Friends have asked me what’s the difference between a star, co-star, guest star, etc. So, here’s the answer as I have learned. For now, I am only going to talk about television credits.
Credits differ in film and television and are listed separately on an actor’s resume. This is because in the past, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) were separate unions. SAG-AFTRA is now one union, however, credits are still different and listed separately.
The lead in a television series is known as a Series Regular. This actor is in the main cast and appears in most, if not all, episodes and is central to the story.
A Guest Star is an actor who appears in one or more episodes and is an important part of the story. In many cases, the guest star is a named actor.
Now we come to the Co-star. A person with this title usually appears in one or two scenes, and, while important in the episode, is not really central to the story.
There are clear differences in pay between a Guest Star and Co-Star (sometimes referred to as a Day Player), but that’s a subject for a different blog.
In film and television, there are the background people, most referred to as Extras. These hard-working folks, while having no speaking parts, play a very important role. Without the pedestrians, office workers, people in the audience, etc., there would be no realism.
While Extras are, sadly, considered at the bottom of the food chain, their pay is nothing to sneeze at. A Commercial Extra who is a member of the performer’s union, SAG-AFTRA, makes around $342.00 a day. However, Commercial Extras do not get residual pay, i.e., pay for the amount of time the commercial airs.
A word of advice: When listing your credits on a resume, it is recommended to not list your roles as an extra. I have seen people fluff up an extra role to make it look like something else, but it still reads the same. I have also seen people use the term, “Series Regular” or “Series Regular Extra” when they have been an extra in several episodes. This reads “amateur” and will not further your career.