What exactly is the difference between a main character and a recurring character?

There are some shows where the recurring characters are in every episode and heavily involved with the plots

3 Answers

  • 6 months ago

    Money.  Lots of it.

    A member of the main cast doesn't necessarily have to appear in every episode (they almost certainly will, but I've seen exceptions), but they are contractually bound to the show.  They get paid more (again, there are exceptions), and are required by contract to make the show their first priority.  If they want to be in a play or a movie on the side, they need the show's permission in many cases.  

    This famously happened with Michael J Fox who was NOT initially cast as Marty McFly in Back to the Future as he was committed to Family Ties.  They got Eric Stoltz to play Marty, and it was a disaster because Stoltz couldn't do comedy.  So halfway through shooting they got Family Ties to agree to let Fox do Back to the Future as long as it didn't conflict with Family Ties in any way.  Fox was working 18 and 20 hour days during that stretch.  I mean, if you can call acting 'working'.

    A recurring character though generally is NOT beholden to the show.  They come on, sign a contract for a particular arc, and then they're off to other projects.  If the show wants to keep using them, they risk the actor being booked on other things and being unavailable.  This has happened in some shows I've seen.  In one, a main character was in a deep relationship with a recurring character as one season ended, but the next season the actress for that recurring character was booked and could only give a teeny bit of shooting time...so they broke the relationship up VERY awkwardly because they couldn't get the actress.

  • Kathy
    Lv 7
    6 months ago

    The main character is on the show all the time, and the recurring character is only on once in a awhile.

  • 6 months ago

    Main is the principal of the show, usually the title character.

    If the Main Character were to leave the show, it might shut down.

    Recurring, is a character that supports the main character, A recurring actor might be written out with little change to the story or plot.

    If a recurring Character is popular, that person might get a spin off show of his/her own.

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