What do you call a character in a movie or play without anyone acting the part, but who other actors talk about? I can't think of any popular movies with such characters right now, but there's a certain podcast where the main characters regularly talk about what their children said or did, and the said children never actually appear in the play.

Does a word even exist for this?

First time asking here - sorry if this is inappropriate.


1 Answer 1


I did not find numerous sources online, and what I did find is not very exciting. But it does do the job.

Wikipedia offers the term unseen character (for theatre, comics, film, or television) and the term silent character (for radio and literature).

The same Wikipedia article includes a reference to the term invisible character, as used by F.C. Green in "Some Marginal Notes on Eighteenth-Century French Comedy" (1961).

In all these cases, these terms refer to characters who never appear or speak, but whose existence is necessary for the advancement of the plot.

  • 1
    Thanks! This sounds perfect. There are even some examples given. I was searching along the lines of "fictitious character" or "imaginary character" but that made no sense since they are all fictitious, even those with actors, and the silent characters were real in the minds of the other characters.
    – Indivara
    Jun 5, 2020 at 0:57

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