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What do you call a "random person" in a movie? I remember there was a word, in fact, several words for it, but I forgot all of them. For example, Hollywood will pay people to act like a random passerby. What are these called?

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    In my language we call such a person a figurant, the term exists in English too, but I'm not sure whether it's common. Jun 22 '19 at 17:59
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Such a person is called an extra (or background actor).

From Wikipedia:

A background actor or extra is a performer in a film, television show, stage, musical, opera or ballet production, who appears in a nonspeaking or nonsinging (silent) capacity, usually in the background (for example, in an audience or busy street scene). War films and epic films often employ background actors in large numbers: some films have featured hundreds or even thousands of paid background actors as cast members (hence the term "cast of thousands").

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An older term, still used in theater, is "spear carrier" indicating a person who added to the impression of an army by appearing and carrying a spear as part of a group, but had no lines. "Extra" is now more common. This term is not used in film or TV, as I understand it.

If the person has any lines, the term "minor character" may be used.

Occasionally a very minor part is written for someone connected to the show, such as the producer or director, or for a well known actor not otherwise involved. This is called a "walk-on" because the person just walks on and off, saying little or nothing. Alfred Hitchcock was noted for having walk-ons in many of his productions.

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  • Which term "is not used in film or TV"? "Spear carrier", or "extra"?
    – Jasper
    Jul 28 '19 at 21:04

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