Results 1 to 11 of 11

Thread: Principal VS Supporting VS Lead?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2007

    Default Principal VS Supporting VS Lead?

    I am updating my resume, and thought I'd ask a question:

    Does anyone know exactly how to classify the difference between Principal, Supporting, Lead (etc etc) roles? I know the basics, but I thought i would see if there were any hard set rules.

    Any info you could give would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2005


    I got this from an email I subscribe to.

    Actors are frequently confused by terms like 'co-star,'
    And the rule for billing is: When in doubt, check your

    The appropriate term (especially for television) should
    be used there. Film: check the original breakdown! Roles
    are listed as exactly the size we'd expect to see you
    use in reporting your billing.

    But because billing can be negotiated, it's not usually
    as simple as "large role = guest star" or "small role =
    co-star," since a good agent can negotiate a two-line
    co-star into guest star billing.

    As for the definition of the terms, here goes:

    Cameo - not for non-stars; very frequently misused to
    make people in very tiny roles feel better by being
    called "cameo." But "cameo" is usually a big star
    doing a stunt-cast role (like when George Clooney or
    Brad Pitt showed up on an episode of "Friends").

    Co-star -- TV term only (never for film); check your
    contract; typically a one-day gig but sometimes a
    week's work, since, as I mentioned above, billing is
    negotiated; basically, the primary storyline is not
    yours and you could be cut out of the episode without
    it changing anything "core" to the story.

    Contract Role is soap term only; the "series regulars"
    in soaps

    Day Player -- originally an AFTRA term only, but often
    used to describe any non-contract-specified role that
    took the actor one day to shoot, small role, not central,
    usually "co-star" for TV or "small supporting" for film
    but used to get more specific about the size of the role

    Featured -- one scene, one or two lines, film (not TV),
    not big enough to be a supporting role but bigger than
    extra work

    Guest Lead - non-standard, "guest star" is more typical,
    and it's a TV term, based on negotiation of the contract
    ultimately, but also usually the largest non-series-
    regular cast role of that week's episode

    Host - non-acting, mic-holding host of the show.

    Lead -- used interchangeably with "Principal" or "Star"
    for film roles in which it is your character's story
    and without you the film would not exist

    One Day Guest Star -- way more specific than anyone cares
    about, but it's basically a way of saying you only had a
    co-star "sized" role in a TV show, but your agent rocks a
    nd negotiated you some guest star billing (yay, you!) but
    I would never use this because it makes the work you did
    seem insignificant compared to the work your agent did
    (and, in YOUR resumé, it needs to be about YOUR skills,
    not your agent's, ultimately)

    Possible Recurring - I'd stay away from this one too,
    as it says, "If they like me, they'll bring me back,"
    and that's a huge DUH, I'd say, because OF COURSE if
    they like you they'll bring you back. Only if you're
    contracted as recurring and then put on hold after
    shooting that first episode would I use this, and even
    so, I'd get rid of it for what the situation turned out
    to be as soon as possible, as that's what matters in
    the end

    Principal - film role that's anywhere from the star of
    the thing on down to supporting; basically a speaking
    role in a film, without getting specific about your
    character's "central to the story" status; also used in
    AFTRA contracts (or at least it used to be; not sure,
    now) for non-contract players who have five lines or

    Recurring - contracted to come back for multiple episodes
    on TV in the same character

    Recurring Guest Star -- ditto the above, but this one
    shows the billing you got (and guest star is bigger/better
    than co-star)

    Reporter - non-acting, mic-holding non-host of the show,

    Series Regular -- you're under exclusive contract with
    this show to appear (or be paid regardless of appearing)
    every week, you tested at network, you survived (I also
    see people put this on their resumés when they have only
    shot the pilot, and that's fine, because we do realize
    that unless the pilot BECOMES a series, you won't really
    become a series regular ... but we get the point)

    Special Guest Star - usually reserved for celebs (like
    the cameo billing) and sometimes given to a series regular
    actor who needs to be more important or stand out somehow
    (perhaps as a trade-off for taking less money; perhaps
    because they're also producers on the series) from the
    rest of the series regular cast, also sometimes used as
    a way of making a guest star credit more important (so
    basically, it's anything from Heather Locklear's credit
    in the opening of "Melrose Place" to Tom Selleck's
    recurring appearances on "Friends")

    Supporting - film, not the star/lead, not featured; pretty
    much 80% of the cast on any given film is a member of the
    supporting cast

    Under 5 - AFTRA term only, for an actor who spoke fewer
    than five lines in the episode

    Understudy - stage only, an actor whose appearance will
    only take place if the actor for whom the actor is
    understudying cannot perform (some theatres guarantee a
    certain number of performances for understudies, though)
    Just be.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2007

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2007


    I'm still confused about the difference between supporting and principal. In, say, a short film, where the cast is 2-4 people anyways, and you're not the lead, but primary enough. Is that a supporting or a principal role? I've been using supporting, but am unsure. Can anyone clarify? Thanks

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2006


    Quote Originally Posted by soylatte View Post
    I'm still confused about the difference between supporting and principal. In, say, a short film, where the cast is 2-4 people anyways, and you're not the lead, but primary enough. Is that a supporting or a principal role? I've been using supporting, but am unsure. Can anyone clarify? Thanks

    Since this is called VANCOUVER Actors Guide you need to ignore definitions from faraway places or the US, Here in BC you need to just check with UBCP for categories for union jobs, as most TV or film work is here, if it's a non union job call yourself whatever you want or take the producers advice on the project you worked on.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    LA, NY, Boston


    Do you have a link to the UBCP definitions? I'd like to be accurate and have a better understanding of the differences?


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2012


    I have your exact problem soylatte! How do you know how big your part is if you're say, the lead's best friend, same size role as the lead, in every scene but only like 2 lines in a five minute film. I know technically that would be an actor role (day player) but it even seems to big to be supporting. I usually use principal

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    North Vancouver/Los Angeles


    Rates and Terms Summary

    Principal vs. Actor

    When you're a lead or a supporting lead, series regular, recurring or performing a guest star, etc.... you will know it. It will include this on your audition breakdown from your agent.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2012


    thanks! but how can you tell if it is an indie film that you get yourself? it usually doesn't say on the breakdown

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    North Vancouver/Los Angeles

    Thumbs up

    Truthfully? The indie film credits will not contribute any substantial value and will be of little contribution to those reading your professional resume.

    Vancouver actors have created an over-inflated value to the student films, web series and "indie" films in recent years. While I am not suggesting nobody should do them, there is also a growing sense of entitlement over these volunteer projects --

    "I have like 20 leads?!?! How come my agent can't even get me in for a one-liner on Mr. Young?" (or any series or MOW for that matter)

    etc. etc.

    Do the volunteer projects (using the formula of "three") and get some experience in front of a camera. But to compete in the professional arena you need to redirect your efforts to building credits and opportunities that are of value in this part of the industry.

    Work WITH your agent and WITH your coach to ensure you are taking MEASURABLE steps forward in being a part of the professional opportunities you desire.

    The formula of "three"

    1. Script
    2. Money
    3. People

    Two of three of the items should be AMAZING or of considerable interest for you to do any project for the duration of your career. This includes PROFESSIONAL and VOLUNTEER work.

    I have turned down paid work because the other two items were of that little attraction. And I continue to volunteer my services for projects that have amazing people AND a fantastic script.

    Create your own value. If you don't, someone else will. And trust me, it won't be worth much.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2012


    Thanks you have a good point I was just wondering what I would put on my resume. I have professional leads too so I don't do student films just so I can put them on my resume, I do it for the fun and the acting! I like the formula of three idea though

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts