Recurring Character

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Janice: What a small world!
Chandler: And yet I never run into Beyoncé.

A character that does not appear in every episode, but is in enough of them to affect the storyline on a regular basis.

A Living Prop or Spear Carrier who appears repeatedly may become a Recurring Character. If there are so many of these characters any normal episode starts to look like an army, you might have Loads and Loads of Characters.

See also Ensemble Darkhorse, Breakout Character. Compare Inexplicably Identical Individuals, Regular Character, One-Shot Character, Recurring Extra.

Examples of Recurring Character include:

Anime and Manga

  • Ranma ½ has a large cast of recurring characters. The only character who shows up in every story is the titular character. His romantic foil and fiancee Akane shows up in every story except one.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist loathes to use a character just once. If you see anyone, no matter how minor an extra they may be, expect to see them again in a later episode, often in a fairly central role (and often meeting a grisly end, but that's beside the point). The Movie, of course, took this even further.
  • Yuri Zahard and Hwa Ryun from Tower of God.
  • GetBackers has a nice habit of switching up which characters appear from arc to arc, meaning that pretty much everyone besides Ban, Ginji, and their 'support staff' at the Honky Tonk is one of these. The most frequently-recurring characters are Himiko, Kazuki, Shido, and Akabane; once they were introduced, at least one of them appeared in every story line, and they all have some kind of connection to the Myth Arc.
  • Jellal from Fairy Tail crosses between this and Malignant Plot Tumor.


  • The Deaf Man, in Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels.
  • Dear God...Harry Potter has so many it's almost hard to count but the most notable are (*Takes deep breath): Seamus,Dean, Parvati, Crabbe, Goyle,Pansy, Grawp,Charlie, Luna, Professor Binns, Susan Bones, Professor Sprout, Ginny(in the first few books), Mundungus Fletcher, Tonks, Lupin, Trelawney etc.

Live Action TV

  • Mac on Magnum, P.I. is an example of this.
    • Magnum, P.I. had a lot of recurring characters—Robin Masters (The Voice), Lt. Tanaka, Icepick, Buck Green, Agatha Chumly, Keoki, etc.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has many of these characters. Some of the more notable ones are Joyce Summers, Buffy's mother; Faith, a second slayer; and Tara Maclay, Willow's girlfriend.
    • Gotta give the shout out to Jonathan and Harmony, if only for being there from the very beginning to the very end.
  • Janice on Friends.
  • Seinfeld had a few, Newman being the most common.
  • Jack Dalton and Penny Parker on MacGyver.
    • And who can forget the enigmatic, albeit evil, Murdoc?
    • Or Mac's grandfather, Harry Jackson?
    • Or the Colton brothers? ... Or perhaps everyone would rather forget them.
    • Pete was downgraded to this role in later episodes, probably due to Dana Elcar's unfortunate progressive loss of vision.
  • M*A*S*H had once-per-season appearances from psychiatrist Dr. Sidney Freedman and intelligence agent Col. Flagg.
  • Almost all villains in an Action Series, especially Superhero based series, will be recurring. The ensemble of recurring villains is sometimes called a Rogues Gallery, after the police term for a collection of known criminals' photographs used to assist in identification. The use of the term to refer to a fictional hero's cast of recurring villains was popularized by Dick Tracy and emulated by Batman among others.
  • Miles O'Brien started as a Spear Carrier on Star Trek: The Next Generation (there's still some dispute as to whether Colm Meaney's Season One Living Prop was O'Brien, or just looked like him), was bumped up to Recurring Character, and finally became a main cast member on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
    • Deep Space Nine had a massive list of recurring characters, from Garak (easily one of the best characters in the entire franchise), to the various sinister and not-so-sinister Cardassians, to the Bajoran officials and civilans around the station, to the Dominion villains, to the various Ferengi who made Quark's life Hell.
      • Being set on a space station allowed for plot-convenient run-ins with non-crew that might have seemed contrived on one of the more exploration-oriented series.
    • The Star Trek: The Next Generation finale "All Good Things" established that Meaney's character from "Encounter at Farpoint" is indeed Chief O'Brien.
  • The Fugitive had several of these, the most prominent being the One-Armed Man.
  • House tends to have one per season for an arc or two: Vogler in season one, Stacy in season two, Tritter in season three, and Lucas in season five.
    • Amber could arguably fit this role in series 4.
  • Many of the characters who seem to be most central to Lost's mythology are recurrers, such as Christian Shephard, Charles Widmore, and Richard Alpert. Thanks to the show's large cast, several prominent recurring characters (among them Ben, Desmond, Ilana, Richard, and Frank) have made the jump to regular.
  • Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis had quite a few recurring characters mulling about Stargate Command, the Atlantis base, various levels of the US Government, and other planets.
  • The OC tended to introduce a wave of new characters each season; a couple like Anna or Theresa appeared in later seasons and Ensemble Darkhorse Taylor Townsend actually managed to get a Promotion to Opening Titles. Most of them only existed for individual arcs and then vanished, often pretty abruptly, never to be mentioned again.
  • Neighbours has quite a few, including businesswoman Rosemary Daniels, Janelle's husband Kim Timmins, Mickey's mum Kirsten Gannon, Zeke's girlfriend Taylah Jordan, and Dan's first wife Sam Fitzgerald. Allan Steiger went from Spear Carrier to recurring character.
  • Home and Away seems to have more recurring characters than regulars. Some notable ones are evil teacher Angie Russell, gangster brothers Johnny and Rocco Cooper, Jack's wife Sam Holden, Drew's mum Jazz Curtis, and schoolgirl Melody Jones.
  • In City of Men, Power Girl appears as a party girl, a drug dealer's girlfriend, and a first conquest...
  • Leverage has FBI agents Taggart and McSweeten and Massachusetts State Police officer Bonanno.
    • Bonanno's status as a recurring character is justified by the fact that Leverage Inc generally take their evidence to him, so that he can sort things out nice and legally, and make sure that the villain is sent to a deep dark hole to rot.
  • On Casualty, a blonde nurse, only ever referred to as "Cath" or "Kath", who is a semi-regular character (since at least 2008), seems to be popular with the fans, yet never really gets any storylines (not even a major one). She is never credited in the end credits. More information on this can be found on this page.
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess both shared the Greek gods (most notably Ares and Aphrodite), Autolycus and Salmoneus. HTLJ primarily made use of Jason, Morrigan and Alcmene. XWP, meanwhile, Joxer, Meg and Lila.
  • NCIS has built up quite a large contingent of recurring characters over the years: Tobias Fornell, Trent Kort, Mike Franks, Jackson Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo Sr., Paula Cassidy, Hollis Mann, Abigail Borin, Samantha Ryan, the Directors, and various other agents.
  • Saturday Night Live, while not necessarily "characters", have had several Hosts that could almost be considered as such. This was highlighted during Tom Hanks' fifth time hosting the show, where his opening monologue included his being inducted in the "5-Timer's Club" with other hosts that hit that milestone, with another such club being referenced, and Steve Martin making an appearance in a club by himself.
    • And just to give an idea - in the earliest days of SNL, Steve Martin hosted the show so often that people mistakenly thought that he was a full-time cast member.


  • Albums of the metal band Zed Yago (Velvet Viper after the namechange) has the eponymous pirate girl as a recurring character.

Web Animation

  • Homestar Runner has several dozens of recurrers, such as Strong Bad lookalike Senor Cardgage, the characters' "1936" (old-timey cartoon) and "20X6" (weird-haired anime characters) counterparts, Trogdor the Burninator, Eh! Steve!, Strong Bad's computers and others. Even a poster claiming to have "Everybody! Everybody!" is actually missing several characters.

Web Comics

  • Most minor characters in the webcomic Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire tend to recur, by the cartoonist's own admission.
  • Many in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob. Princess Voluptua is usually listed as part of the main cast, even though she doesn't appear consistently. Other prominent ones include Agent Ben and Agent Jerry, Hibachi the Dragon, and alien archcriminal Fructose Riboflavin.
  • There are officially only six main characters of Order of the Stick, but there are dozens of recurring characters, too. While most of the villains qualify (Xykon, Redcloak, Nale, Thog, etc.), the good guys also have O-Chul, Hinjo, Celia, Lord Shojo, Kazumi and Daigo, plus a few recurring gag characters like the lawyers and the flumphs.
  • Known mostly for mystery filled story lines and humor, Sam and Fuzzy boasts a unique selection of Recurring characters, Three of the most notable being Skull Panda, Hazel the Thief and Mr. Sin.

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons are much beloved because of their cast of Springfield characters, from Moe the bartender to the Comic Book Guy.
  • The second-string human villains on Transformers Animated, while rarely an outright challenge, often pop up to move things along. They even had their own episode in S.U.V.
  • Jorgen von Strangle is a reccurring character in Fairly Oddparents. Although in later series he was overused and pretty much became a main character. He even had his own episode.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has built up a nice supply of these, both as good guys and bad guys—Jet, Suki, and Sokka's and Katara's father all come to mind, not to mention characters like Admiral Zhao in season one and Combustion Man in season three. Oh, and the cabbage guy.
  • Monique on Kim Possible
  • While Futurama had many recurring characters, Zapp Brannigan was by far the most prominent.
  • Katz from Courage the Cowardly Dog is the most recurring villain on the show. Le Quack comes in second.
  • Bunto, Phaze, Koto, Gates, Bug, Zilla, Cables, the En, Roboto and Ms. Appie in Rollbots.
  • Robin (Dick Grayson) in Batman: The Animated Series was introduced as a college-age student, allowing the writers to only use him when they needed/wanted to. They did the same with Batgirl, but slowly began using them more in the second and third seasons (even putting Robin in the second season title).
  • A good amount of the Recess cast, most notably Randall, Cornchip Girl, Menlo, the Ashleys, Miss Grotke, the kindergartners, Lawson, and many more...