Every Actor Wants to Play a Villain

Every Actor Wants to Play the Villain


William H. Macy played the despicable, child-neglecting, alcoholic, cheat and thief Frank Gallagher for eleven seasons on the award-winning series Shameless (now showing on Netflix Thailand). When asked about the role, he said he learned much about acting and showing the “humor and humanity of being at the bottom rung of the ladder.” 

It seems that almost every actor embraces the opportunity to play a villain. Actors love to explore and dig into these roles. Alan Rickman first got people’s attention as the dastardly Hans Gruber in the 1988 film Die Hard. He later capitalized on this exposure by nailing a BAFTA award-winning performance as the Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1991 version of Robin Hood starring Kevin Costner. 

The late actor Heath Ledger won the best supporting actor at the Oscars for portraying the Joker in the 2008 film The Dark Knight. Sadly, he passed away before he could accept the award. 

And who could forget Glenn Close’s portrayal of Cruella Deville in the 1997 live-action version of 101 Dalmations? It won her the Golden Globe award for Best Actress in 1997.  

Finding the Humor

Each of these well-respected actors took a well-known role and made it their own by balancing “humor and humanity.” They made these villains three-dimensional. They were scary but funny and human individuals. By doing so, the audience became invested in the character and were much more entertained by the movie. 

Every actor wants to explore a despised character and make the character memorable. Villains are psychologically interesting. Some aspect of their past is responsible for the villain’s character traits. Quality actors love to find or create that glitch in the villain’s character and expose it to the audience, but only after having a little fun with it.