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This is a character who is supposed to be a main character, but for whatever reason does not get developed nearly as much as his counterparts. He's on all the advertisements, he gets a witty one-liner in the trailer, but when the release date comes, he almost fades into the background. Basically, he was Demoted to Extra before the story even came out.

This character is introduced at some pivotal point (usually the beginning) and then is generally ignored for the rest of the story. Maybe he's seen for all of five minutes in a three-hour movie, or maybe he just lurks in the background while his friends do all the important stuff. Whatever the case, to qualify for this trope, a character must have been introduced in a way that implied he was going to be important, but is left out of most of the story.

If the wasted character is in a series, the author may realize his mistake and give him some development in later episodes/books/etc. Alternatively, he can just put him on a bus or kill him off for real to avoid having to deal with another character.

May be a victim of the Spotlight-Stealing Squad, and expect him to become an Ensemble Darkhorse. Another possibility is that the Advertised Extra is a Decoy Protagonist.

Compare The Artifact, who starts out prominent and then fades. An Advertised Extra is advertised as prominent, but never actually achieves that status. Also compare Fake Guest Star, where an actor is credited as a guest star but appears to be part of the main cast.

Examples of Advertised Extra include:

Anime and Manga

  • Pokémon has this problem, with the main characters often obtaining monsters that end up receiving less screen time than the guest stars.
  • Kouchuu from Koihime Musou is treated as a main character in both promotional art and anime opening, but in the first season she only appears for one episode before joining the Final Battle (Everyone else gets at least 4-5 eps of hanging with The Heroine) and for the next seasons she has to Stay in the Kitchen while everyone else has adventures (Except Bachou on the second season, and even her got A Day in the Limelight to compensate).
  • Descartes Shaman in Gundam00 A Wakening Of The Trailblazer, who appeared on plenty of promotional material but ends up being a rather minor character.
  • Hidan no Aria gives us Reki, who is put on par with Aria, Shirayuki and Riko in promotional artwork but ended getting a few tiny (Albeit important) appearances while all the others got An Arc and/or plenty of screentime. Subverted in that she does end up getting two novels for her... and then Double Subverted as they won't be adapted.
  • Tigerstar in the Warrior Cats manga Tigerstar and Sasha, is this for the second and third books. In the first book, he was the love interest. However, in the second book (on which he is the only one on the cover), he shows up, asks the hero a question, and is never seen again! In book three, he only appears in dream sequences. It's like the writers didn't know what to do with him, so they hid him in a cupboard and hoped no one would find him.
  • Subverted by Yuina in Hanasaku Iroha, as she was treated as part of the main cast but barely appeared... until episode 13-14, which were focused on her, and afterwards she started hanging around the main girls all the time.
  • Cammy in Street Fighter II the Animated Movie appears in every piece of promotional material and tie-in for the Japanese release, to the point that it almost seems as if she's one of the main characters (along with Ryu, Ken and Chun-Li), despite having a screentime of less than five minutes. Cammy's only significant scene involves her assassinating a British politician while under M. Bison's brainwashing.


  • Icarus in Pieter Bruegel the Elder's Landscape with the Fall of Icarus is almost hidden. You can only see his leg sticking out of the water in the bottom right corner of the image. None of the other people in the painting seem to notice Icarus falling into the water; in fact, the shepherd seems to be actively focused on something else.


  • Jeanette from Alvinandthe Chipmunks: The Squeakquel: The boys and her sisters all get ample screen time, whereas Jeanette seems to fall by the wayside. Middle-aged fans know her from the 1980s cartoon as a genius, but this never really comes out. She's never seen without her sisters, and even then she gets about five minutes of screentime that isn't singing. Fortunately, she gets significantly more screen time in the third movie.
  • A somewhat debatable example with Venom in Spider-Man 3. Eddie Brock was around for most of the movie, but Venom is seen for all of 15 minutes. However, he did a lot in 15 minutes, including finally doing what no other villain in the movies could do; kill one of Peter's loved ones, Harry Osborn.
  • Most of the criticisms toward Inglourious Basterds comes from a feeling that the Basterds are this trope.
    • Though this is more of a misunderstood title. Inglorious means unknown, or disgraceful bastards being plural. i.e. The Nazi, The girl, The black guy, AND Brad Pitt's crew are all inglorious bastards.
      • The European posters made this a bit clearer. Many of them consisted of a shot of one of the cast members with tagline *actor's name* is a basterds. The marketing strategy was not done in the US because besides Brad Pitt the cast was relatively unknown.
  • In X Men the Last Stand, Angel was THE new mutant that the marketing focused on. He appears at the beginning and then wanders into the background for the rest of the movie. His only part in the climatic battle at the end is saving his father. That's it. But promotional went so far as to show him in an X-Men uniform.
    • It seems they just wanted the series to have all 5 original X-Men in it, but they couldn't come up with a real reason to include him.
    • Gambit kinda qualifies for X Men Origins Wolverine. Like Venom, he has limited screentime, but manages to do a few things (sets/stops a fight between Logan and Sabretooth, takes Logan to the enemy base, saves Logan at a Big Damn Heroes moment).
    • Cyclops counts in the second and third movies, where his screentime is greatly reduced due to James Marsden's other committments.
  • One of the first things revealed in the lead-up to Turtles Forever was that the movie would feature Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003 versions of movie villains Tokka and Rahzar. The poster for the movie makes them one of its most notable elements, even moreso than several prominent characters. In the actual movie, they appear for less than a minute, unnamed, as part of a larger group of mooks.
  • Ice Age took this to an extreme by having the advertisements center around the squirrel, then releasing a movie where the squirrel was only occasionally seen outside of the scene from the advertisement. The three main characters weren't even in some of the ads.
  • Sao Feng from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Like Angel, advertised as a great new addition to the cast. When it came out, roughly 30 minutes of screentime (in a movie that's almost 3 hours long!) and an anticlimatic death one hour in.
  • Droopy was on the cover of and in many of the advertisements for Tom and Jerry: The Movie, even though he only gets a five second cameo.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis in The Expendables. The two actors were featured on nearly every advertisement for the film but appear in only one scene. The trailers for the sequel suggest that Arnie and Bruce are getting more screen time of the action variety, though they're still not the lead characters from all available information as of the start of 2012.
  • Happened with the 2009 DVD release of Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird—the cover features Elmo amongst the pictured characters, but the film was made in 1985, before he became a prominent member of the show's cast. In the film he only has a few seconds of screen time at the beginning and end, with only one line of dialogue (part of the song at the end).
  • Lizzy from Meet the Robinsons is featured prominantly on the poster (which aside from her only includes the main characters), despite the fact that she is in noway essential to the plot, has maybe one full minute of screen time, and anywhere from two to five lines.
  • Most advertisements and promotional images for the Dragonball Z film Lord Slug featured one of his henchmen Zeeun, in the film itself he only shows up for a few minutes and is killed by Slug when he accidentally insults his age before he even has a chance to fight.
  • The film Valentine's Day has a huge cast made up numerous A-listers. The movie was advertised one of two ways, the first was by advertising all of the stars, regardless of how big their role was or by saying it "starred" Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner despite them having roughly two scenes and their characters were clearly meant to be looked down upon. Even worse was that all the reviews focused almost entirely on Swift, judging her performance despite her basically being a cameo.
    • The Spritual Successor, New Years Eve managed to avoid this by only advertising the stars that had major parts (in fact there are several stars who don't appear in the commercials).
  • Steven Seagal received top billing on Executive Decision despite his character dying before the cast even got on the plane. This was perhaps purposefully invoked as the movie's initial twist was that it had a Decoy Protagonist.
  • In a way Beetlejuice kind of fits this trope, despite being the title character (sort of), and the main focus of all advertisements and promotional material is on screen no more than 17 minutes of the film's 92 minute run time. The film might as well have been called The Maitlands if it hadn't been for the fact that Beetlejuice stole the movie. Chances are the only scenes you remember are the scenes with him and the "Banana Boat Song" scene.
  • Mr. T in D.C. Cab. The advertisers were hoping to cash in on his popularity from Rocky III, despite the fact that his character, aside from one memorable monologue in front of the Lincoln Memorial, has about as much screen time as most of the non-essential characters of the company (which, by the way, included Bill Maher and Gary Busey).
  • Early Halloween: Resurrection trailers heavily featured Jamie Lee Curtis and made it seem as though she played a big part in the movie. She ended up appearing in one scene at the beginning... before being killed off. She is also positioned at the forefront of the movie poster.
    • It could be argued that she is actually a Decoy Protagonist since viewers obviously weren't supposed to see her death coming.
  • Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back - heavily promoted, had his own action figure before the movie even came out, has exactly four lines.
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon promoted Shockwave as the new Big Bad quite non-subtly. Since Trailers Always Lie, it turned out a Red Herring to hide a shocking Plot Twist and Shockwave only had two lines in the whole movie and pretty little screentime.
  • The marketing from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader placed a lot of emphasis on the White Witch, to the point of making her appear as the primary villain of the film. In fact, the character only appears sporadically, and only as an illusion- the real Witch never shows up at all.
  • The cover for Birdemic proclaims "Hollywood legend Tippi Hedren of Hitchcock's The Birds co-stars." She only appears in one scene. In archive footage on a TV.
  • Roux (Johnny Depp) in Chocolat was advertised on all the posters, but actually doesn't appear until an hour into the movie and only has a minor role compared to the less advertised characters.
  • Jack Black in Tropic Thunder is suppose to be one of three leads. In reality, his character is more of a Satellite Character. It doesn't help that Tom Cruise and Robert Downey Jr. stole the show.
  • The title character in Queen of the Damned does not appear until an hour into the movie (unless her statue form counts). The film draws elements not only from its own source novel, but also from The Vampire Lestat, and he is the central character along with love interest Jesse Reeves (whose actress, Marguerite Moreau, never even gets a mention). There's also the fact that Akasha's actress, R&B singer Aaliyah, died six months prior to the film's release, and the movie was heavily promoted as her last "starring" role.
  • Take Up to Eleven with Idlewild. In the trailer, you see a shot of comedian Bruce Bruce as a bodyguard leaving a room. Once you see the film, you realize that the trailer showed his entire role.
  • Even though you probably didn't get a good look at his face in the split second it's on the screen(Josh Holloway, aka Sawyer, by the way), you probably associate the trailers for Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol with a man jumping off a rooftop, spinning around and firing several shots in freefall. This is taken from a scene fairly early on in the movie, and while the character is pretty plot important and does survive the fall, he doesn't live for long afterwards.
  • A really weird backwards (though possibly deliberate) version happened with Angel Heart. For anyone who hasn't seen the movie, it really does look like Robert De Niro's character is such. He's always billed as a "special appearance" even though the posters and DVD cover prominently shows him in front of the leads, making it appear that the film is just overbilling an actor who in actuality only has one scene. In the actual movie, while he doesn't have as much screentime as the lead, De Niro does make multiple appearances and his character turns out to be Satan himself, suddenly making the cover in which he is prominently displayed make a disturbing ammount of sense.
  • Men in Black III has Lily, the Fan Service with a Smile girlfriend of villain Boris played by Nicole Scherzinger. She only appears to free Boris in the opening sequence and is unceremoniously dumped by him as he lets her be sucked into vacuum.

Live Action Television

  • Paul Schrier(Bulk) and Jack Banning(Professor Phenomenus) receive top billing in Power Rangers Lost Galaxy even though they appeared in a handfull of episodes.
    • This might be because of the lack of Skull they couldn't think of much for Bulk to do without him so he and Phenomenus were tossed aside.
  • Characters on Lost are invariably either some of the most dynamic and developed characters on TV, or completely wasted. Daniel Faraday, an important character in season 4, disappears for most of season 5, and dies immediately upon re-appearing. Caesar was hinted as being mysteriously integral to the plot before Season 5 but he dies less then halfway through the season. Then he gets replaced by the equally mysterious "Bram" in a sense, who dies in the first episode of Season 6.
  • From the Star Trek franchise:
    • Mayweather on Enterprise.
    • Harry Kim on Voyager applies as well, with the exception of a few episodes that were specifically about him, he usually gets the obligatory one line.
    • Jake Sisko in Star Trek Deep Space Nine. Despite being credited as a main character for the show's entire run, the Son of the Emissary appeared in less than half of the show's episodes. Not as strong a case as Mayweather and Kim, as Jake was a well-developed character who saw a lot of development during the series.
      • Jake was also never intended to be a full cast member either: his purpose, when the show was created, was to provide fodder for Sisko, as the original idea for the show was "a father tries to raise his son on the frontier."
  • After not being included in the first two seasons of the show, the appearance of Tuck in the BBC's Robin Hood was loudly heralded amongst the advertisers for season three, and interviews with the actor David Harewood mentioned a "dark back-story" for the character. Tuck gets one character-centric episode (which is just pointless filler), and is then basically a tag-along member of the gang from then on.
  • From Glee:
    • Tina much of the time; is usually lucky to get two lines an episode, and in the whole first season she had exactly one song to herself.
    • There is also Terri, Jessalyn Gilsig her actress is credited as a regular for the first two seasons but pretty much stops appearing regularly after the first 13 episodes only having a few scattered appearances afterwards. In season 2 she only appeared in roughly 6 episodes.
  • In the late 80s and early 90s, a series of Sesame Street videos based on the Israeli co-production Rechov Sumsum called Shalom Sesame, focusing on being a travelogue for Israel. Many of the video boxes for the individual shows released in the 90s show American Sesame Muppets front and center despite the fact that the Muppet on the box only appears in one partially dubbed segment in the show. An example is the Chanukah episode, the video box shows The Count and Elmo - they only appear near the very end during a dubbed "Do De Rubber Duck," where Elmo doesn't even have a line
  • Sheena Easton, who plays Queen Anne, has spot in the opening credits of Young Blades despite appearing for about a minute each in two of the first five episodes—and one of those is just to explain that she's gone on vacation and a Suspiciously Similar Substitute will take her place. She gets a larger role in the next few episodes, but still doesn't appear at all in 6 out of 13 of them.
  • Hitler, in the Doctor Who episode "Let's Kill Hitler." Despite being the title character and featured in the trailers, he has about five minutes of screen time before he is punched out by Rory and stuffed in the cupboard, where he is forgotten for the rest of the episode.
  • In Babylon 5, Robert Rusler, who appears as Warren Keffer in 6 out of 22 episodes in Season 2 but is in the main credits for the entire season. A case of Executive Meddling, since the network wanted J. Michael Straczynski to introduce a "hotshot Top Gun kind of pilot."
  • Misha Collins is credited as a main cast member for all the season five and six episodes of Supernatural he appears in, including the ones where, in his own words, he "turns up, gives a piece of sage advice and disappears."
  • Grey Damon as Hastings Ruckle in Season 5 of Friday Night Lights. Although billed as a main cast member, he gets fewer scenes than, for example, Dallas Tinker, who is listed as a guest star.
  • Soap: all cast members are credited only in episodes where they actually appear. But since (a) the cast list in the closing credits is done alphabetically, (b) Jimmy Baio as Billy Tate rarely has anything to do even in episodes where he appears, and (c) Credits Pushback, he's sometimes the only cast member credited even if all he did was stand around in a family crowd scene or something. Even when the credits aren't truncated he's still always listed first in episodes he appears in.
  • Smallville. Johnathan Schneider's character was killed off 12 episodes in the 5th season and only appeared in two episodes afterwards in that season but was continued to be credited as a main cast member for the entire season. Another example is Erica Durance who played Lois Lane. In the first season she appeared in she was only ever billed as a Special Guest Star for the 13 episodes she appeared in. When she got a Promotion to Opening Titles the following season she still only appeared in 13 of the 22 episodes, and it wasn't until around the penultimate season that she finally appeared in the majority of a season.
  • Due to having Loads and Loads of Characters, this is common on Degrassi the Next Generation; in a given season, some characters will have lengthy story lines, while other become almost completely Out of Focus, sometimes appearing in just a few episodes. Characters this has happened to include Toby, who, though prominent in the first few seasons, quickly became The Artifact as the cast expanded, and Leia, who had two centric B-plots after she was introduced, then promptly disappeared.
  • Police Squad! had this as a Credits Gag. The opening prominently credits "Rex Hamilton as Abraham Lincoln!" who never appears in the show itself.
    • And then the "Special Guest Star" who is killed in the credits and never appears in the show or is even part of the plot.
  • In the early seasons of Frasier, Dan Butler, who played Bulldog Briscoe. The character was very cut off from the "real" main cast of Frasier, Niles, Daphne, Roz and Martin, was a fairly two-dimensional coworker at KACL who only ever appeared as comic relief or a foil for Frasier or Roz, and had neither any specific importance to the show that would justify billing him along with the main cast, nor any deep connection to the rest of the billed characters. He was eventually dropped from the opening titles, appearing as a guest star in the end credits in the episodes he appeared instead. It's pretty jarring to see the character squeezed into promotional images and covers along with the five "real" leads, when Eddie the dog was more of a main character than he was.
  • In Merlin Katie McGrath who plays Morgana has been in the main credits since day one, but numerous episodes (especially early on) feature Morgana doing very little beyond looking beautiful in the background. Sometimes this even extends to periods of the show when her character is playing a vitally important role (such as early Series 4) but still often results in very limited screentime.
  • In the fifth season of 24, Carlos Bernard was promoted back to the main cast as Tony Almedia after spending the previous season as a recurring character and appeared heavily in promotional materials. He then spent most of it off screen in a coma and then halfway was seemingly killed off for the remainder of the season. He was in a quarter of that season's episodes in total, compared to the rest of the cast who all appeared in at least half of the season if not more. In season 6 Regina King joined the main cast as Sandra Palmer, even getting the And Starring credit for that year, yet she was only in a handful of episodes. In fact, she actually is notable for having the least amount of appearances total out of every actor or actress to ever be a main cast member on the show.


  • Trillian in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series doesn't have much character development, supposedly because the actress' performance didn't give Douglas Adams much to work with, and because her purpose was to have someone who Arthur could talk to about Earth, but Ford served that purpose just as well. Her character is much more developed in the later books (and in the movie).

Video Games

  • Phillipe Loren in Saints Row the Third was advertised as the game's Big Bad He's killed at the end of the first act
  • Maria from GTA III
  • Vaan in Final Fantasy XII, famously.
    • Toyed with a lot. Once particularly lampshading scene happens when Ashelia and Balthier start talking about their childhood and their rebellion against The Empire, while the orphaned-by-the-Empire-and-made-to-live-in-poverty-stealing-Imperials'-purses Vaan runs off to go play on the beach.
    • This largely comes from a rocky Development history regarding who should be the lead of XII. Originally, it was Ashe, then Basch to satisfy people who wanted a male fighter-type, then Balthier to keep with SE's tradition of highly Bishounen heroes, and when he turned out to be too cool and competent to be the hero or something, Vaan was added later who was originally a supporting party member, was made the protagonist in an unholy union of marketing and the process of elimination. Given his involvement in the story is basically an Excuse Plot, the developers might be intentionally invoking the trope.
    • In Vaan's own words at one point in the story, he admits that he's "just along for the ride."
  • In Dissidia: Final Fantasy, Shantotto and Gabranth were secret characters with no real effect on the storyline, only showing up in flashbacks. In the prequel, they're playable from the beginning, appear on the cover and are shown standing side-by-side with the other characters in the opening FMV...but they still have no role in the main story.
    • You still have to unlock them, though unlike the first time they're insanely inexpensive and buy-able from the start.
  • Your avatar in White Knight Chronicles. Despite the trailers and the back of the box, Leonard is the main character of the game, and the character that you put all the effort into creating will be quickly relegated to standing in the background of cutscenes, nodding dumbly along with whatever Leo is saying, with no one bothering to even interact with him or her most of the time—if your avatar even appears in the cutscene to begin with. You're not even required to have yourself in the party, whereas the game forces Leo in at various story points.
  • The only unlockable characters in Super Smash Bros Brawl not getting the Secret Character treatment are Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake, since they're the only two guest fighters in the game and as such they're openly featured on the Super Smash Bros DOJO website, their own announcement videos (which in the game are available from the start) and on the back of the cover. This is not a coincidence: Nintendo has actually been Genre Savvy enough to invoke a certain trope.
    • Marth and Ness also appear in the opening movie, despite also being secret charcters. Also in Melee, Ganondorf's arm, Pichu and Jigglypuff are shown in the opening, although the latter two are in a crowd shot featuring nearly half of the other Pokemon from the first two generations, so even if Jigglypuff steals the screen, at least Pichu's a little innocuous to someone not looking for it.
    • In the original, Luigi appears as a 1 Player mode enemy as well as in the How To Play video, so being able to unlock him was hardly a surprise.
    • Played straight with Sonic in the Subspace Emissary, where he only shows up right before the final boss fight. Although he does manage to weaken Tabuu's One-Hit Kill attack in the process.
  • Tentomon appears on the PAL box of Digimon World, but he is only a common enemy in game. This may be because he's a main character in the cartoon and some of his evolutions are available.
  • Valbar in the original Fire Emblem Gaiden. He appears on the cover with heroes Alm and Celica, but is actually just a member of the latter's party with very little dialogue. Echoes corrects this by removing him from the cover, as well as fleshing out his character along with everyone else's.
  • Kronya from Fire Emblem: Three Houses plays with this. Her impact is lasting, but in the grand scheme of things she comes off as a Lady Not-Appearing-In-This-Game as she's killed off in the same chapter where she reveals her true self and is mostly forgotten compared to the game's other antagonists. The trailer played her up as a major character, though, and the Heroes spinoff game featured her as the first and only Grand Hero Battle for the Three Houses characters.

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons is rife with this:
    • The deal they made out of U2 appearing on the 200th episode and they only had a scene and a bit. Before that was "Lisa's First Word", the episode "starring" Elizabeth Taylor... wherein she spoke one word! (But it was Maggie's first word so it was pretty important.)
      • This was taken to obscene levels. Taylor won an Emmy for that one word and the episode was played after her death
    • Another that was heavily advertised was Alyson Hannigan, her character has very limited screen time and only has three lines of dialogue.
    • Sky's (and FOX's) promotion of "Elementary School Musical" was pretty bad too, emphasising the guest voices of Glee regulars Lea Michele, Amber Riley and Cory Monteith while completely ignoring the presence of Flight of the Conchords (even though Messrs. Clement and McKenzie's characters had far more screen time and were essential to the plot, not to mention writing original songs for the episode!).
  • Both Ironhide and Arcee were actually given this treatment in the Japanese opening for Transformers Animated. Ironically, according to the AllSpark Almanac, Ironhide was intended to become a main character in the fourth season before the show was cancelled at three.
  • Bunsen and Beaker have their own line in the Expository Theme Tune of Muppet Babies, but they only make occasional appearances on the show itself.
  • Many Finding Nemo ads show minor characters Bruce and Crush, who have very small roles in the movie.
  • Futurama spoofs this trope: in the opening credits for the first film, "Bender's Big Score", the new character Zylex is announced with great fanfare... only to appear just for a couple of seconds, while begging for food!
  • If you've never seen Chicken Little, you'd think Morkubine Porcupine was a major character. He featured heavily in TV spots and on the website, and even appears on the DVD cover (in place of Abby Mallard, who was a main character) yet has literally three lines of dialogue in the whole film ("Yo", "no", "whoa").
  • From Avengers Earths Mightiest Heroes:
    • The Mad Thinker narrates the opening of this trailer, but only appears in episodes 5 and 6. The writers even relegated his demise into one of the short stories included in the tie-in comics.
    • Black Widow appears on the cover of the Australian Blu-Ray compiling the first season. In actuality, only six of those episodes feature her, though her subplot strongly ties into the main events.