I wanted to add a quick post to update what I previously wrote in this blog about how roles are classified on a resume because I’ve learned more and my previous post isn’t completely correct. Plus I see a lot of people coming to my site searching for that info, so hopefully this will help give some answers! And if you see that I’m giving out some wrong info here, please correct me!
The main thing that I’ve learned is that role classifications for films vs. TV work differently. In that previous post, I was using the same terminology for both, which is incorrect.
Please also refer to Cathy’s comment below as she has some great input and also corrects some of my misconceptions.
- Lead – I think that’s pretty self-explanatory. If you are a lead in the film, the story revolves around you. Without you, the story would not exist. Generally there is only one male and one female lead. That isn’t always true, in some cases I’ve seen films with 4, or in ensemble films like Avengers, there are many, but for the most part, you can usually identify one or two people who the film is primarily about.
- Supporting – This is the “best friend” or “side-kick” character. They are the ones that support the leads. If you’re supporting, you should have several scenes with the leads and be important to the main story, even though it doesn’t focus on you.
- Principal – Pretty much any other speaking role. I’ve seen some other people that will go even further to differentiate between “principal” and an “under-5″ where you had less than 5 words in the film by putting “U5″ on their resume. I think that is really just a judgement call. In my mind a principal role is a little more significant than just having 5 words, I feel like that kinda falls into “featured”, but I think most people use this term to cover anytime anyone speaks and isn’t a lead or supporting character.
- Featured – It seems like this has basically become inter-changeable with “featured extra”. So, no words, but definite camera time, and by camera time, I mean that you can clearly see your face – you’re not blurry in the background. In my opinion, unless you had a great close up in a big film, I would just leave this off of your resume if possible.
- Extra – Also something that I think should be left off of a resume. Extra/ Background are the people who create the “atmosphere” in a scene – bar patrons, shoppers at a mall ect. Anyone who is “serious” about acting should leave this off of their resume since anyone who knows anything about “the industry” will not take you seriously for having extra work on a resume.
- Lead – Again, pretty self-explanatory – you are one of the main characters of the show. The story revolves around you and without you, there would be no show.
- Series Regular – A major character that is not the lead – more or less equivalent to a supporting character in a film. You make regular appearances on the show, but the show isn’t about you. You should appear in multiple seasons of the show. If you watch Dexter, I think Angel is a good example of this.
- Reoccurring – I step below regular where you are a slightly less important character, however you appear in multiple episodes. Again, if you look at Dexter, the character of the “ice truck killer” is a good example of this as he only appeared in a few episodes. He wouldn’t be a series regular because the series continued on without him in the following seasons.
- Guest Star – Guest stars are most easily explained by looking at crime dramas. In each episode there is a case that needs to be solved and one main person at the center of that case. For example if you look at Law and Order SVU – the rape victim would be the guest star and that episode would revolve around the detectives trying to find her killer. Basically, you have a main, crucial role, but only for one episode.
- Co-Star – This covers all other speaking roles on a show, similar to principal for a film. Again, I’ve seen some people who further specify U5 if they had 5 or less words, which is probably a good idea, but from what I can tell, a lot of people use these interchangeably.
- Extra – Again, same as with a film, this applies to the background actors who set the atmosphere of a scene.
New Media is a bit of an interesting new category. In my opinion, since new media or web-series are done in a series or episodic format, the categories for TV shows should apply here. But also since it’s still pretty new, I think that there is more leniency with what is the “correct” way to format that section of a resume.
For theater I think the roles are often easier to define since a show usually has one clear lead and supporting characters ect., and when you put this on your resume, I generally stick with the film classification for roles.
And I think that is pretty much it! Again, if I am wrong in any of this, please someone tell me! This is just what I’ve gather from my experiences, taking workshops with casting directors, from agents and managers, and also from looking at other people’s resumes. Not only will it help anyone reading, but it will help me as well!
Update 2/18/13: Backstage just put out an article that addresses this issue as well. Find it here.