How To Play the Villain

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Photo Source: Illustration: Jordan Sondler; Taurel: Courtesy Douglas Taurel

As an actor, how do you separate your personal opinion of a character from how you portray and tell their story? —Amber S.

As an actor, you must see a distinct separation between the character and your personal self. When I perform, I never judge the character I’m portraying as good or evil. That’s not my job. My job is to make sure I tell the story and portray the role as truthfully and honestly as I can.

I focus on trying to find out who the character is and why he behaves the way he does. I focus on the research to help me understand the particular world and role I’m inhabiting. Digging up the history and environment that relates to my character and story gives me clues to who he is and how I should play him. Some roles are harder to research, which can prove frustrating, but that comes with being an actor. It’s also the addictive part of being an actor.

READ: 7 Tips for Finding the Villain Within

No matter how horrific a role is, it’s important that you find the humanity and humor in the character. Find a positive, find that character’s heart or soft spot. Determine a point in the character’s life when he was vulnerable. Even the most heinous of characters have feelings. As actors, it’s our job to create an illusion for the audience. That’s what the research, imagination, and technique is for.

Ultimately, all characters are doing something they believe is right, and if I can find that trigger, motivation, or objective and focus on that, I’m doing my job as an actor.

Douglas Taurel is an actor and producer.

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Douglas Taurel
Onscreen Taurel has appeared in numerous TV shows including “The Affair,” “Mr.Robot,” and “The Americans” to name a few. He’s performed his play “The American Soldier” at the Kennedy Center, Library of Congress, and Off-Broadway twice. He was commissioned by the Library of Congress to write and perform his second solo show, “Journey Home.” He’s recently finished producing his film project “Landing Home.” Follow him on Instagram:
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