10 Secondary Characters Who Became TV Stars


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While it's usually the lead character in popular TV shows that gets all the glory, a few shows have broken the mold and launched secondary characters to stardom. It may seem strange, but because secondary characters have less dialogue and don't always have to carry the plot of a TV show, authors can be more creative in the way they use them. And this can lead to a secondary character exploding into a superstar seemingly overnight. Check out these 10 secondary characters who became TV stars.

  1. Steve Urkel on Family Matters

    When you think of '90s sitcoms, the suspender-sporting nerd Steve Urkel has to come to mind. From 1989 to 1998, Urkel, played by actor Jaleel White, starred as the Winslows' pesky teenage next-door neighbor on Family Matters. Although he was introduced as a secondary character halfway through the first season, Urkel quickly won viewers' hearts and became the star of the show.
  2. Summer Roberts on The O.C.

    Actress Rachel Bilson made her television debut as the shallow and spoiled Summer Roberts on the hit show, The O.C. Despite her bratty tendencies and secondary character status, Summer Roberts became a favorite among viewers. Bilson's success on The O.C. catapulted her career in film and paved the way for her current leading role as Zoe Hart on CW's Hart of Dixie.
  3. Fonzie on Happy Days

    Actor Henry Winkler is an accomplished actor and director in Hollywood, but he will always be remembered first for his role as the smooth talkin' greaser, Fonzie, on the sitcom Happy Days. Originally, "The Fonz" was only supposed to be a minor character, but gradually became the focus of the show after Ron Howard left the series.
  4. Angel on Buffy The Vampire Slayer

    Actor David Boreanaz made his television debut as Angel in the series Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Angel plays a cursed vampire who falls in love with Buffy, but the trials and tribulations of their forbidden relationship kept viewers coming back for more. Boreanaz's success on Buffy The Vampire Slayer helped pave the way for his own spinoff, Angel, and his leading role as Special Agent Seeley Booth on the hit show Bones.
  5. Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show

    Don Knotts' portrayal of Deputy Barney Fife on the The Andy Griffith Show is one of the best examples of a secondary character who made it big. From his signature bug eyes to his nervous clumsiness, Knotts was a comedic genius who made the show a true delight to watch.

  1. Niles Crane on Frasier

    The show Frasier was a major success, and much of its popularity can be credited to the work of David Hyde Pierce, who plays psychiatrist Niles Crane. Crane is the quick-witted younger brother of Frasier, who was originally intended to be a minor character, but became a major part of the series. Pierce brought a wacky, yet loveable quality to the show and his outstanding performance was acknowledged with several Emmy nominations and winnings.
  2. Pacey Witter on Dawson's Creek

    Before he was starring in the hit TV series Fringe, Joshua Jackson was making teenagers swoon on The WB show, Dawson's Creek. Jackson played the misunderstood bad boy Pacey Witter, who kept the show interesting with his scandalous behavior and romantic quests. Although Pacey was a secondary character to Dawson and Joey, he quickly became one of the favorites out of the group.
  3. Kramer on Seinfeld

    Seinfeld wouldn't have been the same without the bizarre and ever-so-funny character Kramer, played by comedian Michael Richards. Although Kramer was a major part of the sitcom, he often came second to Jerry, Elaine, and George's characterization. Nonetheless, Kramer became one of the most beloved characters on Seinfeld and this role helped him land other TV gigs, including appearances on Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm.
  4. Ellenor Frutt on The Practice

    Camryn Manheim's role of attorney Ellenor Frutt on The Practice helped launch her career into the stratosphere. Manheim's quirky character in the legal drama was easy for many to relate to. She was a single mother that was often emotionally vulnerable and struggled with her weight and appearance. She was also a witty and merciless foe to those who got on her bad side, and her quirky tendencies endeared her to fans of the show.
  5. Karen Walker on Will & Grace

    Megan Mullally's portrayal of the alcoholic, gold-digging socialite Karen Walker on Will & Grace became one of the most popular characters on NBC's Must See TV Thursday night lineup from 1998 to 2006. Known for her outlandish comments and high-pitched voice, Walker is considered the show's breakout character and it was this infamous role that helped her move into other comedies, such as Party Down, 30 Rock, and Parks and Recreation.
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