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General Trek Discussion Trek TV and cinema subjects not related to any specific series or movie.

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Old July 14 2013, 12:12 AM   #1
mlk
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Extras never having any lines

Hello,

I have noticed something, you can notice it in all the shows from tng and onward but it's VERY prominent in voyager.

Any extra on the crew of the ship never have any lines, they always nod, or get adlibbed with a "yes sir" when you can't see their mouths.

In the rare occasion an extra will have lines you know they will be crucial to the plot, they will either die or something in that vicinity, but all in all there's never an extra who will have a real line and never be seen again.

Now why is this? I have heard rumors that the actors guild make you pay giant amounts of money to anyone who has a line compared to anyone who doesn't, I've heard that the minimum pay for someone with a line is $40 000 but that sounds bit steep..

Has anyone else noticed this, or can explain more of the phenomena?
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Old July 14 2013, 12:29 AM   #2
Nerys Myk
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Re: Extras never having any lines

mlk wrote: View Post
Hello,

I have noticed something, you can notice it in all the shows from tng and onward but it's VERY prominent in voyager.

Any extra on the crew of the ship never have any lines, they always nod, or get adlibbed with a "yes sir" when you can't see their mouths.

In the rare occasion an extra will have lines you know they will be crucial to the plot, they will either die or something in that vicinity, but all in all there's never an extra who will have a real line and never be seen again.

Now why is this? I have heard rumors that the actors guild make you pay giant amounts of money to anyone who has a line compared to anyone who doesn't, I've heard that the minimum pay for someone with a line is $40 000 but that sounds bit steep..

Has anyone else noticed this, or can explain more of the phenomena?
That's why they're called extras. Once they have a line they aren't extras anymore. TOS was the same way in the 1960s. Lots of people milling about in the background, none of whom spoke. They had their own union until 1992
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Old July 14 2013, 12:31 AM   #3
Christopher
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Re: Extras never having any lines

I don't know how much the pay is, but yes, someone who speaks a scripted, audible line onscreen (as opposed to background chatter) gets paid significantly more than someone who doesn't. And TV shows generally have to cut costs every way they can. It's far from being limited to Star Trek. Monty Python even did a sketch about it once.
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Old July 14 2013, 12:38 AM   #4
Sran
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Re: Extras never having any lines

Nerys Myk wrote: View Post
That's why they're called extras. Once they have a line they aren't extras anymore.
Are they then considered a guest or recurring character? What happens if the same actor/character appears in a later episode but has no spoken lines? Does he or she receive a higher salary because they had a previous line, or is pay reduced due to the less prominent role?

--Sran
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Old July 14 2013, 12:46 AM   #5
Therin of Andor
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Re: Extras never having any lines

mlk wrote: View Post
Any extra on the crew of the ship never have any lines, they always nod, or get adlibbed with a "yes sir" when you can't see their mouths.
IIRC, an extra can be asked to say up to two lines before being paid more money. But, it they do get more lines in an episode, they stay at that higher scale when reemployed by that series. So several extras (usually long-serving stand-ins) are deliberately rewarded with sufficient lines to get their "raise". But shows have limited budgets, so bonus lines for regular extras are rare.
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Old July 14 2013, 12:47 AM   #6
Melakon
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Re: Extras never having any lines

Forty thousand for an extra sounds excessive. I don't know what the current rates are, but a single non-dialogue extra in the background could cost a production a few hundred dollars. For example's sake let's say it's $200. Giving that same extra one line of dialogue could easily cost $500 or more. Multiply that by the number of extras you need for the scene, and how many get a written line, and you can see the problem. It's apparently cheaper to have a non-speaking but seen extra, with looping done by a non-visible voice actor.

One of the show writers who occasionally shows up around here had to write a scene with a bridge blowing up, but he had to write the scene with only 1 regular castmember and 1 guest actor who could say anything. There might have been enough money for one dubbed intercom voice as well. But none of the extras in the scene could be allowed to speak due to the money.
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Old July 14 2013, 12:51 AM   #7
Nerys Myk
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Re: Extras never having any lines

Sran wrote: View Post
Nerys Myk wrote: View Post
That's why they're called extras. Once they have a line they aren't extras anymore.
Are they then considered a guest or recurring character? What happens if the same actor/character appears in a later episode but has no spoken lines? Does he or she receive a higher salary because they had a previous line, or is pay reduced due to the less prominent role?

--Sran
Well they wouldn't really be a guest star as that seems to be reserved for major parts and recurring usually means a guest star who comes back in the same role. Featured actor, maybe? Usually if you don't have a line you don't have a name. You might not really be the same character. Even if you have a line you might not be the same character, as happened on TOS more than once. I assume pay is based on contract. Could be they're paid every time they appear and the pay is based on what they do rather than a contract.
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Old July 14 2013, 01:00 AM   #8
Sran
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Re: Extras never having any lines

Nerys Myk wrote: View Post
Well they wouldn't really be a guest star as that seems to be reserved for major parts and recurring usually means a guest star who comes back in the same role. Featured actor, maybe? Usually if you don't have a line you don't have a name. You might not really be the same character. Even if you have a line you might not be the same character, as happened on TOS more than once. I assume pay is based on contract. Could be they're paid every time they appear and the pay is based on what they do rather than a contract.
I guess that's what I'm really asking, though. If you have a line, and your character has a name, are you considered a guest star if you return for a later episode even without another spoken line? Or does that depend on your character's name being used again?

Suppose I created a character named Jacob Noble of Starfleet Intelligence. He appears in a single scene and has only a single line. His name appears in the ending credits because his character is minor. Later, he appears again and is included in the credits but doesn't say or do anything of consequence. He's shown only eating a sandwich in an officers' lounge. Does he receive the same pay as before because his character is used again? What's his status as far having a place in the series?

--Sran
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Old July 14 2013, 01:09 AM   #9
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Re: Extras never having any lines

Sran wrote: View Post
Nerys Myk wrote: View Post
That's why they're called extras. Once they have a line they aren't extras anymore.
Are they then considered a guest or recurring character?
I gather the term is "day player." I.e. someone who's only needed for one day's work.


What happens if the same actor/character appears in a later episode but has no spoken lines? Does he or she receive a higher salary because they had a previous line, or is pay reduced due to the less prominent role?
I don't know about a second appearance by a day player, but sometimes prominent recurring actors (like Rosalind Chao in DS9) get high billing in the guest credits (which means they get paid well) even if they only briefly appear in the episode. But that's presumably a matter of their contracts as recurring or semiregular players.
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Old July 14 2013, 01:10 AM   #10
Nerys Myk
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Re: Extras never having any lines

I'm not sure the actor would appear in the credits if he was just eating a sandwich in the background. Seems unlikely they writers would include "Jacob Noble is seen in the background eating a sandwich" as part of script. The actor hired to be in the background wouldn't really be hired to play Jacob Noble. If he's hired from episode to episode he probably gets whatever the day rate is for background players.
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Old July 14 2013, 01:17 AM   #11
Sran
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Re: Extras never having any lines

^Thanks for the responses, guys! This is an interesting topic.

One other thing I wonder about: what about an actor who plays himself?

Suppose Buster Posey of Major League Baseball's San Francisco Giants plays himself in a holosuite program that Benjamin and Jake Sisko are using. Legally, is there a difference between Buster Posey the person and Buster Posey the character? If Posey's holographic character were to appear later in the series, would the production staff be able to recast the role if the real Posey were unavailable, or would they have to ask Posey's permission first before hiring another actor?

--Sran
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Old July 14 2013, 01:17 AM   #12
Pavonis
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Re: Extras never having any lines

Sran wrote: View Post
I guess that's what I'm really asking, though. If you have a line, and your character has a name, are you considered a guest star if you return for a later episode even without another spoken line? Or does that depend on your character's name being used again?
Sounds like something an actor's agent should deal with.
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Old July 14 2013, 01:22 AM   #13
Sran
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Re: Extras never having any lines

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Sounds like something an actor's agent should deal with.
You're probably right. I guess it would also depend on what the series' production staff has offered the actor or actress in question. Someone who has a contract to appear in a set number of episodes would be handled differently than someone who's just appearing to fill out a scene but never be used again. But I wonder what the process is if an actor's status changes because his character is well-received, and the production staff decides to bring him back for more work.

--Sran
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Old July 14 2013, 01:24 AM   #14
Nerys Myk
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Re: Extras never having any lines

Sran wrote: View Post
^Thanks for the responses, guys! This is an interesting topic.

One other thing I wonder about: what about an actor who plays himself?

Suppose Buster Posey of Major League Baseball's San Francisco Giants plays himself in a holosuite program that Benjamin and Jake Sisko are using. Legally, is there a difference between Buster Posey the person and Buster Posey the character? If Posey's holographic character were to appear later in the series, would the production staff be able to recast the role if the real Posey were unavailable, or would they have to ask Posey's permission first before hiring another actor?

--Sran
If they couldn't get Posey they would just change the character's name rather than hire someone to play Posey. Real people who are alive are legal sticky wicket and its best to avoid it.
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Old July 14 2013, 01:35 AM   #15
Mr. Laser Beam
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Re: Extras never having any lines

I thought you had to be a member of SAG to have any lines. If an extra isn't a member, that would prevent them from speaking. (Example: King Abdullah II of Jordan on Voyager.)
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