The world of acting is a varied one, with plenty of opportunities for someone to show up on a screen somewhere. That can include major roles, bit parts, cameos, extras, or walk-ons. What is a walk-on role, you ask? It might get bundled in with extras, but it’s not exactly the same thing. We’ll go over what a walk-on role is, some examples, and how you might go about getting one.
First, let's define walk-on
Believe it or not, there are very specific definitions of all background artists in film and television. There are those who just "exist" in the background or those who have specific physical actions to complete (like walking). If you speak, that bumps you up in rank and pay — if you speak more than 5 lines, even more so.
A basic walk-on definition couldn't be more self-explanatory. But it will also help us understand how it differs from other “bit part” roles.
What is a walk-on role?
A walk-on role, also known simply as a walk-on, is an acting role that involves walking through a scene or background of a scene. As the name indicates, the role has an actor simply walk, which usually means walking in a certain direction for each and every take. Walk-on roles almost never have any lines, and the role of the walk-on itself can vary.
Walk-On Role Characteristics:
- Walking in the background of a scene
- Repeating the same walk for each take
- Doing nothing that might distract or draw attention
Walk On Role meaning
What is a Walk-On Role vs. Extra?
It’s easy to think of a walk-on role as something akin to being an extra. They are alike in many ways, as they are technically both “support” roles that ensure given scenes and locales have some life in them. Not only that, but walk-ons and extras are sometimes used interchangeably.
That said, what an extra does and what a walk-on does differ. For example, the main role of a walk-on is to literally walk in a given scene when the director yells “action.” Additionally, how much screen time you will get can range from none to just a bit.
An extra can either be less or more involved, depending on the scene. The role of an extra could consist of just being in a crowd, a background character, or sitting in a chair at a restaurant. But an extra can also be given lines which can either be spoken to a principal actor or someone else. These lines are not usually super long or intricate, but they can be enough for the extra to be noticeable in the film, as extras sometimes are.
Do you remember that moment in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002) where a woman goes, “It’s Spider-Man!” and then we cut to Spider-Man? That woman would be an extra. But everyone else, running around, not saying anything? Those would be walk-ons. You can get a look at this very scene below, which even features a classic cameo.
It’s very possible for extras and walk-ons to meet on set, since a scene can very well have people who are walking around while a more involved extra is interacting directly with a principal character. It is also very likely for a scene to consist entirely of walk-ons, in case your main actor is not interacting with anyone else in the scene.
Walk On acting roles
How to get Walk-On acting roles
So how does one get walk-on acting roles anyway? Well, it isn’t unusual for there to be an announcement somewhere asking for extras and walk-ons for a new movie. If you live in a city that gets a lot of film shoots, your chances of being a walk-on increase. Casting websites who are on the lookout for extras could also be asking for walk-ons, so keep an eye out for those.
One of the more interesting ways to get a walk-on role is through sweepstakes and competitions. More than once has a company, studio, or actor given away a prize that is getting a walk-on role in their upcoming movie or show. Those same prizes sometimes come with hanging out on set and meeting the actors.
So if you’re interested in getting into the world of walk-on roles (or other bit parts), casting agencies and the like are your best bet. If you want to someday win the chance of having a walk-on role in a movie or show, then keep an eye out for sweepstakes and competitions. Either way, there’s more than one way to get yourself a walk-on role and enter the world of film and television.
The Ultimate Casting Guide
Now that you’ve learned about what is a walk on role, learn more about the casting process. Our guide goes into crazy detail about how to find and hire a cast, which is helpful for both casting directors and those wanting to be a part of the cast.