List of breakout characters

List of breakout characters

A breakout character is a fictional character in different episodes, books or other media (TV, comics, literature, games, etc.) that evolves from a minor role to a major role, sometimes becoming the main character of the show. In television programs, movies and other episodic media, a character that becomes the most popular, talked about, and imitated is a breakout character.cite web|url=|work=English Learner Movie Guides|title=Man on the Moon|date=2000|author=Raymond Weschler] Most often a breakout character in a series captures audience's imagination and popularizes it, sometimes inadvertently. Breakout characters are known to come from intended single appearances.

In some instances, particularly television, when characters have broken out from minor roles to become the center of the action, viewers have felt they received too much focus and were detrimental to the show, [ Break-out characters] discussion thread at Sitcoms Online, started May 10, 2006; retrieved July 28, 2006.] sometimes leading it to jump the shark.



* Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli (played by Henry Winkler) in the American sitcom "Happy Days" [cite web|author=Ron Miller|url=|title=My Happy Days with "Happy Days": They really were a great bunch of happy people|publisher=TheColumnists] . The character of Fonzie started out as a fringe character but quickly evolved into the focal point of the series. His character became best friend to the main character, Richie Cunningham, displacing the character originally intended for that relationship. Winkler's billing in the credits rose all the way to second (he refused to go before Ron Howard, the star) and then first after Howard left the show to pursue directing. At one point, network executives even hoped to call the show "Fonzie's Happy Days". [cite web|url=|title=HappyDays|author=missingauthor|work=TV Land]
* Barney Fife (played by Don Knotts) in "The Andy Griffith Show". [cite web|url=|title=An Ode to Barney|publisher=News and Record|author=Allen Johnson|date=2006-02-27]
*Flippy (voiced by Aubrey Ankrum and Kenn Navarro) in "Happy Tree Friends". According to writer Warren Graff, Flippy almost didn't make the cut because he was the only character who purposely killed other characters but they decided he was really funnycite news|url= Happy Tree Friends' Writers' Questions and Answers Topic - Page 113 - Happy Tree Friends |title=The HTF writers Q&A | |date=2007-09-31 |last=solis |name=alfredo |accessdate=2007-09-31] . Despite his few appearances on the show Flippy has become the most popular character on the show among fanscite news|url= |title=The HTF Favorite Character Poll | |date=2007-09-31 |last=solis |name=alfredo |accessdate=2007-09-31] . According to the creators they didn't expect Flippy to be the show's breakout character.
* Alex Keaton (played by Michael J. Fox) in "Family Ties". [ cite news | last = Weiman | name=jamie| title = 'All You Need Is One' |publisher = MacLeans Canada |date = 2007-10-05 | url =]
*Gabriel "Sylar" Gray (played by Zachary Quinto) in "Heroes". Gray was originally supposed to be a minor villain for the first season, until increased popularity made writer Tim Kring decide to move Quinto to the main cast for Season 2.cite news |title="Heroes': Sylar Here To Stay!" ||date=2007-06-13|accessdate=2007-08-28
*J. J. Evans (played by Jimmie Walker) in "Good Times". [Moore, Frazier; September 15, 2005; [ Hurricane made TV see the underclass] ; Associated Press; retrieved at July 28, 2006.] With his catch phrase "Dy-no-mite!", J.J. came to dominate the series as audiences couldn't get enough of him. This led to friction with stars Esther Rolle and John Amos, who played his parents, not so much because they resented being upstaged but because they felt he was becoming too stereotypical and not a good role model for African American youth"Bad Times on the "Good Times" Set", "Ebony", September 1975] Mitchell, John L.; April 14, 2006; [,1,549871.story?coll=la-headlines-frontpage Plotting His Next Big Break] ; "Los Angeles Times"; retrieved July 26, 2006.] . Ultimately, they forced a showdown with the producers which led to some changes in J.J.'s character, Amos's character being killed off and later Rolle's temporary departure from the show (she returned at the beginning of the show's final season), after which J.J. became even more the focus of the show.
*The Janitor (played by Neil Flynn) in "Scrubs" started out as a cameo role in the show's pilot episode. He became so popular he continued to be in the rest of season one and was placed in the main cast from season two on.
*J.R. Ewing (played by Larry Hagman) in "Dallas". Originally intended simply as a nemesis for Pam and Bobby Ewing, his villainy made him so popular that by the end of the show's third season the story arc around his attempted murder put the show high atop the ratings. [ What Larry Hagman Brought to the Character, J.R. Ewing!] discussion thread at soapchat; started December 22, 2002; retrieved July 28, 2006. This discussion thread refers to J.R. as the show's breakout character.]
*Spike (played by James Marsters) evolved from villain to comic relief to hero in the TV series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", he becomes the lover of the show's titular character, Buffy Summers, and comes to parallel Angel in terms of motivation. He became one of the show's primary focuses in its final season, and then moved to its spin-off "Angel". He appeared on the Angel season 5 DVD covers alongside its titular character.August 3, 2005; [ Movie File: Jon Heder, Ryan Reynolds, Alyson Hannigan, Mike Judge & More] ; "MTV" Movie News; text refers to Spike as a breakout character.]
* Steve Urkel (played by Jaleel White) in "Family Matters". Originally just a one-time only character, he was so popular he eventually became a regular and practically synonymous with the series. [cite|web|url=|title=The TV Squad Interview: Fred Goss and Nick Holly of Sons & Daughters|date=2006-05-14|author=Joel Keller|publisher=TV Squad. Fred Goss and Nick Holly, creators of "Sons & Daughters", describe their hopes that that show's Carrie will be "our breakout character ... our Urkel"] [cite|web|url=|title=Hangin' with Mr. Cooper |date=|author=missingauthor|publisher=MSN Movies This MSN review of the DVD set of second-season episodes of "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper" refers to "Marquise Wilson, a new regular who was evidently intended to be the series 'breakout' character, a la Urkel on Family Matters".]
* Stewie Griffin, (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) in "Family Guy". Creator Seth MacFarlane reports being very surprised that Stewie turned out to be the show's breakout character, and that when this turned out to be the case he had to work out stories to do with the character. [cite web|url=|title=Seth MacFarlane|date=2005-01-26|author= Nathan Rabin|work=The A.V. Club]
*Todd Manning (originally Roger Howarth, currently Trevor St. John) on "One Life to Live". The character, known for initiating the gang rape of Marty Saybrooke, was originally supposed to be short-lived, but once Howarth was cited as having drawn in notable positive viewer reaction, the character was slated to become a main focus.cite book | author = Gail. Dines, JeanMcMahon Humez | title = Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Text-reader | id = ISBN 076192261X | publisher = Sage Publications Inc | year = 2003 ] cite web | title=About the Actors: Roger Howarth | | accessdate=2007-08-26 | url=] The character's popularity continued even after St. John assumed the role in 2003.cite news |title="Reflections by Jill" - A Weekly Commentary on One Life to Live ||date=2003-09-15|accessdate=2007-08-28
*Will Robinson, Dr. (Zachary) Smith, The Robot (Billy Mumy, Jonathan Harris, Dick Tufeld/Bob May) in "Lost In Space". The show, as its early episodes suggest, was originally supposed to be a serious action/adventure series showcasing Guy Williams. Fan response completely changed the nature of the show and the set of focal characters. [cite web|url=|work=Official Series Site|title=The History of Lost In Space, Part I|author=Mark Phillips]
*Logan Echolls (played by Jason Dohring) on "Veronica Mars". Originally conceived as a recurring antagonist for the main character, the character gained a fan following and by the end of season one was a love interest of Veronica's. By the beginning of season three, Dohring was upped to series lead alongside Kristen Bell in the credits.
*Monroe Ficus, (played by Jim J. Bullock) on Too Close for Comfort (TV series). Originally intended for one episode in the first season, his interaction with Ted Knight as Henry Rush became a core part of the series.
*Kryten, (originally David Ross, then Robert Llewellyn) appeared in the first episode of season two of Red Dwarf (TV Series), but was brought back due to his popularity in season three, where he was played by Robert Llewellyn, until the show stopped.
*Spock (Leonard Nimoy) on "Star Trek" Spock was the only character to be carried over from the original pilot to the second. Series creator Gene Roddenberry was pressured by NBC to drop the character from the second pilot, and later to keep the character in the background. The character quickly became popular and NBC soon reversed its stance and encouraged more focus on the character. cite book | author = Dillard, J.M. | title = Star Trek: "Where No One Has Gone Before": A History in Pictures| isbn=0671511491 | publisher = Pocket Books | year = 1994 ]
*Elim Garak (Andrew Robinson) on "". Garak was originally intended to appear for only one episode, but quickly became an important recurring character in the series.
*Andy Sipowicz (played by Dennis Franz) on "NYPD Blue". The series originally had a more traditional-looking leading man in David Caruso's John Kelly. His overweight, uncouth, alcoholic, yet complicated partner Andy, soon began getting better material and Caruso left early in the second season. Though his replacement, Jimmy Smits received top billing over Franz for his entire time on the show, Franz was more often the focus of stories. Franz would win several Emmys for the role.
*Josiah Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen) on "The West Wing". Show creator Aaron Sorkin states on the DVD commentary that the show was originally intended to focus on Deputy Commmunications Director Sam Seaborn, played by Rob Lowe, but audience interest led to more focus on the president. Another possible example of a breakout character from the same show would be Donna Moss, Played by Janel Moloney. A recurring character in the first season, she was acknowledged as a regular cast member from Season two onward.


* Inspector Jacques Clouseau (played by Peter Sellers) in "The Pink Panther" series of films. In the first film, David Niven's suave jewel thief was the main character. But audiences and critics so loved the bumbling Clouseau that later films in the series were written around him instead. [cite web|url=|title=The Pink Panther film collection|work=The Cinema Laser DVD Review|date=2004|author=Derek M. Germano]
* Jason "Jay" Derris and Robert "Silent Bob" Blutarsky (played by Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) from "Clerks.". These two drug dealers, one of them remaining silent almost all the time, were created when Kevin Smith (who was also writer and director of "Clerks.") decided to put his best friend Jason Mewes in his first movie, playing himself, albeit with a different name. While in "Clerks.", they didn't even appear on posters and ads, and played a minor role, they went on playing more major roles in Smith's next movies "Mallrats" and "Dogma", finally culminating in having their own movie, "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back".
*Slimer voiced originally by Ivan Reitman in "Ghostbusters" and later by Frank Welker and Billy West in the television series. From being the first ghost 'busted' in "Ghostbusters" (named "Onionhead Ghost"), Slimer proved popular enough to be included in the tie-in television series "The Real Ghostbusters" as a central character (voiced by Frank Welker), which lead to Slimer having a major role in the film's sequel "Ghostbusters II". Following this the television series was renamed to "Slimer & The Real Ghostbusters" in honor of his growing popularity. He was also one of only three returning regulars to the later television series "Extreme Ghostbusters", voiced by Billy West.
*Captain Jack Sparrow (played by Johnny Depp) in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" trilogy. Originally meant to be a simple trickster pirate to guide the hero in the first film, writers Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott changed the character's role after Depp's first read-through.fact|date=September 2008 Depp compared the pirates of that era to modern rock stars, and as such based his performance on Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.fact|date=September 2008 Many criticsweasel-inline|date=September 2008 cited Depp's performance as a major reason for the success of the first film, and others going so far as to claim that his is the most iconic breakout performance of the decade.fact|date=September 2008


* Snoopy in "Peanuts" became, in the strip's later years, the focus of the strip, displacing Charlie Brown, as his character began to do more and more fantastic things, got his own sidekick, Woodstock, and proved to be a huge seller in the strip's merchandising. In the 1970s he was practically synonymous with the strip.comment by lastangelman; March 5, 2006; [ The Barber Shop 3: The Funny Pages Ain't Funny No More] ; "All kinds of stuff"; retrieved September 10, 2006.] Author not identifiable; undated; [ cb] ; "Roseville Times Online"; retrieved September 10, 2006]
*Dick Grayson/Robin/Nightwing was introduced as the first kid sidekick superhero in comic book history in 1940. After forty-four years as Robin, his popularity in the Teen Titans series and his increasing popularity in the "Batman" monthly books caused him to extend beyond his sidekick role and become solo hero Nightwing. [Hardback release of "Infinite Crisis", as stated in an interview by Geoff Johns.]
* Pirlouit (Peewit in the English version) was introduced as a one gag character in Peyo's comic strip "Johan". The character proved to be so popular that Peyo was forced to make it a recurrent character and finally the co-star of the strip, changing the name from "Johan" to "Johan et Pirlouit" (or "Johan and Peewit"). In a later adventure Johan and Peewit met the Smurfs, which ultimately would become not only breakout characters in the strip, but a huge popular phenomenon that soon received its own comic strip, TV show, toy line and even music records while the original "Johan and Peewit" series were progressively forgotten). Peyo spend his last days completely devoted to the writing of "The Smurfs" despite he considered "Johan" to be the main character of his career.fact|date=August 2008
* Obelix was a mere secondary in Asterix's first adventure, "Asterix the Gaul", but became Asterix's sidekick in the second volume of the series, "Asterix and the Golden Sickle". Since then, Obelix has raised to become a co-star on par with Asterix and has become the lead in some numbers such as "Obelix and Co." and "How Obelix Fell into the Magic Potion When he was a Little Boy".fact|date=August 2008
* Mary Jane Watson was introduced in "The Amazing Spider-Man" as a flighty rival of Gwen Stacy for the affections of Peter Parker. However, Mary Jane's energetic and confident personality drew considerably more reader interest than expected and she evolved into one of the central supporting characters of Spider-Man. [Spider-Man 2 DVD, Disk 2, "Women in Spider-Man" segment, stated by Stan Lee.]
* Wolverine began as an enemy of the Incredible Hulk. He shortly after joined the X-Men but editors decided that he and Thunderbird were too similar in abilities and temperament and almost killed off Wolverine instead of Thunderbird. Even after, he was a minor character, but he grew in popularity to become one of Marvel Comics' most popular and marketable characters. [DeFalco, Tom. "Comic Creators on X-Men". Titan, 2006. Pg. 110]
* Opus the Penguin, of "Bloom County", "Outland", and the strip of the same name was originally intended to last for only a week upon his introduction in "Bloom County", after which he would disappear only to be found dead some years later. After receiving a large amount of fan mail supporting the character, along with being personally pleased at how well the character seemed to mesh with the strip, Berkeley Breathed decided to keep him on as a permanent character, eventually supplanting the original cast as the focus of the strip and its subsequent sequels. [Breathed, Berkeley. "One Last Little Peek, 1980-1995: The Final Strips, the Special Hits, the Inside Tips". Little Brown & Co, 1995.]
* Death (DC Comics) started out as a supporting character in Neil Gaiman's Sandman but with her perky smile and upbeat personality became more popular than the gloomy Sandman himself and gained a couple of mini-series devoted just to her. [] ]


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