MAKE ME BAD! — Villain endowment

Published by ShawnKinley on

stone mascaron on old gate with ornament



Some of us love to be the villain in a scene. For a brief vengeful moment, we reign down lightening bolts on a world that takes our parking spot or eats the last french fry on the plate!!!! 

At least for dramatic purposes, that spiteful character makes the adventure all that much more exciting to watch.

  • The seditious Pirates threatening the ship carrying those orphans.
  • The gnarled demon tormenting the newcomers in their new home.
  • A Trumpian politician— but I’ve gone too far.

Every hero needs a villain. The worse the qualities that the villain embodies, the more rewarding will be their eventual defeat. Where would Red Riding Hood be without the Wolf? Harry without Voldemort? Mr. Hyde without Dr.Jeykll?

Maybe you are one of those people who hate to play the villain.  Or, maybe you play with people who refuse to take on those darker roles. Maybe you feel you don’t know how to play a villain.  Or maybe you just “don’t want to be mean”. 

If you don’t like being “mean” on stage, (which is very common) remember two things:

  1. Playing the part doesn’t mean you are actually evil. YOU ARE ACTING!
  2. Playing the evil character is a gift to your partner and to the audience when you are eventually defeated.
  3. Get over it!  (I know I said there were two things to remember…but seriously, learn to ACT the villain!)
Practice being hated on stage.
Practice being defeated with resistance.
Do it in rehearsal because you aren’t likely to do it on stage when you feel the greatest pressure.
If you want to create a great story, stop thinking just about all the heroic things you’re going to do and create the environment where your partner will shine when they bring the sword down on your evil plans.
Your evil character can be comical:
  • An evil easter bunny who steals children’s chocolate

Your evil character can reflect reality:

  • A politician who takes bribes from companies.

Your evil character can be charged with current issues that have been in the news:

  • Racist Disneyland mascots who won’t interact with children of colour

Your evil character can be subtle,

  • A businessman dismisses a suggestion from the assistant and then uses it as his own.

Your evil character can be harsh, and offensive

  • A famous comedian who drugs guests and takes advantage of them

You know where the line is with your group around what subject matter makes you comfortable/uncomfortable.  Or maybe you don’t. Play the following game in the safety of rehearsal and you might get a clearer idea.


ORIGIN: Shawn Kinley, Lee Lancaster

GOAL: Endow your partner with despicable traits. It’s your partner who is making YOU the villain.


  • Sharing control in building the evil character in a scene.
  • It becomes effortless to develop a platform of traits for your character.
  • As a practice, it starts to teach the group where the line is they “shouldn’t” cross as well as how to deal with it when they do.
  • Removes the pressure for you to create the evil character when you feel too much pressure.

# PEOPLE: 2 – 3


  1. get a partner
  2. Start a scene.
  3.  After a few moments in the scene where there has been no conflict up to this point, you will leave the ends of some sentences open.
    (Example with two roommates: “On my way home today I…”)
  4. Your partner finishes the sentence with something that paints you with morally questionable qualities. 
    (Example from above, you said: “On my way home today I…”
    Your partner adds “…stole Mrs. Grubacher’s cane! I was looking out the window and I saw you take it.  WHY would you do something so horrible?!?!”) It’s important that your partner expresses their own disdain or judgment about what you did as they create the information that’s making you appear as the villain.
  5. You accept the premise your partner has endowed on you and justify it in any way you can without dismissing it or making it unbelievable.
    (Example: “She was in my way”. (you can also add more information and leave your sentence blank again) “I told her to…”
  6. You can leave space again for your partner to make your character worse if you want. Your partner finishes your sentence again,
    (Example … told her to “go back to the country she came from”. I heard you saying that when you took her cane! You’re such a jerk.)

It doesn’t take much to make you evil. Your partner does most of the work. You simply support the offers.

At some point, if the talk has been about things outside the scene (gossip) the story has to move toward the people present.

In the example above, the evil roommate builds on the details he has been endowed with. (racist, intolerant, and possibly ageist). His character has to embrace this ugliness – NOT BECAUSE THE ACTOR IS AN INTOLERANT JERK, BUT BECAUSE IT WILL BE MUCH SWEETER TO DEFEAT SUCH A DESPICABLE PERSON. 

The evil roommate brings out the petition to evict the ‘foreigners’ from the building. He says he needs one more signature to get rid of the old woman. 

You – THE HERO – reveals the packed suitcases and inform the villain that he’d have to be living in the building to have any influence as you turn the tables, show him the door, and evict him.


  • Prepare the students by reinforcing the reasons why having a “bad” character is good for the scene.
  • Ask them not to use their partner’s actual name in the scene. It makes it difficult to create a separate evil person when you are calling them by their actual name.
  • Some groups will stumble around “taboo” areas. ALLOW flexibility in rehearsal so improvisers won’t have uncomfortable disasters in performance. The practice in rehearsal is how they will learn to deal with difficult topics when they appear in front of an audience.  Taking the risk of crossing the line in rehearsal, you become more competent in knowing where that line is.
  • Some people don’t want to play qualities that are politically charged or relevant to current conditions. Respect that for them.   If you have a safe, supportive group that trusts each other, you can go pretty much anywhere. 
  • The person creating the evil qualities MUST act with disgust and disdain at the qualities they are endowing in their partner.  This reflection of how the audience feels about the topic gives us permission to explore it. 
  • Defeat the villain.  This last point is flexible. If you have a highly competent group of performers, there are grey lines between heroes and villains that your scene can stand on. In those situations, let the audience decide which side of the debate they stand on. If they debate each other in the lobby during intermission, you’ve done a great job of engaging them. (Watch David Mamet’s – Oleanna, as an example of performance that leaves the audience arguing about who’s the villain.)


If you are the evil character you can make an abrupt choice to change. This is especially useful when the hero isn’t doing a great job to defeat you.

See how far your partner can push your horrible qualities. When you feel you’ve gone as far as you can and there’s no way out, BREAK DOWN emotionally. Have your Villainous character come to their senses… 
(Example: (Villain in tears, head in hands) “I’m horrible! YES!!! I know it! I’ve wanted to stop for a long time!!! I just don’t know how!  PLEASE HELP ME!”

Now the scene is about redemption or rehabilitation. Is the villain inept at becoming a better person? The process of redemption is the scene. Is it possible that this person can truly change? Will there always be a bit of a villain lingering under the surface?

Example: The hero calls the old lady over and tells the Villain he needs to apologize and return the cane.  Ms. Grubacher comes to the door and the villain attempts to put things right. BUT when all things seem sorted out and the Villain feels he has redeemed himself while he praises himself for doing such a great job. Of course, he has insensitively shut the door in the face of Ms, Grubacher who is knocked over and falls down the stairs.

There are many ways this scene can go.

The villain falls down the stairs as Ms. Grubacher trips him when he leaves. Sweet Revenge!

Ms. Grubacher reveals her own petition to evict the villain and she only needs one more signature. The hero signs it happily. (Reincorporation of the petition and Revenge).

It’s improvisation. The message in all of our stories reflects upon us. Practice using your villains so they enhace the impact you want.

How the villain is dealt with is up to you.  If there’s an element of getting what the villain deserves or showing the villain for who he/she is then the audience will be pleased.

BUT – You need that villain or all you have is a bunch of moralizing people talking about how good they are.  Blech!


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