What is a Co-Star Role?

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  • What is a Co-Star Role? 

    Diving into television roles and the purposes they serve… 

    (By Tonya Tannenbaum)

    (Photo: Rene Ranisch/Unsplash)

    A co-star role is a small role created to help advance the story, in a television program.

    Co-stars appear in just one episode. They have very few speaking lines, and their lines only exist as a way to assist the main characters.

    An example…

    The lead character enters a restaurant to meet his disgruntled wife on their tenth anniversary. The pair have been feuding for quite some time and are hoping to repair their troubled marriage.

    While these roles may be played by some very fine actors, they cannot do this scene alone. They must have help in creating the “world” their characters live in.

    Enter the co-stars.

    The hostess

    The lead character, in this example, is greeted by the hostess, who escorts him to the couple’s table.

    The waiter

    After the husband makes small talk with his estranged wife, the waiter happens along to take their order.

    The chef

    After the waiter brings the couple their food, the wife asks to speak to the chef because her steak was not properly cooked. The chef apologizes and corrects the order.

    The couple at the next table

    The lead characters begin to argue loudly as their discussion intensifies. The couple at the next table asks if they can keep their noise volume down.

    In this scene, the hostess, the waiter, the chef and the couple at the next table are all likely playing co-star roles. The purpose of their roles is to help the main characters tell – and sell – the story. They help give the illusion of a real-life restaurant, with a real couple dealing with a real-life relationship crisis.

    Some brief notes on co-star roles…

    Few Speaking Lines

    Co-star roles have few speaking lines. Those lines could range from as many as several sentences or as few as one word.

    No Character Arc

    Unlike guest-star roles or recurring roles, there’s no character arc to co-star roles. The character does not go through a transformation or an inner journey that is played out over multiple episodes. Their task is simply to assist the other characters as they advance the plot.


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