Justifying A Villain

17 Jun


Judi Dench (and a lotta other fine actors) have intimated that playing a villain, is basically the opposite of what it sounds like. 

The best of the best claim (rightly so) that the bad guy doesn’t think of himself as a “bad guy,” he thinks of himself like the martyr, or patron saint, in a Holy War, with totally justified means. 

…In short: you don’t play a “villain” as a “villain,” you play them as the core of morality…their own.

With the million-and-one fucked up ways that people try to explain their extremist politics and wars and crimes of passion and other day-in-the-life-of horrors, it makes the old mustache-twisting “bad guy” of the past look like not only a joke, but so low-man-on-the-villain-todem-pole that (in the world of “crime”), he’s gone extinct by way of basic natural selection.

…That was “the old scary.” Now, the stuff that really freaks us out, are the people with a “cause” which they will vehemently support to any ends necessary, with actual full faith and conviction behind it, that cannot be reasoned with; people so passionate that they seek followers to align with them, who will follow at any cost, without a twinge of doubt.

…This is how Hitler and Charles Manson gained followers…

…This is how suicide bombers become recruited.

…And this is what makes it infinitely more interesting (and disturbing) in your headspace, while working on a show wherein you figure as one of the “not-so-good-guys.”

When your job is to get into the mind of a serial killer, or pedophile or Nazi SS Officer, or hijacker, and “justify” their actions by a line of reasoning…whatever the hell that reasoning could possibly be…it makes for some incredibly unsavory thought processing and bookwork time. Far worse than the characters you’ve faced with deep scaring secrets. Worse than the innocent victim of a heinous crime.

…This kind of role brings you to the dark side of the moon in foreign territory, so far-reaching, so far removed from the norm…so far the fuck out there in emotional isolation, that you feel like you’re suffocating in space. By taking on the monster, you agree to get inside of them…to see how they tick and why. The darkness you find there can be as vicious as a black hole…sucking the absolute life out of you, if you are not careful. And sometimes…even when you are.

As a student of an Art, your study becomes a certain fascination. You hunger to know more answers to the “whys” and “wherefores”…so you dig deeper, read more, watch more, infiltrate your mind and body with the information of this particular “evil” in order to better understand it, and the reasons it claims validation for its actions. And this form of work and investigation has been known to give birth to a phenomenon, wherein the bi-partisan observer can become a mentally infiltrated ally in empathy….even if only for the split second of a moment.

…Which can be an exceedingly disturbing split second.

…Grab a time machine and ask Truman Capote while he was working on “In Cold Blood.” Or Heath Ledger in the car, going back to his hotel every night after playing “The Joker.”

…Either way…there’s a line (invisible), that can be crossed. And when your job is to constantly push that line in order to get at more facts and details that will help you to do what you are supposed to do, on a limited schedule, with performance dates fast approaching…sometimes you push even harder and faster than normal.

…And with it, forcing lines into your brain-memory sectors which are grotesque, violent, and poetically visual…

…When you’re in THAT head space for days and days on end: chewing the words of a romantic psychopathic murderer, over and over as you try to digest them, own them, figure them the fuck out…that is when you occasionally need to take a freakin’ blog break. Breathe a bit. And consider…

It’s nice to know…somewhere in that tightly shut up and protected part of me…that after this role-playing game of epically dramatic murder is over, there will be a chippy little Scouser hairdresser waiting at the end of the tunnel, to rescue me and bring me back again.

…On night’s like this, when it too dark in my head to sleep…it’s nice to know Rita is sitting there…ever so patiently. Waiting her turn.

…With a smile.


One Response to “Justifying A Villain”

  1. Cecilyn Fairdew June 18, 2014 at 11:55 pm #

    Claire, Solange… Claire.

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