Character actor

A character actor is a supporting actor who plays unusual, interesting, or eccentric characters.[2][3][4][5] The term, often contrasted with that of leading actor, is somewhat abstract and open to interpretation.[6] In a literal sense, all actors can be considered character actors since they all play "characters",[7] but in the usual sense it is an actor who plays a distinctive and important supporting role.[1][8]

Actor Claude Rains (right) was sometimes a leading actor, sometimes a character actor, often cast as a sophisticated, sometimes "morally ambiguous" man.[1]

A character actor may play characters who are very different from the actor's off-screen real-life personality, while in another sense a character actor may be one who specializes in minor roles. In either case, character-actor roles are more substantial than bit parts or non-speaking extras.

The term is used primarily to describe television and film actors, as opposed to those in the theater.[9] An early use of the term was in the 1883 edition of The Stage, which defined a character actor as "one who portrays individualities and eccentricities".[10] Actors with a long career history of playing character roles may be difficult for audiences to recognize as being the same actor.[5]


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