Follow TV Tropes


Living Prop

Go To
Dog Poo: I think I deserve to take Kenny's place the most, because, I've been hanging around these guys for like five years and I never get to say or do anything.
Eric Cartman: ...Yeah, I've only seen that kid in class, but he never does anything. He's more like a prop.

There's the Recurring Character, appearing more or less often beside the main cast. There's the poor Red Shirt, who is usually introduced only to get killed off in the very same episode, and the Mauve Shirt, who survives longer or at least gets a token amount of characterization before dying. There are the Hero of Another Story and the Bridge Bunnies, who get to actually run the place from time to time while our heroes boldly go where no man has gone before. There's even Spear Carriers, who have a line or two of actual dialogue.

And then, below all of those on the plot importance hierarchy, we have the Living Props.

These kinds of recurring characters don't actually have any involvement with the plot except as Padding, and their only purpose is to create a certain sense of stability (after all, you wouldn't expect the bartender to be a different person every single time you visit the same bar, unless they all happen to have George Jetson Job Security) or to fill seats that would reasonably always be occupied by the same people (your classmates will remain the same throughout the school year).

They have very few spoken lines, if any at all — it's usually along the lines of "Hot or iced?" or "All systems ready, Captain." If this is noticeable or stretching realism they are Ghost Extras. Most of the time they just stand there in the background, as if they are a permanent part of the scenery that might as well be a living prop. Sometimes, however, they will be subject to Lampshade Hanging about their dedication to their one job, and if this trend continues, they may even transform into a proper Recurring Character, sometimes with their own subplot. Compare and contrast Unknown Character, for a character with plot relevance who was never shown.

They might also have been a Chekhov's Gunman the entire time. Or even something more. See also Prop.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • The reporter from Tokyo Mew Mew actually got into the character popularity poll for the manga, despite having no character and only showing up in a few panels to cover the Magical Girls' exploits on the news.
  • In Sgt. Frog, starting with episode 63, the 24 nameless students of Fuyuki's classroom receive unique designs which are carried over in any classroom scene after that episode. They even appear sometimes outside of classes too. A new extra was added in the 3rd season without any formal introduction. They're never credited or named, even when one of them actually gets a small active role, and, although Fuyuki has mentioned his school friends a few times, he's never shown actually hanging out with any of his classmates.
  • In My-HiME, Mai's class consists of a few named characters and a bunch of stable living props. Interestingly, the nameless girl with blue hair who sat in front of her for the whole series ended up being one of the main characters of the sequel/Elseworld, My-Otome. In a My-Otome Picture Drama that takes place in the My-HiME universe, she lets Arika and Erstin stay at her apartment after they find her cat, Nina.
  • Pandaman from One Piece. Or is it Pandamen? Pandaman is an Easter Egg-type of character who has multiple cameo appearances across the whole series and he's basically the One Piece equivalent of "Where's Waldo?".
  • Naruto has a rotating selection of about a half-dozen jonin which have occasionally fought, but most spend their time doing incidental tasks like guard duty and mostly exists just to show that the jonin are in limited numbers. And Tenten, who Word of God says exists only to be the Token Female for Team Guy.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS makes sneaky use of this character type's ability to be ignored by the audience by having one of these, a girl secretary we're actually shown skittishly edging towards General Regius near the end of the season, turn out to be the disguised Cyborg assassin.
    • The original series and A's had Allex and Landy, serving as male Bridge Bunnies, but other than that, they don't have any other purpose in the series. Amy, who has a similar function and beyond completely overshadows them. StrikerS avoids this trope with the Bridge Bunnies of Riot Force 6 (Shari, Alto and Lucino). All of three of them, particularly Shari, have a distinct personalities, different specialties and roles and they belong in different, albeit overlapping, friend groups.
  • Wagnaria!! has Maya Matsumoto. She is seen doing her work and appears in the OP, but has no interaction with anybody from the main cast. She's suspiciously absent during staff meetings and doesn't even seem to talk to her direct superior. That's some job independence there for a waitress, but it seems like there had to be at least one person who actually focuses on the main business. Then in the final episode we learn she is obsessed with being "normal", thus goes out of her way to avoid all the abnormal people she works with. There is also some kitchen staff which never gets any mention.
  • In season 2 of K-On! class 3-2 consists of distinct, individual characters, who can be seen in various scenes of the classroom and in the opening sequence. Several of them have even gained their own fanbase, like Tachibana Himeko, previously known as "The Girl Who Sits Next To Yui".
  • Dead Leaves has the prisoners who escape with Pandy and Retro. None of them are given names or developed as characters, except for Drilldick (which isn't his real name...probably) and his manic man-crush on Retro, but every one is distinctly designed, and there's even noticeable continuity between the ones who get killed in a given fight scene and the ones left standing around afterward.
  • Emiri Kimidori is a living prop in the anime of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi. The only thing she does in both seasons and the movie is ask for help from the SOS brigade once. She then promptly goes back to being scenery.
  • Marron and Bra in Dragon Ball Z. They serve no other purpose than to show the audience that their parents were Happily Married after long time skips. Marron isn't even credited under her own name in the Japanese version, she's listed as "Kuririn's Daughter." Bra progresses to an extremely minor Satellite Character in Dragon Ball GT, but it's pretty clear that the only reason they're around is because the writers couldn't very well get rid of them.
  • In Gakuen Babysitters, it's almost as if Midori exists purely to show that Usaida is not a complete Lazy Bum and can take care of at least one of the kids. Granted, a lot of this comes from the fact that she's a baby who can't communicate amongst a group of toddlers with basic speech skills, but even the one chapter that's ostensibly about her is actually more about her mother.
  • Invoked in the first Lupin III manga chapter. Lupin has disguised himself as one of the guests in a mansion. Zenigata (and the reader) spends most of the chapter trying to figure out who Lupin is, only to find out at the end that he was that glasses-wearing background character who had, like, two lines of dialogue up to that point.
  • In Pokémon: The Series, there are many minor background characters who go on to make appearances throughout the years, or seemingly minor one-shot guests that can be seen in the background of later episodes. This happens even across entire regions. There's a long-haired male trainer with a hoodie and a baseball cap who appeared in episodes from the original Pokémon anime up to Black & White, and he was even in the first movie and the later Mewtwo Returns TV special. All that without ever receiving a name or interacting with the show's main cast.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, there are a lot of kids in Madoka's class, but most of them don't even have lines except for indistinct background chatter.
  • In Knight Hunters, Momoe, the little old lady who supposedly owns the shop the four protagonists work at. In most episodes, if she even appears, she sits quietly in the background, never moving from her rocking chair, petting a cat that's curled up on her lap. She's apparently an agent for Kritiker, as she plays the "deaf old lady" role to the hilt and never responds to questions about where her employees are, even at gunpoint, except to discuss her store's stock.
  • In Legend of the Galactic Heroes, due to its massive cast, some characters inevitably end up with this role whose sole purposes were to avoid creating the impressions of an Oddly Small Organization. A good example would be the group of officers in the Yang Fleet who were always present in its high level strategic meetings but rarely (if ever) raise any comments.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: In the final arc, Rishid/Odion is only there to drive the characters through Egypt, but other than that, he just stands there and has no lines of dialogue. Which is really odd, considering that he was an important character in both halves of the Battle City arc.

    Comic Books 
  • Sykes in The Intimates is technically a main character, but he's a walking vegetable who never talks. This is due to the Null Field that contains his powerful psychic abilities, which has the side-effect of dampening his thought process.
  • Vitalstatistix's shield bearers in Asterix ...except when they drop him. And when they quit, and are replaced by Asterix and Obelix, and then by Obelix alone, which better suited Vitalstatistix's inclination or lack thereof.

    Films — Animated 
  • Monsters, Inc. had Sulley and Randall's co-scarers on their scare floor. Similar to the Foster's example, all of them were eventually profiled for the DVD release. We can't say the same thing about their scare assistants (besides Mike and Fungus, obviously), though...
  • Yasha Mousekewitz, the baby in An American Tail, is an example of how baby characters can often become living props. In the later DTV sequels she's hardly ever even shown awake.
  • Most of Nemo's classmates in the class scenes in Finding Nemo. Only a select few of them have any individual speaking lines, if they even speak at all. In the sequel, Tad, Sheldon, and Pearl join them in a particularly big example of Demoted to Extra, remaining completely voiceless outside of speaking in unison with all the other kids.
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire: A group of Gas Mask Mooks suddenly appear midway through the film. They are never introduced, interacted with by the main characters, and are all killed off at the end.
  • In Turning Red, several of Mei's classmates appear repeatedly around her school, at Tyler's birthday party, at the concert and at her family's temple.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Alfred Hitchcock loved to do this. To himself.
  • Stephanie, Phil's wife in The Hangover and its sequel, has one line in each film & is never named on screen. This applies even more so in the sequel where she spends her brief screentime hovering silently at Phil's shoulder, and her one line comes amid several characters speaking at the same time when Alan runs a speedboat aground & everyone is checking to make sure the guys are okay.
  • Ethan, in the 2007 I Am Legend movie. He is not a speaking role (or an emoting role), but he's there for the second half of the movie, always in the background or foreground. He doesn't do anything, he needs to be rescued a couple times, and his only real reason for being in the movie is so he can watch Shrek shortly after appearing on-screen. No, really.
  • Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy: Wes Mantooth's Channel 9 Evening News Team cohorts. They stand around behind Wes, but contribute nothing to the verbal argument in the park. Lampshaded at the end.
    Wes Mantooth: What, you guys can't say one thing? Even the guy that can't think said something. You guys just stand there? Come on!
  • W.: In the biographical film of George W. Bush, there is a scene where Bush is berating U.S Army commander Tommy Franks for not finding WMD's. Sitting next to Franks is a British officer (presumably representing Air Marshal Brian Burridge, head of UK Forces) who shifts awkwardly in his chair and looks as if he is going to speak a few times. But he says nothing.
  • Sleepless in Seattle has a particularly notable one, where the living prop is on two different planes from Seattle to New York on the same day.
  • Star Wars:
    • Queen, later Senator, Padmé Amidala's assorted handmaidens ostensibly exist to follow Amidala around and provide a stylish backdrop for her more flamboyant fashions. (It turns out they are chosen to resemble her in case she needs to disappear: she can hide among them while a particularly loyal handmaid becomes "Amidala" as a Body Double).
    • Many Jedi in the Prequels, such as those on the council whose name isn't Yoda or Windu.
  • The Runaways is a biopic dramatizing the all-female rock group of the same name. Member Jackie Fox refused to let producers adapt her life story, so the film creates a character called Robin to stand in as the fifth member of the band. She gets almost no lines and just appears standing in the background of group shots.
  • Night of the Living Dead (1968) has very little character for Judy. About the only thing she does in the film is leave the house to go with Tom and Ben, and get her jacket caught in the car, allowing herself and Tom to be killed. The character didn't exist in the first script, but was added in after they met actress Judith Ridley - who was so beautiful and charming they had to have her in the film somehow. The 1990 remake gives Judy much more of a role in the story.
  • Henry F. Potter has one of the largest roles in It's a Wonderful Life, and being an Evil Cripple, he has an assistant to push his wheelchair. This man is never named, doesn't have a single line, and outside of pushing Potter's chair, doesn't do anything for the entire film, a story which spans years. And when this example says "doesn't do anything", that includes making facial expressions, as he keeps the same blank look on his face for all his scenes. And as for the pushing of the chair, Potter is indoors and stationary for most of his scenes, meaning this man is barely ever shown doing his job. And considering Potter is one of the main characters, and he's always got his assistant by his side, that means this man is in contention for the largest role in any film where the actor does absolutely nothing for all their screentime.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A.P. Bio: In the first season, only about eight of the roughly 25 students in Jack's class are actual characters. The rest of the students are always the same, but have no lines. In the second season, the show lampshades the trope by having one of the living prop students say something. Jack mistakes her for a new student, but she says she's always been there, so Jack responds, "Well... talk more." From this point on, most of the other students get a least one line here or there.
  • In Are You Being Served? there are a couple of other female employees sometimes seen in the background of the ladies' department, but they never talk and never join the others in any departmental meetings. The lift girls and the employees shown at the other tables of the canteen would also qualify.
  • Batman: Large Ham King Tut madly screams his dialogue to the ear of one of the beautiful mute slave girls of his harem. She tries her best not to change her indifferent expression.
  • Most of the deck crew in Battlestar Galactica started out this way, though several were promoted. The tattooed pilot was a particular fan favourite.
  • Big Brother 13 had cast eight completely new people. You would not know this by watching the series.
  • The Bill calls such characters "Totally Reliable Extra Veterans" (TREVs).
  • The Brittas Empire features the members of staff that aren't the main cast, who largely exist to be ordered by Brittas to help resolve whatever issue is plaguing the leisure centre this episode and rarely get any lines. Of particular note is Patrick, who does manage to participate in the hypnotist's show in "Mr. Brittas Changes Trains", but is a background character with no lines otherwise - his notoriety comes from the fact that he consistently remained throughout the series, even after the other background characters had vanished.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer did this a few times. Seth Green was just scenery for quite a while before his character Oz was given a name and a bigger role.
  • The regular customers at Cheers whose names are not Norm, Frasier or Cliff. Some of them (such as Paul) were eventually promoted to Recurring Characters. In fact, Cliff was one of these for the first few episodes. One character was referred to in scripts as "The Man Who Said 'Sinatra'" because in his first speaking role...his line was just the response "Sinatra!"
  • Most of the other Greenshirts and Nerd Herd staff at the Buy More on Chuck are effectively Living Props. Although a few get lines and names, (Skip, Fernando and Bunny) they rarely get significant characterization or screen time. There are nonetheless several who appear throughout the series. This is lampshaded in season 4, when the CIA gets the idea of invoking this trope by buying, rebuilding and fully staffing the Buy More with CIA agents to take advantage of the anonymity of big box chain store employees. Unfortunately, the CIA agents end up standing out instead, but that's what you get for expecting people to believe Olivia Munn, Summer Glau, and The Man Your Man Could Smell Like would actually work at the Buy More...
  • Dad's Army: the seven main characters make up only about a third of the troop. The rest are just props, filled by actors who would normally have difficulty finding work due to their age. One of them, Private Sponge, gets a few lines and ends up being the Colonel Makepeace of the series.
  • Partially averted in Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High, unlike most other school-based series: while the focus remained on the leads, participation in the plots and subplots rotated through many of the background characters. The rest of the time, however, they become this trope. Degrassi: The Next Generation, however, shifted toward having as large a cast as possible, with everyone else in the bustling school firmly planted in this trope.
  • Corporal Bell from the UNIT era Doctor Who.
    • Because the Doctor Who production team used the same stuntmen repeatedly in those days, you would get a recurring group of silent uncredited redshirts. Pat Gorman was one who got bits of dialogue and graduated to credited status near the end of the UNIT era, but even then he was still known as "UNIT Corporal" or "Soldier." One of them, Max Faulkner, appeared in a small capacity as a redshirt UNIT soldier in 1970, but by his next appearance in 1975, had gotten a rank and a last name "Corporal Adams."
  • ER: Various doctors, nurses and police officers fill the background of the hospital. Particularly jarring in some scenes where the main characters claimed to be the only doctors when there were clearly other ones milling about.
    Mark: (To doctor played by an extra in lounge) Don't you guys ever work?!.
  • In Earth 2, seventeen people crash land on G889, and for the entire series, three of them are never given lines. These three are also never or almost never mentioned by name, with the exception of one, whose death is a major plot point in the finale.
  • In some episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray and Debra's kids come off as living props. There often are entire episodes where they have no lines. Even when they do have parts in the show, they usually only are to start the main plot with the adult cast.
  • The staff (and several customers) of Cafe Nervosa in Frasier. While no waiter lasted the full 11 years of the series, they did tend to stick around for a few of them. Similarly many of the extras portraying customers stayed there for many years.
  • In Friends, Gunther the barista started as one of these, but was elevated to a side character due to jokes based on his crush on Rachel.
  • Game of Thrones has a bearded soldier who started as one of Stannis' allies before allying with the Northerners. He has been in the background of many important scenes and survived all the battles he was involved in.
  • Larabee of Get Smart started out like this. He began the series as a bystander, then starts doing things Da Chief tells him to do. It wasn't until he's told to Follow That Car that he became a Recurring Character and the Ur-ditz.
  • Glee:
    • Brad the Pianist does nothing but play the piano for the kids. Has received several lampshades.
      Santana: I went through that "Rumours"-album and found that best song that expressed my feelings for you. [beat] My private feelings.
      Brittany: [Gestures to Brad] What about him?
      Santana: He's just furniture. Sorry, no offense. (Brad shrugs)
    • Matt Rutherford and Mike "Other Asian" Chang count as well, at least in the first season. They were generally two of the most skilled dancers on the program, but neither spoke more than a line or two. They ended up going in opposite directions; Matt wasn't named until after several episodes, and then Put on a Bus in the second season, whereas Mike's dancing was featured more and more and eventually became a recurring character and Tina's romantic interest in season 2. Tina herself had become this due to lack of development and complete solos, addressed as a major plot point in an episode aptly titled "Props".
    • The Jazz band. They are always around when needed for a song. In one episode, two of them got to perform in Sectionals on stage with the New Directions. They still did not get any lines, though.
  • Non-fiction example: On Great British Menu, each competing chef is provided with an assistant to, uh, assist. These assistants are on camera throughout the cookery scenes, but are never referred to, and the only time you ever hear them speak is to say "cheers" when the winning chef shares the champagne at the end of the week.
  • Most of the fraternity and sorority members in Greek were this. Very few were given lines, and most of these were in the three main houses of the series; the rest were lucky to get one member with lines.
  • I Love Lucy:
    • Ricky's band members shown during night club scenes.
    • A literal example — the baby chicks.
  • In The Inbetweeners Carli D'Amato's best friend is a girl name Rachel who plays a small part in one episode and gets one line in the movie ("stalking you abroad") but who otherwise simply hovers silently at Carli's side to show she actually has a friend.
  • JAG: Petty Officer Jason Tiner, the Admiral's yeoman, slowly transisted from this state to a recurring character during seasons 2 to 5.
  • French sitcom Les Filles d'à côté was at least partially set in a gymnasium/health club. Throughout all 180 recorded episodes, it became obvious that the same dozen or so extras (mainly young women in gym kit or swimming costumes) were being cycled through the background in the gym, coffeebar and shop to populate the scene.
  • Deconstructed in Life on Mars (2006) where the workers at an office don't realize that the man who has taken them hostage is the office's handyman.
  • In the early seasons of Lost, the survivors camp consisted of about eight main characters and forty living props. Eventually, a Mauve Shirt lampshaded it by complaining about how clique-ish the main characters were. Regardless, the fans refused to accept the premise that Nikki and Paulo might have been Ascended Extras.
    • They made a great effort of keeping the show's background cast consistent throughout the years. While some faces inevitably came and went, many people kept appearing among the crash survivors for 5 or 6 seasons without any impact on the plot whatsoever. In addition, background cast of more seldom appearing groups (The Others, The Tailies, The Ajira folk) remained consistent as well, people were called over season-long gaps to reprise their brief non-speaking roles.
  • Bobby Draper for most of Mad Men. He got a bit more characterization in the last two seasons, on his fourth actor, but never came anywhere near his big sister. And the third Draper child, Gene, was this even moreso.
  • When The Mary Tyler Moore Show was about to be canceled, the staff writers completed a script that was intended to be the very last episode of the series, but which was ultimately not used. In this script, a mad bomber leaves a series of bombs in Minneapolis, and various clues indicate that the bomber is someone in the WJM-TV newsroom. The regular characters all start suspecting each other. The bomber turns out to be one of the dozens of faceless Human Props who were seen along the back wall of the newsroom throughout this series.
  • Some of the minor staff (orderlies, nurses and others) in M*A*S*H probably count as examples.
    • The names "Nurse Able" and "Nurse Baker" are used, but not with any consistency. That is, "Nurse Able" will be one actress in one episode, and a different actress in another episode, even if the first actress is also in this one.
    • Though Able and Baker are also part of the military alphabet at the time meaning Nurse Able and Nurse Baker may have been as much shift titles as anything else, though there are one or two situations where the names are used in an off-shift, down-time context (such as the attempted rationing for the showers in one episode).
    • The nurse extra played by Kellye Nakahara started out this way, but over time started to get lines beyond "Yes, Doctor" and eventually subplots of her own; she also got a name (Nurse Kellye).
  • In Mission: Impossible an in-universe example — when Phelps needed to introduce the mark to a phony place of business or hospital, he would often recruit the Hartford Repertory Players to serve as background workers or doctors.
  • Neighbours:
    • Sienna Cammeniti (played by model and 2006 Miss Australia Erin McNaught) was added for the sole purpose of sexing-up the cast and helping boost ratings. It didn't work.
    • Lisa Hayes seemed to exist for the sole purpose of getting dumped by Lucas.
  • The abbreviated six-episode first season of The Office featured several background characters in addition to the speaking cast. By Season 2 the extras were gone.
  • Once Upon a Time: Following the conclusion of the Little Red Riding Hood arc, Granny is usually only seen among crowds of characters telling Emma, Mary Margret, or some other major character about something going on around town.
  • Reba: Van and Cheyenne's daughter Elizabeth was more or less this. While she was a baby throughout much of the show, even in later seasons when she grew up a little, she never received any plots focusing on her (unlike Henry, Brock and Barbra Jean's son). She only speaks one time in the entire series and even then it's just one brief line.
  • 90% of the students in Saved by the Bell. Same with Boy Meets World.
  • Scrubs has a collection of doctors that regularly appear on screen but (mostly) do not talk. For example, Colonel Doctor (called that because he looks like the Colonel Sanders), Dr. Beardface (It's Be-ARD-fa-SAY, dammit!), Dr. Mickhead, and Snoop Dogg Intern.
    • Hey! Hey!
      • Sorry. Snoop Dogg Resident.
      • It's Snoop Dogg attending now. He got promoted.
    • They actually start showing up rather frequently and get jokes in. Several one-shot characters often become minor characters after positive reception. These characters are third tier while the doctors that don't get jokes would be living props.
  • The cashier in the coffee shop in Seinfeld. She was eventually given a name (Ruthie Cohen) and a few lines.
  • The silver-haired detective in The Shield. Never got a line, but he was acknowledged when he got a round of applause for being the first person to use the newly-fixed men's toilets in season four (they broke just before the first ever episode of season 1).
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Walter Harriman. Originally, his only role in the series was to announce Engaging Chevrons, he got a proper name and some involvement in the plot in later seasons.
    • And once Walter started becoming a real person, they introduced Sylvester Siler to be the Prop guy in the background. And then Siler got a name and lines and characterization.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series
    • Lieutenant Leslie was such a prop that in one episode, he is killed off and later reappears in the background under the assumption that no-one would notice. Despite (or perhaps because of) this, he has his own fan site. Leslie appears in more episodes than Sulu or Chekov, though you could count the number of episodes he has lines in on one hand.
    • Lt. Galloway also fits. Galloway has also kinda sorta returned from the dead; the writers remembered his death in time to change the character's name to "Johnson" at the last minute, but when he appeared again in the final episode, he was credited as Galloway (though not named on camera).
    • There's also Lt. Hadley, who appeared in 62 of the series' 79 episodes (usually filling in for Sulu or Chekov when one of them was unavailable) but never got a single line of dialogue.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • Miles O'Brien starts out the series as an unnamed helmsman in the show's pilot, but gets promoted to a recurring secondary character as a transporter chief and then on to be a major character in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
    • TNG also had Ensign Gates, who became the regular helm officer after Wesley left. Despite appearing in 46 episodes, her only lines were multiple instances of “Aye, Sir” and “Course plotted sir,” overdubbed by another actress.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Morn, the silent, morose-looking alien extra perpetually stationed at the far end of Quark's bar, who seemed so profoundly dedicated to doing nothing at all that he actually became the center of fan attention. Morn even got his own episode ("Who Mourns For Morn?") and was still an uncredited extra with no lines! The Running Gag being that when Morn is not on camera, he's the life of the party. The viewers just never get to experience it.
  • Star Trek: Voyager has Lt. Ayala, a regular extra who appeared in all seven seasons. Formerly one of Chakotay's Maquis crew, he can often be seen filling in for Tuvok or Harry. We know a fair bit about him, but not from his mouth — in 115 episodes, he has only four lines.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody has Norman the Doorman and Irene the Concierge, whom both appear in many episodes, but are rarely seen speaking or playing any roles besides just doing their jobs in the background.
  • Survivor has had this happen in seasons with very poor editing. In Samoa and One World, the season winner could have been called a Living Prop. Infamously, Survivor: Nicaragua contestant "Purple" Kelly Shinn was virtually invisible for half the season despite finishing in eighth place out of twenty. She did quit the game instead of being voted out normally, but that doesn't excuse the fact that other quitters have been edited more favorably.
  • Jeff, Louie's assistant on Taxi, the only black character on the show. Nick at Nite once chronicled his rise from just lurking in the background, to getting a couple of lines here and there, to having the occasional subplot and a single episode in the limelight. (The actor had another purpose unknown to the viewing public at the time — he played Latka during most rehearsals, due to Andy Kaufman's contract stipulating that he didn't have to attend all of them.)
  • On 30 Rock, most of the TGS writers. Only Liz, Frank, Toofer and occasionally Lutz have sizable parts. This is occasionally lampshades. Liz addresses them as "ones who don't talk" on one occasion. In another episode, one of them says a line and then gasps, "I did it! I talked!" The finale has one say, "I know I don't talk that much, but..."
  • The Time Tunnel had four or five people in white lab coats, standing way in the background of Mission Control, endlessly checking the same painted-on gauges or fiddling with the same dials. This trope was unintentionally underlined in one episode, when one of the regular characters shouted at them to evacuate in the face of a Negative Time Wedgie that threatened to destroy the base. Only two even reacted, seemingly out of surprise, before returning to their 'work'. (Another character immediately covers by voicing their desire to stick with the project 'till the bitter end.)
  • Three's Company has Jim, the bartender at the Regal Beagle, the show's Local Hangout. He appears in several episodes throughout the show's first 5 seasons, but never contributes to any episodes, beyond a few speaking lines. The next 3 seasons had another bartender named Mike, fulfilling the same role.
  • Victorious: Lampshaded in two episodes:
    • "Crazy Ponnie" when Ponnie claims to be one of the students who don't say anything and only shrug ("shruggers", as Tori calls them). When Tori asks them if they know Ponnie, they only shrug.
    • Terror on Cupcake Street at the beginning, when Sikowitz makes the background students leave his classroom, while the main group stays. Cat asks him why he made them leave and he simply replies "They", which Tori agrees with, saying "They just sit there and react".
  • Vikings: In season 1 earl Haraldson had a cadre of housecarls, which appeared in almost every scene he was in. After Ragnar took over as earl, the bodyguards started serving him instead and continued to appear as background figures around Ragnar. According to pilot director Johan Renck, they all had names. From season 3, most of them had been phased out save for one distinctly tall man with a beard and shaved head, who Johan Renck's instagram refers to as "Igor". He continued to appear as Ragnar's bodyguard, even carrying Ragnar's coffin during the Paris-ploy and after Ragnar's death serving Ivar and then Björn. He appeared in almost every episode of the first 4 seasons and ever so often in seasons 5 and 6. He was never named in the show and never got a line.
  • All of the other members of the Sweathogs' class in Welcome Back, Kotter. They were there simply because a high school class of only five students, especially in Brooklyn, would be unbelievable.
  • The students in Justin's delinquent class on Wizards of Waverly Place that aren't Alex, Felix, or Nelvis. They never speak and are not credited for their appearances.
  • The Young Ones had a "fifth roommate", a long-haired hippie-like figure who is seen sitting on the floor in some scenes. Seen here.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In Dale Messick's comic strip Brenda Starr, most of the scenes in the newsroom featured a lot of anonymous characters in the background while Brenda was the center of attention. For several years, Messick included in background panels a female staffer with a distinctive topknot and glasses, but this character was unnamed and had no dialogue. Abruptly, Messick wrote a continuity in which this character — suddenly identified as Lucy Fixture — won a fortune in the sweepstakes and had an adventure of her own before vanishing from the strip.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • A Jobber will often be this. Most jobbers will only be around to get beaten by more prominent wrestlers and add bodies to huge fights. A jobber that fits this rarely if ever say anything and will only win a match if they're either facing another jobber (in which case, the promotion will definitely not bother televising that match) or if they're getting a push.
  • Some 6-man or 8-man tag team matches will have a partner who doesn't get tagged in or only gets a quick spot at the start or end.
  • TNA had So Cal Val who sat at ringside to be Ms. Fanservice and seemed to serve as timekeeper and occasional ring announcer. She briefly hosted a web series called Pillow Talk.

  • Invoked in Japanese theatre. The stagehands in western theatre would normally be offstage most of the time, only showing up if there was a Special Effect Failure or serious accident. In contrast, Japanese theatre had the stagehands be visible a lot more, and they would dress in a black suit and wear a mask that only showed their eyes...sound familiar? Thus, the audience was trained to ignore the people in black suits...and then would jump in shock when one of those living props draws a weapon and "kills" one of the characters.

    Video Games 
  • Crash Bandicoot has Tawna and Isabella, Ami, Liz and Megumi, the Trophy Girls from Crash Team Racing. While Tawna rarely did anything beyond her Damsel in Distress status (let alone say a word), the Trophy Girls only twirled their umbrellas, waved at the audience and presented the winners. Luckily, all of them eventually gained proper voices and personalities in Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert has one of these in the Soviet campaign: a certain bald-headed man who hangs out in the background of a lot of their cutscenes doing nothing of importance other than whispering into Stalin's ear once or twice, until the very end of the campaign: Nadia poisons Stalin with his assistance, announcing that the two of them are part of the Brotherhood of Nod, and that you will lead the Soviet Union in their stead "for the foreseeable future" until the Brotherhood moves out of the shadows... and then the bald man shoots her as well, revealing himself to be the Brotherhood's true leader, Kane, with nothing more than the statement that "Comrade Chairman, I am the future".

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner:
    • The Poopsmith is usually a Living Prop. Though he has taken a vow of silence and shovels crap for a living, so it's understandable why he isn't all that important.
    • Also, in the 20X6 mock-Japanese 'spin-off', Pan Pan and Cheatball. Pan Pan really only serves to show that 1-Up isn't a loner, and Cheatball really is treated as a prop!
  • Cro-Marmot from Happy Tree Friends who shows up occasionally.
  • RWBY has the members of Team CRDL, who are just there to be stereotypical bullies, or to otherwise fill up the background. Only two of them even have voice actors, and of those only their leader Cardin ever has any actual personality, and even he's relegated to background character after his plot line about them bullying Jaune is resolved. Whenever they pop up after that, it's usually to get their asses kicked by a main character, and they vanish entirely after Volume 3.
  • Mundo Canibal: As seen above, Treco the chipmunk originally started out as one In-Universe, when he would always take roles of background characters or even inanimate objects while his cousins Tic and Tec (parodies of Chip and Dale) and Migay Mala (parody of Mickey Mouse) would always take the main roles; according to himself, this happened because he was "a little uglier than them". He was eventually fired and then hired, again In-Universe, by Mundo Canibal to fill the role of narrator.

  • Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff: Geromy. While he's ostensibly the Token Black Friend, he's a Living Prop in that he never even moves...
  • Schlock Mercenary: Several of the background members of Tagon's Toughs spend most of their time as this. In the background but rarely having a major impact on the story but many of the non-humans are instantly recognisable due to their distinct profiles. Some of them (Andy, Legs, Elizabeth) are more Recurring Characters but default back to this between their times in the lime light.

    Western Animation 
  • Aaahh!!! Real Monsters has many students aside from Ickis, Krumm and Oblina, who typically are only seen in the background, barely getting any screen time, and having very few, if any lines, such as Hairyette, Borl, Horrifica, Dizzle, Ocka, Swamwump, and Zabliner. There are, however, some episodes that properly feature these other students, like "Slumber Scare". Some monsters who do have a starring role only appear once.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball generally defies this trope, as there have been episodes focusing not only on almost all of the recurring characters, but also on the unnamed extras and even the inanimate objects, with the exception of Rob the Cyclops. He's been in Gumball's class since the early reel, yet he has no personality, has never played an important role in any of the plots, and has only spoken once over the entire run of the show so far. Lampshaded in "The Pony", in which he gets offended when Gumball and Darwin get his name wrong, so Darwin pushes him into a sewer.
    Gumball: I cannot believe you just did that!
    Darwin: Did what?
    Gumball: ...I forget.
  • There are a number of such characters in Arthur, mostly recurring townspeople and the students in D.W.'s class. Like a pair of rabbit kids who've been in Arthur's class since season 1, but are not as developed as their classmates (in 20 seasons, the male one has only talked twice, the female one hadn't talked at all until season 20). MacFrensky had a class list with the names (Alex & Maria) on it, but some fans refuse to believe those are their names, since Arthur has had several other one-shot classmates over the years (never mind that the two rabbits were the only other two kids besides the already named regulars shown in class in that episode).
    • Arthur also deserves special mention for having promoted some of their former Living Props to actual named, voiced characters. Fern, George, and Jenna have all been present in Arthur's classroom since the beginning. This trope was retroactively justified by all three turning out to be shy, introverted, or both. In George's case, it's even lampshaded by the others having only ever known him as "that shy, goofy kid with the big horns."
    • The female rabbit kid would get her very own episode, which not only revealed that she really is named "Maria" but the reason why she didn't talk at all before: She has a chronic stutter and is working on improving that.
  • The other village leaders besides Raanu in BIONICLE: The Legend Reborn are just there to show that the other villages have leaders who attend arena matches too, but Raanu's the only one who does anything. In fact, Tajun's supposed leader doesn't even react at all to the news of his village's destruction.
  • A Walrus and few of his friends from Camp Lazlo have also been in the background. There is an episode that lampshades this and gives the walrus a day in the limelight.
  • Many of the kids in Clarence, but Gilben, the square-headed kid with curly hair and a blank expression on his face, takes it to its logical extreme. Except for a few of the early episodes, he never moves onscreen, as if he were little more than a mannequin. This is highlighted in the few times he's been put front and center, where he retains his immobility while other characters still act as if he were moving, even reacting to what he's "saying" even though nothing is heard.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door has several kids that are seen often in the series, but rarely they serve other purpose than to be victims of the episode's villain. There are exceptions, like Eggbert who becomes class president and Leona who is Really 700 Years Old. A number of the show's supervillains also fill that role. Examples include the Iguana, Bright Idea, and Teen Tornado.
  • Most of the students in Casper High in Danny Phantom are usually the same students that randomly waltz around the school to keep its consistency. At times, a few will barge in and deliver one line before pushed to obscurity once more.
  • Most of Daria and Jane's classmates. A lot of them have interesting designs, however, and thus get a lot of Fanon or O.C. Stand-in roles.
  • Downplayed in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. Every resident imaginary friend who isn't in the main cast takes the role of a living prop unless the plot makes them relevant, yet the creators of the show took the time to name them all, even going so far as to write a small paragraph about a dozen or so of them in the Season 1 DVD.
  • Freakazoid! has Emmitt Nervend, a strange guy who shows up in odd places and just stands there. Most likely the ultimate living prop. Except for that one time where he's a salty dance hall chanteuse.
  • The Number Nine Guy in Futurama has a number of background appearances in the series until he finally has an actual role in the fourth DVD movie. Word of God says that he was originally supposed to become important when the show was going to be more dystopian (the "9" being his rank in a Fantastic Caste System), but he remained in the background when their plans changed.
  • Lampshaded as the main plot of two episodes of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, in an ironic effort to draw attention away from a small blunder he made, Harvey points out the fact that one of the jurors was in some of his previous trials. This not only forces a mistrial, but it soon leads to Judge Mentok noticing that the ENTIRE jury was in every single episode, so Harvey's entire legal career has to be done all over again.
  • In Iron Man: Armored Adventures, most of the students are only there as living props seen walking around the main cast at school.
  • Kamp Koral: Many of the background campers have consistent appearances, but no actual names or plot relevance. The only ones with names are Mo and Elwood, and even then, their names are rarely stated in the episodes, so you wouldn't know them without checking the credits.
  • Several people from Kim Possible, like the blond guy with spiky hair and Ned from Buenos Nachos. Or the girl with a blue shirt that appears like everywhere anytime. In the Grand Finale, she even appeared twice in the same screen, thus making Fanon speculate that she has a twin sister. One background character who fit the stereotype of a butch lesbian was seen standing with another random extra, deemed her girlfriend "Leslie Bean."
  • When the Justice League expanded in Justice League Unlimited, many of the new additions were essentially living props. Characters like Sand, Obsidian, Hourman, and Nemesis did little but hang around in the background and participate in battle royales.
  • Tim from The Magic School Bus, even by The Generic Guy standards. He usually just sits or stands around, occasionally drawing what he sees (which is even more superfluous than it sounds), making very few useful observations, and never "learning" anything from his experiences.
  • Making Fiends: Charlotte and Vendetta's classmates include Marvin, Marion, Maggie, Malachi, and three other kids whom they don't interact with. The first one is Mort, a dark blue boy with glasses, who is seen very often but doesn't do anything. The second is an unnamed pink girl with clips in her hair who's often seen screaming and waving her arms, and the last one is a blue boy with a baseball cap. "New Best Friend" features several more students (presumably from other classrooms) watching Vendetta and Marion's performance.
  • Moral Orel: When Orel is shown hanging with friends such as Doughy, Tommy or Joe, there's this one unnamed kid who's essentially there to take up space. The fact that his name is unrevealed and he's not especially distinct is a Running Gag.
  • The usual ensemble of background ponies in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Of course, the fandom gives them all names and backstories. The tendency for familiar faces to show up in new settings has not gone unnoticed by the fans. When the main cast visit the frontier town Appeloosa, half of the locals are regular Ponyvillians in big hats. After Trixie had her reputation destroyed by the Ursa Minor incidents, the images she shows of her later attempts to reestablish herself imply that Bon Bon (a fan favorite background pony) followed her all over Equestria to make fun of her at every opportunity.
  • In Sanjay and Craig, there are several recognizable kid characters that show up in background roles and crowd scenes every now and then. The most common ones include a redheaded girl in a light pink dress and purple boots, and a ginger-haired boy who wears a green shirt. Both the two kids are unnamed, and notably make an appearance in the episode "Muscle C.O.P.S.", at the beginning of the episode.
  • Not surprisingly, The Simpsons has a few.
    • Maggie appears in almost every episode of the show, but a lot of the time she acts as this due to being The Voiceless. However, she still maintains her own personality and has the occasional day in the limelight, or at least a case of her having more of an impact on the plot. Other times, she can act as a source of a quick joke or Funny Background Event. She's a downplayed example on the whole.
    • Wendell Borton—the pale and queasy kid in Bart's class—rarely has lines, much less an impact on the plot (though this may more be a case of Demoted to Extra, as he had a few lines early on). The example is also lampshaded at one point when even he can't remember which kid is which.
    • Bart had two other classmates named Lewis and Richard, whom he would hang out with along with Milhouse. Much like Wendell, they had a few lines in earlier episodes, but they were never major characters and stopped hanging around Bart in Season 2. "Das Bus" lampshades this trope in a scene where Bart confuses Lewis with Wendell (who is mentioned above).
    • Policeman Eddie is mainly a prop too. Most of the police business is between Chief Wiggum and Lou. This was lampshaded in an episode where Chief Wiggum becomes commissioner:
      Chief Wiggum: Lou, you're the new Chief. Eddie, you're the new Lou.
      Eddie: Who's the new Eddie?
      Chief Wiggum: We don't need an Eddie.
    • Those two guys at Moe's bar. No, not Homer and Barney. And no, not Lenny and Carl either, those other two guys. For the record, they're called Sam and Larry. Sam (cap) gets a few lines in early episodes, Larry (balding)... no such luck.
    • After their debut, some one-shot characters like Allison Taylor and Jessica Lovejoy can be later seen as a background character in many episodes revolving around the Springfield children. Jessica also appears in the new opening sequence, playing the flute in the school's music class.
    • Kumiko, the Comic Book Guy's Japanese wife.
    • Ruth Powers, the Simpsons next door neighbor. No, the OTHER one. She moves in during one of the early seasons and has a whole episode based around her, then is not heard again for another 10 years or so. However she is almost always seen as a member of any crowd or angry mob on The Simpsons, which occurs quite frequently.
    • Most of Lisa's classmates (with the exceptions of Ralph Wiggum and Janey Powell, though even the latter ended up being Demoted to Extra) fall under this trope. They rarely get lines and many of them don't even have names.
  • South Park:
    • Many of the main cast's classmates. Some characters, like Butters, used to be Living Props before becoming major players. Butters was promoted to a major character to replace Kenny, whom the creators recognized as a Living Prop whose interaction with the other characters was limited at best.
      • Special mention goes to DogPoo Petuski. While he's been in the show since the start and is still around as of Season 25, he has had only two speaking roles. Both Cartman and himself lampshade his living prop status in one of the two episodes he speaks in (he was meant to be a Shout-Out to Pig Pen, and just like the original character, his one-note nature meant the creators couldn't think of much to do with him).
    • Unlike Ike or Shelly, Kenny's brother Kevin never really got much characterization, mostly just staying silent in the rare McCormick family scene that includes him. Kind of highlighted by the fact that in later episodes the two randomly have a younger sister who avoids this trope.
  • In Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (the short-lived CGI MTV series), the budgetary limitations forced the animators to reuse certain character models as extras over and over again, sometimes in very different context. Lampshaded in the DVD extras.I
  • In Spirit Riding Free, the adult townspeople in Miradero are this. With some being named and talk . But as for the school only 3 students are treated as extras with Frank the only one being known. He's mostly to himself which is his reasoning.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants uses many of the same background characters, but except for a few, like Scooter the surfer fish, they have a different voice every time.
  • In the T.U.F.F. Puppy episode "Cruisin' for a Bruisin", there was an additional henchman of Snaptrap, who happens to be a skunk. He is rarely acknowledged, never talks, and only does what Snaptrap tells his henchmen to do. He only appeared in that episode, and is never seen or mentioned again.
  • In VeggieTales episodes the background characters/extras are usually anthropomorphic peas and carrots. Where Peas are usually mooks or allies whereas carrots are mostly in place of people or henchman.
  • The Venture Bros. has a ridiculously small stable of civilian background characters, leading to many of them popping up in places that make no sense in context with the last time we saw them. The number of villainous background characters is similarly small, leading to a lot of familiar faces whenever a main villain throws a party or show up to an event. Publick and Hammer spend much of the commentaries bemoaning this.
  • Winx Club has the fairies of Alfea that are learning there. They are used for classroom and big battle scenes, and not much else. Some of them, such as minor character Amaryl, are apparently still attending Alfea years after they should have graduated.


Maggie Simpson

Maggie sucking her pacifier.

How well does it match the trope?

4.75 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheSpeechless

Media sources: