What Is An Extra?

By Darryl Green

  • An extra is an actor who acts in a film/movie, television or theatre production, and usually doesn’t have a speaking role. Extras perform in the background of a scene to give the illusion that a scene is real life. For example, the lead actor in a movie might go into a bank.

    He may greet the bank guard as he enters the bank. He may stand in line with other bank customers. And, he may have his bank transaction performed by the bank teller. In this example, the bank guard, customers and bank teller would be considered extras, particularly if they don’t have significant speaking roles.

    Some extras do have very small speaking roles. For example, in the previous example, the bank teller might briefly speak to the lead character about the weather. In this example, the bank teller would be considered a featured extra, because the teller is still a nameless character in the movie, which means the teller is still considered an extra, but they are “featured” extras because they had a brief speaking role.

    Working As An Extra

    If you are new to acting or looking to break into movies as an actor, you should consider working as an extra. Working as an extra is a great way for actors to begin their careers. For starters, you could gain valuable experience. Secondly, actors are able to gain credits that can go on their résumés. Third, actors get to network with other actors. Lastly, actors get to earn a little extra money.


    Working on a film set as an extra can help an actor gain valuable experience. Actors get to see how movies are made, including all the lighting, camera and technical work involved.

    Gaining Credits

    Extra work is a great early résumé-builder. Working as an extra allows actors to gain credits they can use on their résumés. Extras are able to build their acting résumés by detailing which movies they have been a part of and which part they played.


    Working as an extra allows actors to meet and network with other actors. There is a lot of downtime for extras, which could mean lots of time to meet and compare notes with peers.

    Earning money

    Most beginning actors are starving artists. That is, most actors don’t make much money right away. While it doesn’t pay much, working as an extra is an easy way for actors to earn some money.

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