Most everyone trying to break into showbiz has a dream of being "discovered." Believe it or not, it can actually happen. Whether its a fresh-faced extra getting noticed on set and upgraded to a series regular, or an established actor getting mainstream recognition for an expanded role, TV history is filled with examples of actors who went from being an extra to being extra special.
"Breaking Bad": Mike Erhmantraut (played by Jonathan Banks)Originally cast in a very minor role in the Season 2 finale, Mike Erhmantraut became a regular cast member in Season 3. He played a pivotal role in Season 4 and was one of the main characters in the first part of Season 5. From one-off character to major player, Mike was the character that people loved to watch.
With Mike out of the picture, the Todd character also seems to be ascending from background character to a pivotal role. Todd was a random worker at the pest control company, but then was quickly upgraded to train heist assistant, and then to Walt's new lab assistant.
"Friends": Gunther (played by James Michael Tyler)Sometimes, your big break comes because of sheer luck. James Michael Tyler was hired as an extra to appear in the background at Central Perk. However, the real reason he got a named role as Gunther in Season 2 was simple: He was the only extra who knew how to work the coffee machine on the Central Perk set. His role expanded in Season 3 when his character fell in love with Rachel, and his crush on her was a running gag for the rest of the series.
"Deadwood": Richardson (played by Ralph Richeson)Hired as a random extra and eventually given a minor role as Farnum's cook, Ralph Richeson's role on the show was expanded when the writers gave him a couple of lines. He did so well that he became a regular, albeit supporting, character on the show. He appeared in 20 of the 36 episodes in the show's run.
"Family Matters": Harriette Winslow (played by JoMarie Payton)Can you imagine showing up to work as an extra on a TV show and then being offered your very own series? That's just what happened to JoMarie Payton! She originally had a very minor role as an elevator operator on "Perfect Strangers." Her character got developed over the course of many episodes, and eventually she got her own spinoff series, "Family Matters."
- Arts & Entertainment
- Colm Meaney