An ode to side characters, the heart and soul of every TV show.

There's a scene in The Holiday which never fails to bring me to tears. 

In the scene, Kate Winslet's character Iris is out to dinner with Arthur (Eli Wallach), a legendary Hollywood screenwriter. 

After telling him her sad little tale of unrequited love, Arthur says to Iris: "In the movies we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you're behaving like the best friend." 

To which Iris replies, through tears: "You're so right. You're supposed to be the leading lady of your own life, for God's sake." 

This scene always brought me to tears because I've spent my entire life being the "best friend" and never the leading lady. Every year, around Christmas, I would rewatch The Holiday, and cry about wasting another year not being the "leading lady" of my own life. 

But not this year. 

This year I've decided to embrace my Big Side Character Energy. 

Because according to TikToker @lolaokola and this piece in The Cut, its Side Character Summer (or winter for us Aussies). 

@lolaokola summer 2022 vibe #maincharacterenergy #maincharacter #maincharacterchallenge #summer2022 #summervibes ♬ original sound - lola

I'm going full Janeane Garofalo in Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion. I'm embracing my Kathryn Hahn-ness, and evoking the full power of Judy Greer.

Because, if you really think about it, main characters aka leading ladies are bloody annoying most of the time. 

Carrie Bradshaw, anyone? Andy in The Devil Wears Prada


Side characters are the heart and soul of any TV series or movie. 

They always have their own unique sense of style, think Maggie in Younger or Kyla in Hacks. They're bloody funny, popping up with a brilliant one-liner or clever observation right when the main character is becoming completely insufferable (Karen from Will and Grace, I'm looking at you). They're smart little cookies too. They have extremely high emotional intelligence, often figuring out the lesson the main character needs to learn long before they do.

Not to mention they really work their limited time on screen. They don't get an eight-episode character arc like a main character, but boy do they endear themselves to the audience during their tiny moments to shine. 

And finally, side characters are constantly underestimated. Which means off-screen they're probably very busy plotting their plan for world domination, while the main character is whinging about whatever tiny obstacle they need to hurdle in this episode. 


So here's to popping up with a witty one-liner and enjoying a martini in the background, while the main character bores the audience to tears. 

To help you embrace your own Big Side Character Energy, here are the very best of them: 

Kayla, Hacks 

Image: Stan.  

Is she the worst assistant in TV history? Possibly. But Kayla nails Big Side Character Energy. 

She has a quirky sense of style. She's a nepotism baby and should be really annoying, but somehow that just makes her even more likeable. And the tension between her and Jimmy could be bottled and sold to main characters with no charisma. 

Karen, Will and Grace 

Image: Stan.  


Ah, Karen. 

She's always at the ready with a martini and a cutting, personal burn. 

Titus Andromedon, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Image: Netflix.  

Titus was by far the most interesting character on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and he didn't even get kidnapped by Jon Hamm and held in a basement for years. 


He was at his Big Side Character Energy best when he was 'Lemonading'. #neverforget

Samantha Jones, Sex and the City 

Image: Binge.  


Yes, Samantha Jones is one of the four main characters in Sex and the City, but she oozes Big Side Character Energy. 

She has her own unique sense of style... although most of her clothes are from the Big and Tall Whore Store. 

She's bloody funny. 

And she's the only one who can put Carrie and Charlotte in their place when they're going full Insufferable Main Character. 

Mindy Chen, Emily in Paris

Image: Netflix.  


I've said it before and I'll say it again. Mindy in Paris would have been a far more interesting show. 

Mindy is the one with the intriguing backstory. She introduces Emily to the most interesting people, and she's low key just out there living her best life while Emily is miraculously coming up with brand campaigns for wine companies. 

Roy Kent, Ted Lasso

Image: Apple TV Plus.  

Roy Kent is a sweary, yelly, angry man who just wants the best for each and every one of us.

Yes, the original appeal of Ted Lasso was Jason Sudeikis' main character, but it was Roy's angry charm that kept us coming back for more. 

Maggie and Lauren, Younger 

Image: Stan.  Name a more iconic side character duo. I'll wait. 


Two icons. Two generations. A little bit of hooking up. 

Need I say more? 

Eric, Sex Education

Image: Netflix.  

From his loud shirts, to his ribbing of his best mate, Eric is side character perfection. 

Gina, Brooklyn Nine Nine 

Image: Netflix.  


Gina Linetti is terrible at her job. 

She's also the heart and soul of the 99 and the person who knows all the good office gossip. 

I want to be her best friend. 

Donna Meagle, Parks and Rec 

Image: Stan.  

Ah, Donna Meagle. The woman who taught us to "TREAT YO'SELF" and who gives even better side eye than Jim Halpert. 

If you need me, I'll be in the background sipping on a cocktail and occasionally delivering a witty one-liner. 

Keryn Donnelly is Mamamia's Pop Culture Editor. For her weekly TV, film and book recommendations and to see photos of her dog, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.