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Times Comedians Played TV Villains (And Nailed It)

March 30, 2021 469 votes 98 voters 3.8k views15 items

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Some actors who played iconic villains on TV weren't always the most obvious choice. Some of the best TV villains of all time have been portrayed by actors with a background in comedy, or even by straight-up stand-up comedians. Comedians often have an easier time putting themselves out there due to the over-critical nature of comedy and often come out with some of the boldest performances on television. In this list, we note the best TV villains that were played by normally comedic actors and why they nailed it. 

Warning: Spoilers to follow.

  • Photo: Showtime

    John Lithgow has been acting since the 1970s but you may remember him most from his role as Dr. Dick Soloman on the sitcom 3rd Rock From The Sun or as Lord Farquaad in Shrek. By the late 1990s / 2000s, the prolific actor had opted for predominantly comedic roles, until he emerged as Arthur Mitchell a.k.a. The Trinity Killer in the fourth season of Dexter

    The Trinity Killer was the alter ego of Arthur Mitchell, a seemingly normal family man who you'd never guess had brutally killed nearly 300 people in his 30-year tenure as the enigmatic serial killer. Lithgow was the perfect choice to play Mitchell due to his inherently comical and gentle demeanor, making Arthur Mitchell a truly unassuming psychopath. 

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  • Photo: AMC

    Bryan Cranston might just be the most notable case of a former comedic actor breaking through with a major dramatic role. Starting off as a humble family man, Walter White eventually spiraled into a murderous, meth-dealing criminal who lost sight of everything that mattered in his life. Walter White's descent from hero to villain is one of TV's greatest performances, which is still largely unmatched to this day. 

    Cranston previously had been known for playing Hal Wilkerson on Malcolm in the Middle and guest-starring on various sitcoms such as Seinfeld and How I Met Your Mother. It wasn't until Breaking Bad that Cranston would be recognized as a serious dramatic actor and the recipient of just about every acting award there is. 

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  • Photo: Disney+

    If you've watched the Disney+ genre-bending series WandaVision from start to finish, you would know that Kathryn Hahn's character is later revealed to be the series main antagonist, Agatha Harkness. Agatha is a witch that survived the infamous Salem witch trials and found herself drawn to Wanda's Westview hex that was created out of chaos magic. 

    The actress playing Agatha needed to be multidimensional as she begins the series under the guise of Wanda's nosey and unsuspecting neighbor, Agnes. Hahn did the perfect job of playing the counterpart of Agnes without giving away the fact that she was, in fact, an evil witch. The hilarious Hahn has been around for many years but she's finally getting the recognition she deserves. 

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  • Photo: FX

    Before playing Gemma Teller in Sons of Anarchy, Katey Sagal was known for her roles in Married... with Children, 8 Simple Rules, and Futurama. Suffice to say, Sagal went through her fair share of sitcoms before eventually landing arguably the best role of her career, which was a bit of a step in the opposite direction, based on her previous work. 

    Though Gemma Teller wasn't that far out of her wheelhouse, (she was used to playing overbearing mothers) Sagal was surprisingly natural at portraying the den mother of a biker gang and all the criminal activities that come with it. Gemma later becomes a primary antagonist in the series, showcasing Sagal's talents at playing the morally conflicted but loving character. 

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