom were given lead credits, and with all other characters one-shots or recurring guests with one or two appearances over the course of Season 1. Then we were introduced to Antoine "Trip" Triplett (B.J. Britt) who joined the team in the latter half of the first season and was a Fake Guest Star for the remainder of that season and the first half of the second. Bobbie Morse (Adrienne Palicki) was introduced early in Season 2, and was promoted to regular after the Christmas haitus. Not so lucky was Alphonse "Mac" Mackenzie (Henry Simmons) who appeared in literally every episode of the second season, credited as a guest star for all of them. This might have been a way to fool viewers into thinking his supposed betrayal then supposed departure would be permanent. He was promoted to regular for the third season.
    • On the antagonists' side, Ruth Negga (Raina) first appeared in 1x05 and appeared five more times over the of Season 1; in Season 2, she's in about half the episodes (as is lead-credited antagonist Brett Dalton), but is still credited as a guest star, despite having more appearances to her name than any Big Bad she's acted as The Dragon for, and despite appearing at several publicity events with the original six leads between seasons.
    • Natalia Cordova-Buckley is a semi-regular character in Seasons 3 and 4, but only became a regular in Season 5.
    • In Season 4 Mallory Jansen (AIDA/Agnes/Ophelia/Madame Hydra) portrays the Big Bad of the entire Season, featuring heavily in all three big story arcs while only missing two episodes, and appearing in more episodes than John Hannah (Radcliffe), who is a main cast member.
    • Deke Shaw appears in most of the fifth season's episodes, but his actor, Jeff Ward, is credited only as a guest star. This was likely done to hide the fact that Deke gets sent back to the present, and he is Promoted to Opening Titles for the final two seasons.
    • Joel Stoffer (Enoch) appears in most of the sixth and seventh seasons, but is only billed as a guest.
    • Daniel Sousa (played by Enver Gjokaj) appears in ten of the seventh season's thirteen episodes, but is billed in the And Starring section, separate from the main cast. This was likely done because the character in question is introduced a few episodes into the season, and the fact that Team Coulson Tricked Out Time to bring him along is a massive spoiler.
  • Sinjin Van Cleef from Victorious appeared in almost every episode, but the actor portraying him (Michael Eric Reid) was never credited with the main cast.
  • On Alias, Greg Grunberg appeared as Agent Eric Weiss in virtually every episode of season 1 (where he was uncredited) and season 2 (where he was billed as a guest star), before being promoted to the opening credits in season 3.
  • Farkle (Corey Fogelmanis) in Girl Meets World. In season 1, he is sometimes credited as a guest star, and sometimes as "also starring". He's added to the opening sequence in season 2.
  • Lab Rats:
    • Maile Flanagan (Principal Perry) was never credited as anything more than a guest star, despite playing a role comparable to that of Hal Sparks' Donald Davenport.
    • A similar case can be made with Angel Parker (Tasha), although to a lesser extent.
    • Jeremy Kent Jackson, who played Douglas Davenport, is a similar case; while originally only a recurring villain, following his Heel–Face Turn he appeared regularly, and in Season 4 he tends to appear just as often, if not more so, than his brother.
  • Carlos Lacamara, who played Horace on Mighty Med was never anything more than a guest star, even though he appears in more episodes than Augie Isaac (Gus), who was in the main cast.
  • Agent Carter:
    • In the first season, Angie appears in all but two episodes, yet Lyndsy Fonseca is billed as a guest star.
    • The second season goes even farther, with the official main cast being limited to returning people. The new ones are all considered "Recurring" at best, even though a few of them (Wynn Everett as Whitney Frost and Reggie Austin as Jason Wilkes) appear in every single episode, making them more prominent than "Main" Chad Michael Murray (Jack Thompson).
  • Muppeteer Julianne Bueschner has performed at least one character in every episode of The Muppets as of December 2015, yet she keeps getting a "guest star" credit. Though to be fair, her two prominent characters (Denise and Yolanda) aren't as major as, say, Kermit.
  • Breaking Bad: While Bob Odenkirk (Saul Goodman) and Giancarlo Esposito (Gus Fring) became members of the main cast in season 3 (with Saul appearing in 10 of 13 episodes, and Gus in 11 of 13), they were still billed like they were guest stars, meaning they weren't billed in episodes where they didn't appear. In season 4, they were promoted to the main cast (meaning they'd be billed for all 13 episodes of the season, even episodes where they were absent).
  • Greg Proops (Max Madigan) and Ron Butler (Oscar) appeared in every episode of the first season of True Jackson, VP, though billed as guest stars. This may have been accidental, given that they appeared in the opening sequence. They would be promoted to opening credits in the second season, along with Robbie Amell (Max's nephew Jimmy, who was a recurring character in the first season).
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers and its sequels, whenever a former Ranger or series regular appeared, they were listed as Guest Star, due to the heavy issue of Revolving Door Casting that meant, in at least three major cases in the original series alone, you could spot any new or future ranger by simply looking at the Guest Starring credits.
    • Sam (voiced by Brett Stewart) from Power Rangers S.P.D., Robo Knight (voiced by Chris Auer) from Power Rangers Megaforce, and Steel (voiced by Jamie Linehan) from Power Rangers: Beast Morphers are the only Sixth Rangers who are never added to the opening credits, all of them only being listed in the ending credits because they are played by voice actors. What's weird though is that Commander Cruger, also from S.P.D., is given a spot in the opening credits, however this is due to the fact that his voice actor John Tui is also his suit actor as he is one of the few to serve as both suit actor and voice actor for the same character, with another one being Danny Wayne Stallcup, who served as Jindrax's suit actor in Power Rangers Wild Force and would take over as his character's voice actor from the fifth episode onwards, replacing Richard Cansino.
  • Kirby Buckets' lead cast never expanded beyond the five main cast members (Jacob Bertrand, MeKai Curtis, Cade Sutton, Olivia Stuck, and Tiffany Espensen), even though some actors, notably Michael Naughton, Suzi Barrett, Jack Foley, and Stephen Kearin, were by Season 3 appearing more often than the frequently-absent Espensen. Also, since they're just voices, none of Kirby's animated characters' voice actors are in the opening credits.
  • Henry Danger: Michael D. Cohen (Schwoz) has appeared in almost every episode of the show ever since he was introduced. It wasn't until season 5 where he finally got upgraded to the opening credits.
  • The Thundermans: Dana Snyder, the voice of Dr. Colosso (and his live-action actor whenever he turns human), appears in all but a few episodes, but doesn't make it past guest-star status because first, he is only a voice, and second, his near-perfect attendance record still isn't a match for the other Thundermans' 100% attendance.
  • Iron Fist (2017): With her screen time and importance to the plot exceeding that of some of the leads, Wai Ching Ho (Madame Gao) fits the bill. This would continue into The Defenders (2017).
  • Speaking of The Defenders (2017), Jessica Henwick is a perfect example. The show is a crossover between the four main Marvel Netflix shows: Daredevil (2015), Jessica Jones (2015), Luke Cage (2016), and Iron Fist (2017), and as such, only their actors and the main villains received top billing. Colleen Wing is a former member of The Hand, and is actually far more relevant to the main plot than Luke or Jessica, whose involvement in the miniseries felt extremely forced at times. But as Danny Rand's girlfriend, she's relegated to supporting status along with all the other love interests and best friends. This is actually consistent with some criticisms of Iron Fist, as many people felt she should have been the main character due to having the more compelling story arc.
  • In SEAL Team, Lt. Commander Eric Blackburn appears in every single episode of Season 1, but his actor Judd Lormand is only credited as a guest star. (He was promoted to series regular for Season 2.)
  • The 4400: Richard Kahan (Marco) appears in 32 of the series' 44 episodes, more than any other guest star. He is the only actor to appear in all four seasons without ever being part of the regular cast.
  • In El Chavo del ocho and El Chapulín Colorado, the actors that take part of each episode are listed in the introduction. If a character from another Chespirito skit appears (e.g. El Chavo and Quico in a Chapulín Colorado episode), they are listed as a guest star, even if the actor that plays them was already billed.
  • Odd case involving Jenna von Oy on Blossom. von Oy had been cast as Six LeMure in the series' pilot and was originally in the opening credits, only to also be cast on the short-lived CBS sitcom Lenny (starring comedian Lenny Clarke); which like Blossom was also created by Don Reo and shared most of the same production personnel (from Wit/Thomas Productions), resulting in von Oy being moved to "Special Guest Star" billing when Blossom premiered in January 1991. Eventually, Lenny was canceled in March 1991; and by the start of the 1991-92 season (incidentally, the first full season for Blossom) von Oy had been moved back to the opening credits.
  • Game Shakers: Bubba Ganter and Shel Bailey as Double G’s assistants Bunny and Ruthless. They appeared in almost every episode of the show, but the show got cancelled before they could move up.
  • 100 Things to Do Before High School: Brady Reiter appeared in almost every episode of the show, but she never got promoted to the main cast. Then again, the show ended too early for her to do so.
  • Meredith Garretson appears as Kate Hawthorne in every episode of the first season of Resident Alien and has a fairly significant role, but is nevertheless credited as a guest star.
  • iCarly: Although Gibby's actor Noah Munck was added to the intro credits when he became a regular character, the same was not true for T-Bo's actor BooG!e. While initially a recurring character, T-Bo was in nearly every episode of the last few seasons, had several plots focused on him, and even appeared with the main cast in the closing scene of the final season's intro. Yet BooG!e was always credited as a guest.

  • The Brewing Network's John Plise on Brewing With Style. In one episode Jamil wonders aloud how long he will be introduced as a special guest.

    Web Original 
  • In-universe example: Internet movie review series On Cinema introduces Gregg Turkington (aka Neil Hamburger) as a guest reviewer in every episode, in spite of the fact that he appears in every episode except one. One of the underlying conflicts in the series is Gregg's desire to be promoted to co-reviewer and Tim Heidecker's refusal to grant this or share the show.
  • For some reason, Sips refers to Lewis Brindley as a "special guest" in the description for his Garry's Mod series, even though Lewis has been in almost every session of Trouble in Terrorist Town for at least two sessions (read: multiple rounds throughout many videos, ending at one point and then starting anew). The most likely explanation is that he started as a guest but then kept playing, and Sips just forgot to change the text. This has been a Zig Zagged Trope since, with some descriptions mentioning him and others still referring to him as a "special guest".
  • The Giant Beastcast frequently mentions Jeff Bakalar being in the "rotating chair", but he's rarely not in an episode. This does not go without lampshading. Bakalar also has to frequently remind people that he doesn't actually work for Giant Bomb.
  • Played for laughs with Rich Evans on Half in the Bag. Despite playing Mr. Plinkett from the start of the series and featuring prominently in other RedLetterMedia projects, Mike and Jay often introduce him as a friend of theirs who people are probably unfamiliar with.

    Western Animation 
  • More a Character example; in 101 Dalmatian Street, the Dimitri Trio do feature in the official promotional materials, and have played prominent roles in a number of episodes, yet the three are not considered part of the main group of pups, nor do they appear in the opening title sequence.
  • In Archer, Ray Gillette never appears in the main credits despite having appeared regularly for every season. This probably is because he's voiced by the series creator, Adam Reed.
  • Futurama voice actors Lauren Tom (Amy), Phil LaMarr (Hermes) and David Herman (various characters, most notably Scruffy) were always "guest stars" during the original run, despite the fact that at least one of them appeared in every episode (although, in Season 4, they did get their own caption instead of having to share one). In the Comedy Central run, Tom, LaMarr, and Herman gained starring credits.
    • This appears to be a pattern for Lauren Tom, who also got guest billing for voicing Connie and Minh on King of the Hill.
  • The voice actors for the recurring villains on Kim Possible are always listed as guest stars, even though two of them (Sullivan and John DiMaggio) are in half the episodes (sometimes as characters other than their primary villains).
  • The Simpsons:
    • Whenever Edna Krabappel appeared, Marcia Wallace was billed as a guest star. Edna was the only character the late Marcia Wallace voiced (she could have been included in the regular cast like Yeardley Smith, who also only voices one character, but decided against it). She also received guest star credit whenever Edna appeared, even if she doesn't say anything. She's billed in appearing in 176 episodes.
    • Phil Hartman had a similar thing going on, being credited in 55 episodes at the time of his death in the tenth season (which meant he appeared in about one of every four). Unlike Wallace, Hartman's credits were spread out among a large number of characters, between his "regulars" (Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure) and various one-offs (Evan Conover, Lyle Lanley, 'Smooth' Jimmy Apollo).
    • Maggie Roswell, somewhat infamously, was basically treated as a guest star despite voicing Helen Lovejoy, Maude Flanders, Luann Van Houten, and Ms. Hoover, all of whom appeared fairly regularly, and even got nominated for an Emmy and an Annie while working on the show. Fox only paid her $1500 an episode, despite the fact that she had to fly from Colorado to California to record episodes, and had her pay her travel costs on her own dime—the resulting dispute led to Maude being killed off and most of Roswell's characters being retired for several seasons. Even with that gap in mind, she's still been in 243 episodes as of this writing, more than both of the above combined.
    • Pamela Hayden and Russi Taylor voice (or voiced) pretty much all the kids who aren't Lisa or voiced by Nancy Cartwright, while Tress MacNeille voices most of the older women who aren't voiced by Marcia Wallace or Maggie Roswell. Russi Taylor at the time of her death had appeared in 195 episodes, while Hayden and MacNeille both have around triple that as of this writing. Over six hundred episodes, and still an "Also Starring..."
  • In Batman: The Animated Series follow up series The New Batman Adventures, Mark Hamill is credited as a guest star, despite appearing as The Joker in more episodes than supposed regular Loren Lester.


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