Big Stars You Forgot Played Villains On TV
Photo: NBC / The WB

Big Stars You Forgot Played Villains On TV

Over 1.7K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of Big Stars You Forgot Played Villains On TV
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Vote up the TV villain performances you completely forgot about.

It typically takes actors time to ascend to the A-list, and their path up the Hollywood ladder often includes numerous forgotten roles. In fact, today's current crop of stars includes a lot of great actors you forgot were villains on TV. It's a common stepping stone: Before you get the central role or a shot on the big screen, a TV villain is a great way to show off what you can do (or at least pay the bills between other parts). Plenty of movie stars got their start as blockbuster villains, and seeing a recognizable face threatening a hero adds an unexpectedly fun element to a rewatch.

Over the last few decades, networks have produced classic TV villains year in and year out, but case-of-the-week-style shows have also given up-and-coming actors credits that help get their foot in the door. Whether it's Pedro Pascal going from a vamp on Buffy to the (hidden) face of The Mandalorian, or Rami Malek putting a cookie-cutter role on 24 behind him to win Emmy and Academy Awards, some of the most successful actors on Earth paid their dues as TV villains before finding their big break.

  • Most know Chilean actor Pedro Pascal as the title character in The Mandalorian or the Red Viper on Game of Thrones, but back in 1999, he played a student turned blood-sucker in Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Season 4 premiere.

    Pascal's Eddie was a fellow freshman at Buffy's college who bonded with the slayer shortly before he was bitten by a vampire crew. He quickly shed his kind freshman demeanor when he turned, and Buffy was forced to stake him in the episode's climax.

    1,174 votes
  • Amy Adams - 'Smallville'
    Photo: The WB

    Amy Adams is a constant fixture in Oscar-nominated and big-budget movies today, but she got an early break playing a villain-of-the-week on Smallville in 2001. In Season 1, she slipped into a fair bit of prosthetic padding to play Jodi, an overweight classmate of Clark Kent who slimmed down overnight after accidentally guzzling a shake spiked with Kryptonite. She started taking out classmates to feed her Kryptonite-charged metabolism and keep from wasting away.

    Years later, she would enter the Superman universe again, playing Lois Lane in Zack Snyder's Man of Steel - a turn that was decidedly more glamorous than the desperate Jodi. 

    911 votes
  • Rami Malek - '24'
    Photo: Fox

    Before Rami Malek's Oscar-winning performance as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, he was a busy actor in film and television.

    One of his most intense roles was a recurring stint as Marcus Al-Zacar in the Kiefer Sutherland hit 24. Al-Zacar was a member of a terrorist splinter cell from the fictional Republic of Kamistan in Season 8. After his recent success, Malek has stated that he would no longer take roles that paint Middle-Eastern people in a stereotypically negative light.

    656 votes
  • Rashida Jones - 'Freaks and Geeks'
    Photo: NBC

    In episode 4 of Freaks and Geeks ("Kim Kelly is My Friend"), Rashida Jones of Parks and Recreation and The Office makes for a great bully alongside Busy Phillips.

    Playing the school's meanest of mean girls Karen Scarfolli, Jones menaces the younger Sam Weir and betrays Kim Kelly (Busy Phillips's character) by making out with Kim's ex.

    558 votes
  • Adam Scott is a very busy comic actor, as seen on shows like Parks and Recreation, Party Down and The Good Place, and in films like Step Brothers and Knocked Up. But back in 2005, he played a particularly icky dude on the teen detective show Veronica Mars (alongside his Good Place co-star Kristen Bell).

    Scott played Veronica's cool history teacher Mr. Rooks, who was accused of having an improper relationship with a student, leading Mars to investigate. While she hoped to prove her favorite teacher's innocence, she uncovered that he had gotten one of his student's pregnant, and he resigned in shame.

    520 votes
  • Alec Baldwin - 'Knots Landing'
    Photo: CBS

    Some may consider Alec Baldwin's take on Donald Trump on SNL to be his best-known villain role, but he first played nasty back in the '80s as Joshua Rush, the treacherous preacher your mom loved to hate on the nighttime soap Knots Landing. It was Baldwin's first big break, and his good looks and charm scored him parts in films such as Beetlejuice, Working Girl, and Married to the Mob soon after.

    Since then, his range of roles (30 Rock being a high point) has been both layered and full of laughs.

    388 votes