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An under-five,[1] also known as, an under-5, or a (U/5):[2] is an SAG-AFTRA contract term for an American television or film actor whose character has fewer than five lines of dialogue.[3]

Under-five work[edit]

Under-Five work is regarded as both desirable and undesirable. Getting an under-five can be a stepping stone to bigger roles.[4] Some however, see it as mere grunt work or beneath their standing as an actor.[5] One year after performing under-fives in the capacity of a recurring character, as a member of AFTRA, the actor becomes eligible for Screen Actors Guild (SAG) membership.[6] This is a backdoor for getting the difficult-to-obtain SAG card.

AFTRA pay-rate rules[edit]

According to AFTRA union rules a speaking part exceeding five lines in a day triggers a substantial rise in pay. To remain an under-five the total number of words in the five lines or less must be below 50. Under-five roles have therefore been an integral consideration in script development, especially in regards to episodic budgeting.

As of November 16, 2009: The minimum pay rate for a day player on a soap opera was $913.00 for a one-hour show, and $683.00 for a 12-hour show. The minimum pay rate for an under-five actor on a soap opera was $397.00 for a one-hour show, and $324.00 for a 12-hour show. The minimum pay rate for a background actor on a soap opera was $144.00 for a 1-hour show, and $111 for a 12-hour show.[7]


With the general decline of American soap operas, the number of under-fives, extras, and even day players employed has declined, due to reductions of production budgets.[8]


  1. ^ Cummings, Betsy (July 25, 2004). "HOME FRONT; Bit Parts on Screen, and a Salary to Match". The New York Times. Retrieved January 4, 2012. 
  2. ^ Speaking of soap operas By Robert Clyde Allen. Books.google.com. 1985-04-30. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  3. ^ Added by Double 19 Productions on May 19, 2009 at 1:01am (2009-05-19). "Resume Billing Double 19 Productions May 19, 2009". Double19productions.com. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  4. ^ "SOAP STAR FOR A DAY" New York Magazine Aug 16, 1993. Books.google.com. 1993-08-16. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  5. ^ As The World Turns - Patrick Stephenson - Interview - Soap Opera Digest and Weekly
  6. ^ "When An Actor Should Join A Union 12/1/07". Actorschecklist.com. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  7. ^ "TV Programming Rates". AFTRA. Archived from the original on September 17, 2009. Retrieved February 17, 2014. 
  8. ^ "On the Scene at 'General Hospital' By Maria Ciaccia, About.com Guide". Generalhospital.about.com. 2009-01-30. Retrieved 2012-01-04.