Living Prop

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See the blonde in the back? She's a living prop.

Dog Poo: I think I deserve to take Kenny's place the most, because, I've been hanging around these guys for like five years and I never get to say or do anything.
Eric Cartman: ...Yeah, I've only seen that kid in class, but he never does anything. He's more like a prop.

South Park, "Professor Chaos"
Chevron One, encoded. Chevron Two, encoded. Chevron Three encoded. Chevron Four Encoded. Chevron Five Encoded. Chevron Six Encoded. Chevron Seven Locked.
—Walter Harriman (The Chevron Guy), Stargate SG-1, "Heroes pt1", former trope namer.

There's the Recurring Character, appearing more or less often beside the main cast. There's the poor Red Shirt, who is usually introduced only to get killed off in the very same episode, and the Mauve Shirt, who survives longer or at least gets a token amount of characterization before dying. There are Colonel Makepeace and the Bridge Bunnies, who get to actually run the place from time to time while our heroes boldly go where no man has gone before.

Then there are those kinds of recurring characters who don't actually have any involvement with the plot except as Padding, and whose only purpose is to create a certain sense of stability (after all, you wouldn't expect the bartender to be a different person every single time you visit the same bar, unless they all happen to have George Jetson Job Security) or to fill seats that would reasonably always be occupied by the same people (your classmates will remain the same throughout the school year.)

They have very few spoken lines, if any at all — it's usually along the lines of "Hot or iced?" or "All systems ready, Captain," If this is noticeable or stretching realism they are Ghost Extras. Most of the time they just stand there in the background, as if they are a permanent part of the scenery that might as well be a living prop. Sometimes, however, they will be subject to Lampshade Hanging about their dedication to their one job, and if this trend continues, they may even transform into a proper Recurring Character, sometimes with their own subplot. Compare and contrast Unknown Character, for a character with plot relevence who was never shown.

They might also have been a Chekhov's Gunman the entire time. Or even something more.

Examples of Living Prop include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • The reporter from Tokyo Mew Mew actually got into the character popularity poll for the manga, despite having no character and only showing up in a few panels to cover the Magical Girls' exploits on the news.
  • In Keroro Gunso, starting with episode 63, the 24 nameless students of Fuyuki's classroom receive unique designs which are carried over in any classroom scene after that episode. They even appear sometimes outside of classes too. A new extra was added in the 3rd season without any formal introduction. They're never credited or named, even when one of them actually gets a small active role, and, although Fuyuki has mentioned his school friends a few times, he's never shown actually hanging out with any of his classmates.
  • In My-HiME, Mai's class consists of a few named characters and a bunch of stable living props. Interestingly, the nameless girl with blue hair who sat in front of her for the whole series ended up being one of the main characters of the Elseworld, Mai-Otome. In a Mai-Otome picture drama that takes place in the My-HiME universe, she lets Arika and Erstin stay at her apartment after they find her cat, Nina.
  • Pandaman from One Piece. Or is it Pandamen?
  • Naruto has a rotating selection of about a half-dozen jonin which have occasionally fought, but most spend their time doing incidental tasks like guard duty and mostly exists just to show that the jonin are in limited numbers.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS makes sneaky use of this character type's ability to be ignored by the audience by having one of these, a girl secretary we're actually shown skittishly edging towards General Regius near the end of the season, turn out to be the disguised cyborg assassin.
  • Working!! has Maya Matsumoto. She is seen doing her work and even appears in the OP, but has no interaction with anybody from the main cast. She's suspiciously absent during staff meetings and doesn't even seem to talk to her direct superior. That's some job independence there for a waitress, but it seems like there had to be at least one person who actually focuses on the main business. Then in the final episode we learn she is obsessed with being "normal", thus goes out of her way to avoid all the abnormal people she works with.
    • There is also some kitchen staff which never gets any mention.
  • In the second season of K-On! the entirety of class 3-2 consists of distinct, individual characters, who can be seen in various scenes of the classroom and even in the opening sequence. Several of them have even gained their own fanbase, most notably Tachibana Himeko, previously known as "The Girl Who Sits Next To Yui".
    • The full names of all the girls in the class are now known(Ads NSFW). While classmates with speaking lines in the show are still ahead in regard to the amount of fanart they have, every girl in the class is now getting her own fanart.
  • Dead Leaves has the prisoners who escape with Pandy and Retro. None of them are given names or developed as characters, except for Drilldick (which isn't his real name...probably) and his manic man-crush on Retro, but every one is distinctly designed, and there's even noticeable continuity between the ones who get killed in a given fight scene and the ones left standing around afterward.
  • Emiri Kimidori is a living prop in the anime of The Melancholy Of Suzumiya Haruhi. The only thing she does in both seasons and the movie is ask for help from the SOS brigade once. She then promptly goes back to being scenery.
  • Marron and Bra in Dragon Ball Z. They serve no other purpose than to show the audience that their parents were Happily Married after long time skips. Marron isn't even credited under her own name in the Japanese version, she's listed as "Kuririn's Daughter." Bra progresses to an extremely minor Satellite Character in Dragon Ball GT, but it's pretty clear that the only reason they're around is because the writers couldn't very well get rid of them.


Films -- Animated[edit | hide]

  • Monsters, Inc. had Sulley and Randall's co-scarers on their scare floor. Similar to the Foster's example, all of them were eventually profiled for the DVD release. We can't say the same thing about their scare assistants (besides Mike, obviously), though...


Films -- Live-Action[edit | hide]

  • Stephanie, Phil's wife in The Hangover and its sequel, has one line in each film & is never named on screen. This applies even more so in the sequel where she spends her brief screentime hovering silently at Phil's shoulder, and her one line comes amids several characters speaking at the same time when Alan runs a speedboat aground & everyone is checking to make sure the guys are okay.
    • This is a by-product of Todd Phillips' complete inability to write or direct women. Every one of his movies features at least one actress playing a living prop. In fact, almost every female character in The Hangover is either a living prop or depicted as a shrew.
  • Ethan, in the 2007 I Am Legend movie. He is not a speaking role (or an emoting role), but he's there for the second half of the movie, always in the background or foreground. He doesn't do anything, he needs rescued a couple times, and his only real reason for being in the movie is so he can watch Shrek shortly after appearing on-screen. No, really.
  • Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy: Wes Mantooth's Channel 9 Evening News Team cohorts. They stand around behind Wes, but contribute nothing to the verbal argument in the park. Lampshaded at the end.

--Wes Mantooth: What, you guys can't say one thing? Even the guy that can't think said something. You guys just stand there? Come on!

  • W: In the autobiographical film of George W. Bush, There is a scene where Bush is berating U.S Army commander Tommy Franks for not finding WMD's. Sitting next to Franks is a British officer (Presumably representing Air Marshal Brian Burridge, head of UK Forces) who shifts awkwardly in his chair and looks as if he is going to speak a few times. But he says nothing.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The cashier in the coffee shop in Seinfeld.
  • Walter Harriman in Stargate SG-1. Originally nicknamed "Chevron Guy" because his only role in the series was to announce the "Engaging Chevrons padding, he got a proper name and some involvement in the plot in later seasons.
    • And once Walter started becoming a real person, they introduced Sylvester Siler to be the Prop guy in the background. And then Siler got a name and lines and characterization.
  • For I Love Lucy Ricky's band members shown during night club scenes.
    • A literal example - the baby chicks.
  • Buffy did this a few times actually. Seth Green was just scenery for quite a while before his character Oz was given a name and a bigger role.
  • Also from DS9: Morn, the silent, morose-looking alien extra perpetually stationed at the far end of Quark's bar, who seemed so profoundly dedicated to doing nothing at all that he actually became the centre of fan attention.
    • Morn even got his own episode ("Who Mourns For Morn?") and was still an uncredited extra with no lines!
  • Voyager has Lt. Ayala, a regular extra who appeared in all seven seasons. Formerly one of Chakotay's Maquis crew, he can often be seen filling in for Tuvok or Harry. We know a fair bit about him, but not from his mouth — in 115 episodes, he had only four lines.
  • The silver-haired detective in The Shield. Never got a line, but he was acknowledged when he got a round of applause for being the first person to use the newly-fixed men's toilets in season four (they broke just before the first ever episode of season one).
  • The Bill calls such characters "Totally Reliable Extra Veterans" (TREVs).
  • In Friends, Gunther the barista started as one of these, but was elevated to a side character due to jokes based on his crush on Rachel.
  • Lieutenant Leslie in Star Trek: The Original Series. So much a prop that in one episode, he is killed off and later reappears in the background in the assumption that no-one would notice. Despite (or perhaps because of) this, he has his own fan site. Note that Leslie appears in more episodes than Sulu or Chekov, though you could count the number of episodes he has lines in on one hand.
    • Lt. Galloway also fits. Galloway has also kinda sorta returned from the dead; the writers remembered his death in time to change the character's name to "Johnson" at the last minute, but when he appeared again in the final episode, he was credited as Galloway (though not named on camera).
    • There's also Lt. Hadley, who appeared in 62 of the series' 79 episodes (usually filling in for Sulu or Chekov when one of them was unavailable) but never got a single line of dialogue.
  • The regular customers at Cheers whose names are not Norm, Frasier or Cliff. Some of them (such as Paul) were eventually promoted to Recurring Characters. In fact, Cliff was one of these for the first few episodes.
  • Most of the deck crew in Battlestar Galactica Reimagined started out this way, though several were promoted.
    • The tattooed pilot was a particular fan favourite.
  • Scrubs has a collection of doctors that regularly appear on screen but (mostly) do not talk. For example, Colonel Doctor (called that because he looks like the Colonel Sanders), Dr. Beardface (It's Be-ARD-fa-SAY!), Dr. Mickhead, and Snoop Dogg Intern.
    • Hey! Hey!
      • Sorry. Snoop Dogg Resident.
    • They actually start showing up rather frequently and get jokes in. Several one-shot characters often become minor characters after positive reception. These characters are third tier while the doctors that don't get jokes would be living props.
    • It's Snoop Dogg Attending now. He got promoted.
  • The staff (and several customers) of Cafe Nervosa in Frasier. While no waiter lasted the full 11 years of the series, they did tend to stick around for a few of them. Similarly many of the extras portraying customers stayed there for many years.
  • Some of the minor staff (orderlies, nurses and others) in Mash probably count as examples.
    • The names "Nurse Able" and "Nurse Baker" are used, but not with any consistency. That is, "Nurse Able" will be one actress in one episode, and a different actress in another episode, even if the first actress is also in this one.
    • Though Able and Baker are also part of the military alphabet at the time meaning Nurse Able and Nurse Baker may have been as much shift titles as anything else.
  • On Thirty Rock, most of the TGS writers. Only Liz, Frank, Toofer and occasionally Lutz have sizable parts.
    • Another writer is lucky enough to have the recurring name of Female Writer.
      • Who was eventually given the full name of Sue LaRoche-Van der Hout when a joke called for someone to be offended in French and Dutch at the same time.
    • Liz actually addresses them as "ones who don't talk" on one occasion.
      • In another episode, one of them said a line and then gasped "I did it! I talked!"
  • Corporal Bell from the UNIT era Doctor Who.
    • Because the Doctor Who production team used the same stuntmen repeatedly in those days, you would get a recurring group of silent uncredited redshirts. Pat Gorman was one who got bits of dialogue and graduated to credited status near the end of the UNIT era, but even then he was still known as "UNIT Corporal" or "Soldier." One of them, Max Faulkner, appeared in a small capacity as a redshirt UNIT soldier in 1970, but by his next appearance in 1975, had gotten a rank and a last name "Corporal Adams." I wouldn't say Corporal Bell was much of a living prop. In her two appearances, the character had lines and was credited, and also advanced the plot somewhat.
  • Larabee of Get Smart started out like this. He began the series as a bystander, then starts doing things Da Chief tells him to do. It wasn't until he's told to Follow That Car! that he became a Recurring Character and the Ur-ditz.
  • All of the other members of the Sweathogs' class in Welcome Back, Kotter. They were there simply because a high school class of only five students, especially in Brooklyn, would be unbelievable.
  • In the early seasons of Lost, the survivors camp consisted of about eight main characters and forty living props. Eventually, a Mauve Shirt lampshaded it by complaining about how clique-ish the main characters were. Regardless, the fans refused to accept the premise that Nikki and Paulo might have been Ascended Extras.
    • They made a great effort of keeping the show's background cast consistent throughout the years. While some faces inevitably came and went, many people kept appearing among the crash survivors for 5 or 6 seasons without any impact on the plot whatsoever. In addition, background cast of more seldom appearing groups (The Others, The Tailies, The Ajira folk) remained consistent as well, people were called over season-long gaps to reprise their brief non-speaking roles.
    • Until they all got killed by random flaming arrows in a season 5 time-jump...
      • The writers referred to these remaining un-ascended characters as "socks," and were happy to be rid of them, freeing them up to focus the remainder of the series on the main cast and their nonsensical endgame.
  • When The Mary Tyler Moore Show was about to be canceled, the staff writers completed a script that was intended to be the very last episode of the series, but which was ultimately not used. In this script, a mad bomber leaves a series of bombs in Minneapolis, and various clues indicate that the bomber is someone in the WJM-TV newsroom. The regular characters all start suspecting each other. The bomber turns out to be one of the dozens of faceless Human Props who were seen along the back wall of the newsroom throughout this series.
  • Thanks to the producers forgetting they had other players in Survivor: Samoa, several people who weren't outright Out of Focus were more or less living props. Mick gets this the hardest.
    • Vecepia Trowley in Marquesas may also count.
    • Recently, Purple Kelly was treated as one - chances are this was revenge by the producers.
    • One of the sequels, The Rob and Phillip Show cast a couple of these.
  • Brad the Pianist on Glee. He literally does nothing but play the piano for the kids. Has received several lampshades.

Santana: I went through that "Rumours"-album and found that best song that expressed my feelings for you. [beat] My private feelings.
Brittany: [Gestures to Brad] What about him?
Santana: He's just furniture. Sorry, no offense. (Brad shrugs)

    • Matt Rutherford and Mike "Other Asian" Chang count as well, at least in the first season. They were generally two of the most skilled dancers on the program, but neither spoke more than a line or two. They ended up going in opposite directions; Matt wasn't named until after several episodes, and then Put on a Bus in the second season, whereas Mike's dancing was featured more and more and eventually became a recurring character and Tina's romantic interest in season two. Tina herself had become this due to lack of development and complete solos, addressed as a major plot point in an episode aptly titled "Props".
    • The Jazz band. They are always around when needed for a song. In one episode, two of them got to perform in Sectionals on stage with the New Directions. They still did not get any lines, though.
  • Sienna Cammeniti (played by model and 2006 Miss Australia Erin McNaught) was added to Neighbours for the sole purpose of sexing-up the cast and helping boost ratings. It didn't work.
    • Lisa Hayes seemed to exist for the sole purpose of getting dumped by Lucas.
  • In Earth 2, seventeen people crash land on G889, and for the entire series, three of them are never given lines. These three are also never or almost never mentioned by name, with the exception of one, whose death is a major plot point in the finale.
  • The Time Tunnel had four or five people in white lab coats, standing way in the background of Mission Control, endlessly checking the same painted-on gauges or fiddling with the same dials. This trope was unintentionally underlined in one episode, when one of the regular characters shouted at them to evacuate in the face of a Negative Time Wedgie that threatened to destroy the base. Only two even reacted, seemingly out of surprise, before returning to their 'work'. (Another character immediately covers by voicing their desire to stick with the project 'till the bitter end.)
  • Most of the fraternity and sorority members in Greek were this. Very few were given lines, and most of these were in the three main houses of the series; the rest were lucky to get one member with lines.
  • 90% of the students in Saved by the Bell.
  • Same with Boy Meets World.
  • Jeff, Louie's assistant on Taxi, and sadly, the only black character on the show. Nick at Nite once chronicled his rise from just lurking in the background, to getting a couple of lines here and there, to having the occasional subplot.
    • Subplot? He actually was the lead of one episode...
  • Non-fiction example: On Great British Menu, each competing chef is provided with an assistant to, uh, assist. These assistants are on camera throughout the cookery scenes, but are never referred to, and just about the only time you ever hear them speak is to say "cheers" when the winning chef shares the champagne at the end of the week.
  • Dads Army: the seven main characters make up only about a third of the troop. The rest are just props.
  • The students in Justin's delinquent class on Wizards of Waverly Place that aren't Alex, Felix, or Nelvis. They never speak and are not credited for their appearances.
  • Bobby Draper in Mad Men. On his third actor, with only a handful of lines per season in increasing contrast to his big sister.
  • Batman TV series: In a Crowning Moment of Funny, Large Ham King Tut madly screams his dialogue to the ear of one of the beautiful mute Living Prop slave girls of his harem. She tries her best to do not change her indifferent expression.
  • Big Brother 13 had cast eight completely new people. You would not know this by watching the series.
  • Likewise, Survivor has also had this happen in seasons with very poor editing. In Samoa and One World, the season winner could have been called a Living Prop.


Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • In Dale Messick's comic strip Brenda Starr, most of the scenes in the newsroom featured a lot of anonymous characters in the background while Brenda was the center of attention. For several years, Messick included in background panels a female staffer with a distinctive topknot and glasses, but this character was unnamed and had no dialogue. Abruptly, Messick wrote a continuity in which this character — suddenly identified as Lucy Fixture — won a fortune in the sweepstakes and had an adventure of her own before vanishing from the strip.


Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • A Jobber will often be this. Most jobbers will only be around to get beaten by more prominent wrestlers and add bodies to huge fights. A jobber that fits this rarely if ever say anything and will only win a match if they're either facing another jobber (in which case, the promotion will pretty much definitely not bother televising that match) or if they're getting a push.


Web Animation[edit | hide]

  • The Poopsmith in Homestar Runner is usually a Living Prop. Though he has taken a vow of silence and shovels crap for a living, so it's understandable why he isn't all that important.
    • Also, in the 20X6 mock-Japanese 'spin-off', Pan Pan and Cheatball. Pan Pan really only serves to show that 1-Up isn't a loner, and Cheatball really is treated as a prop!
  • The Cro-Marmot from Happy Tree Friends who shows up occasionally.


Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff: Geromy. While he's ostensibly the Black Best Friend, he's literally a Living Prop in that he never even moves...
  • Several of the background members of Tagon's Toughs spend most of their time as this. In the background but rarely having a major impact on the story but many of the non-humans are instantly recognisable due to their distinct profiles. Some of them (Andy, Legs, Elizabeth) are more Recurring Characters but default back to this between their times in the lime light.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Downplayed in Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends. Just about every resident who isn't in the main cast is basically a living prop, yet the creators of the show take the time to name them all, even going so far as to write a small paragraph about a dozen or so of them in the Season One DVD.
  • Many main cast's classmates in South Park. Some characters, like Butters, used to be Living Props before becoming major players.
  • Several people from Kim Possible, like the blond guy with spiky hair and Ned from Buenos Nachos. But the girl with a blue shirt that appears like everywhere anytime comes to mind. In the Grand Finale she even appeared twice in the same screen, thus making Fanon speculate that she has a twin sister.
    • One background character who fit the stereotype of a butch lesbian earned the Fan Nickname "Alex Sapphic." Eventually she was scene standing with another random extra, deemed her girlfriend "Leslie Bean."
  • Cow in Word World.
  • Freakazoid! has Emmitt Nervend, a strange guy who shows up in odd places and just stands there. Most likely the ultimate living prop. Except for that one time where he's a salty dance hall chanteuse.
  • Not surprisingly, The Simpsons has a few. Wendell Borton—the pale and queasy kid in Bart's class—rarely has lines, much less an impact on the plot (though this may more be a case of Demoted to Extra, as they had a few lines early on). Policeman Eddie is mainly a prop too. Most of the police business is between Chief Wiggum and Lou.
    • This was lampshaded in an episode where Chief Wiggum becomes commissioner:

Chief Wiggum: "Lou, you're the new Chief. Eddie, you're the new Lou."
Eddie: "Who's the new Eddie?"
Chief Wiggum: We don't need an Eddie."

    • Those two guys at Moe's bar. No, not Homer and Barney. And no, not Lenny and Carl either, those other two guys. For the record, they're called Sam and Larry. Sam (cap) gets a few lines in early episodes, Larry (balding)... not such luck.
  • Most of the students in Casper High in Danny Phantom are usually the same students that randomly waltz around the school to keep its consistency. At times, a few will barge in and deliver one line before pushed to obscurity once more.
  • Heavily lampshaded as THE MAIN PLOT OF TWO EPISODES of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, in an ironic effort to draw attention away from a small blunder he made, Harvey points out the fact that one of the jurors was in some of his previous trials. This not only forces a mistrial, but it soon leads to Judge Mentok noticing that the ENTIRE jury was in every single episode, so Harvey's ENTIRE LEGAL CAREER has to be done all over again.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants uses many of the same background characters, but except for a few, like the surfer fish, they have a different voice every time.
  • Yasha Mousekewitz, the baby in An American Tail, is a textbook example of a living prop. In the later DTV sequels she's hardly ever even shown awake.
  • In Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (the short-lived CGI MTV series), the budgetary limitations forced the animators to reuse certain character models as extras over and over again, sometime in very different context. Lampshaded in the DVD extras.
  • Tim from The Magic School Bus, even by The Generic Guy standards. He usually just sits or stands around, occasionally drawing what he sees (which is even more superfluous than it sounds), making very few useful observations, and never "learning" anything from his experiences.
  • A Walrus and few of his friends from Camp Lazlo have also been in the background. There is an episode that lampshades this and gives the walrus a day in the limelight.
  • There are a number of such characters in Arthur, mostly recurring townspeople and the students in D.W.'s class. Of important note are a pair of rabbit kids who've been in Arthur's class since the first season, but are not as developed as their classmates (in 14 seasons, the male one has only talked twice, and the female one never!). The recent episode MacFrensky had a class list with the names Alex & Maria on it, but some fans refuse to believe those are their names, since Arthur has had several other one-shot classmates over the years (never mind that the two rabbits were the only other two kids besides the already named regulars shown in class in that episode).
    • Arthur also deserves special mention for having promoted some of their former Living Props to actual named, voiced characters. Fern, George, and Jenna have all been present in Arthur's classroom since the beginning. This trope was retroactively justified by all three turning out to be shy, introverted, or both. In George's case, it's even lampshaded by the others having only ever known him as "that shy, goofy kid with the big horns."
  • When the Justice League expanded in Justice League Unlimited, many of the new additions were essentially living props. Characters like Sand, Obsidian, Hourman, and Nemesis did little but hang around in the background and participate in battle royales.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door has several kids that are seen often in the series, but rarely they serve other purpose than to be victims of the episode's villain. There are exceptions, like Eggbert who becomes class president and Leona who is Really Seven Hundred Years Old.
  • The Number Nine Guy in Futurama has a number of background appearances in the series until he finally has an actual role in the fourth DVD movie.
  • In Iron Man: Armored Adventures, most of the students are only there as living props seen walking around the main cast at school.
  • The usual ensemble of background ponies in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. Of course, the fandom gives them all names and backstories.
  • Most of Daria and Jane's classmates.
  • The Venture Brothers has a ridiculously small stable of civilian background characters, leading to many of them popping up in places that make no sense in context with the last time we saw them. The number of villainous background characters is similarly small, leading to a lot of familiar faces whenever a main villain throws a party or show up to an event. Publick and Hammer spend much of the commentaries bemoaning this.


Real Life[edit | hide]