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"Because he was such a nice, good person, he could play villains wholeheartedly. Whereas people who've got a dark side of their own, can't go for it a 100 percent because of not giving it away. Roger hadn't anything to give away, so he could do a 100 percent nasty."
Damaris Hayman on Roger Delgado

The inverse of Nice Character, Mean Actor — the guy playing the Big Bad, the Badass, or the For the Evulz Evil Overlord is, off-camera, the nicest, sweetest person you'll ever meet. Maybe they were previously pigeonholed into nice guys roles and they're relishing the chance for Playing Against Type; maybe they're in it for the Money, Dear Boy; maybe they're the resident Large Ham and they just like playing deliciously evil characters; or they could have been cast based on looks: just because a person looks big and scary doesn't mean they really are.

See Real Life: Mean Character, Nice Actor for occurrences of this trope in Real Life.

See also Scary Musician, Harmless Music.

Examples (fictional actors only, please!):


  • A commercial for the business card company Vistaprint invokes this. The ad begins with a typical Scary Black Man standing in a rather intimidating pose, looking like a security guard or bouncer, and then it's revealed... he's a wedding planner, and is about as threatening as milquetoast.
  • The entire premise of a series Walker's Crisps adverts features Gary Lineker, an ex-footballer famed for his friendliness a man who epitomised the spirit of the game in over a thousand top-level appearances for his club side and for England, and who was never booked once, stealing bags of crisps from children.

Anime and Manga

  • This is the entire premise of Detroit Metal City: The main character is a young farm boy who wants to be a sappy pop idol, moves to the big city to pursue that career, and discovers he can only get a job as the lead singer of a death metal band. He's perpetually terrified.
  • A scene in Perfect Blue has Mima playing someone up on stage who gets manhandled and raped by a rowdy crowd. Mid-scene, the director yells "Cut! Everyone freeze!" and the guy on top of her quietly stammers out, "I'm so sorry."
  • In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, the Stakes of Purgatory are ruthless and very much capable of killing in cold blood. Behind the scenes, they're not so bad - we see Beelzebub and Battler playfully fighting over Ronove's baking early in Episode 4, and let's not get into them gushing and squeeing over cute little Sakutaro.
  • In The Idolmaster anime, sweet and kind Haruka plays the Big Bad of a movie according to the trailers. She apparently was enjoying it.


  • The Wrestler, being a movie about Professional Wrestling played on this, since both Faces and Heels were portrayed as friendly towards each other throughout. One particularly impressive scene had the main character (Randy, a Face) discussing the "script" of his upcoming extreme rules match with his opponent, who was a polite and soft-spoken man (real-life wrestler Dylan Keith Summers, whose ring name is Necro Butcher in real life too!). The scene was threaded with scenes from said match; including once with the Heel stapling a five dollar note to his own forehead before going nuts on Randy with the staple gun. Preceding question: "How do you feel about staples?"
    • In a less extreme example, a similar scene with Randy's old 'nemesis' from The Eighties, the Ayatollah, showed him to be a quite pleasant and nice man. During the climactic fight, he also shows concern for Randy's health and ends up trying to persuade Randy to just go for the pin. Randy refuses.
  • In Rocky III, Rocky Balboa agrees to a charity match with a massive pro-wrestler named Thunderlips, played by then known mostly only to wrestling fans Hulk Hogan. Rocky tries to goad Thunderlips into a friendly fun match but that soon leads to Rocky being tossed around the ring like a ragdoll, suplexed, back nearly broken over a knee, and finally tossed clear out of the ring well into the audience. After climbing back in the ring and delivering some bareknuckled damage of his own, the match is finally determined a draw and the after match interview reveals Thunderlips to be a pretty okay guy, congratulating Rocky on a good match and posing for pictures with his wife and kids, explaining his actions in the ring as "The name of the game." The final shot of the scene is a newspaper headline revealing that the charity match raised over 75,000 dollars for a local youth club.
  • Both Hamm and Mr. Potato Head from Toy Story. Whenever Andy is playing with them, they're always cast as the bad guys.
    • And possibly Emperor Zurg, who is actually evil because he always thinks that he is the real Zurg, much like the toy version of Buzz Lightyear constantly thinking that he is the real Buzz and not a toy.
    • And Dolly, one of Bonnie's toys. Whenever Bonnie is playing, she's always cast as the villain of her stories.
    • And since all of Andy's remaining toys now live in Bonnie's house, during playtime, Hamm, Mr. (and Mrs.) Potato Head, and Dolly will all be the villains.


  • Lorenzo Gage of Breathing Room plays nothing but sadistic villains who hurt women on screen. In real life, he's still a bad boy, but is generally nice to women and children.
  • Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series includes Emperor Zhark, the Big Bad of a series of deliberately bad but popular novels, an Evil Overlord who has destroyed planets and killed billions in his ruthless quest to conquer the galaxy. Outside the novels, he's a good guy "with his own hopes and worries" and becomes a good friend to Thursday. He's even an informal member of the literature policing society (those who keep order amongst the books from within, that is, not Moral Guardians).
  • Cardinal Richelieu was vilified in Alexander Dumas' novel The Three Musketeers, and the subsequent movie adaptations. He is often depicted as a ruler de facto, and evil puppet master seeking to destabilize the monarchy through naughty acts. The real life Richelieu was a patron of the arts, French language, and the monarchy itself. He founded L'Académie Française, strengthened France's hold on outlying territories' like Quebec, and was effectively the first prime minister. Dumas' vilifying of Richelieu is so mind-boggling in fact, that in Cyrano de Bergerac, Edmond Rostand gives Dumas a metaphorical "What the hell, dude?" by including a scene where Richelieu can be observed patronizing a play written by Dumas, that depicts him as a villain.

Live Action TV

  • Parodied on The Chaser's War on Everything. In a send-up of a government TV campaign against domestic violence, which showed still images of men with voiceovers about how they are violent towards women, actors complain that they appeared in the ads and now everyone they meet in real life thinks they hit their wives.

  Voiceover: Appearing in Government Ads: Australia says "No."

  • The Munsters features an episode with a fictional horror host named "Zombo", who, to Eddie's disappointment, isn't a blood-thirsty ghoul outside of his television show. The actor playing Zombo is in fact disgusted with the character and the example he sets for children like Eddie.
  • Actually used for a moral lesson at the end of one Mighty Morphin Power Rangers episode. The actor who plays Bulk, one of the two "bullies" along with Skull, is actually a nice guy in real life.
  • Doctor Who:
    • As quoted above, Roger Delgado, the first actor to play the Master, was a charming individual who was adored by all, rather than the wanna-be Galactic Conqueror he played on television. John Simm, who played possibly the cruelest Master on television, is likewise said to be a calm, affable and somewhat shy guy contrasting the petty tyrant that he portrayed.
    • The Doctor most frequently slides into Jerk with a Heart of Gold. Despite one brief Creator Breakdown of Tom Baker's that led to the opposite for a few years, everyone who's played the Doctor has been unfailingly nice and charming.

Tabletop Games

  • There's an example of this in the All Flesh Must Be Eaten sourcebook "Zombie Smackdown!", in the section about Mexican Lucha Libre: the rudo premade archetype character is a pious fellow who gives his paycheck to the local church, and butts heads regularly with local gangs out of a sense of justice.
    • Going one further: Professional Wrestler characters can acquire "The Gift", which allows them to use Inspired abilities. These abilities require devotion to a higher power. Out of all the professional wrestlers in the book, the rudo is the only one with the Gift (and the power "The Binding"). He's literally a tool of God.



 Andy: I want y'all to meet Frank Schultz. Mr. Schultz is the villain of our play, but off the stage he's meek as a lamb and wouldn't hurt a fly.


Video Games

  • Will Powers of Ace Attorney plays the Steel Samurai on-screen, but off-screen he's very gentle, and one of the most normal clients in the series. To his dismay, he has to hide his face around children, as his monster-like face might scare away kids.
    • This is a very Informed Deformity, both because he's kind of craggy but not frightening to viewers by any stretch, and because in the second game he spends an entire awards ceremony around a little eight-year-old girl who doesn't appear to give a wet slap what he looks like.
      • Is this an informed deformity (to us)? Or does Mr. Powers actually think he's ugly? You decide.
    • Although the Steel Samurai is a hero, so it's more like a case of Tough Character Meek Actor.
  • Bowser, according to Mario Party.


  • Lucy in YU+ME: dream is a sweet young woman who's nice to the protagonists, even if her motivations might be a little more complicated than just that. She's also a dream actress. What character did she play? Sarah, Fiona's former childhood friend and current enemy, in Fiona's dream. The fact that Lucy is a different person than the character she plays is a bit of a surprise.
  • Certain online porn parody webcomics revolves about actors playing video game characters and main cast is made of guys who plays tiny-veiled copies of Soul Calibur characters. Actors playing the meanest villains (Nightmare's and Astaroth's counterparts) are quite decent guys. Or So I Heard.

Western Animation

  • Kappa Mikey has Gonard: a Card-Carrying Villain in the show, and a very nice fellow (if dumber than a box of croutons) outside the set.
  • The Veggie Tales short "Where's God When I'm S-s-scared?" reveals that the actor playing FrankenCelery in a horror movie that scared Junior Asparagus is actually a pretty nice guy. His name is Phil Winklestein, and he`s from Toledo, Ohio.
  • Combined with Animated Actors in House of Mouse. The villains rarely do much of anything villainous when they're "off-duty" in the House of Mouse, and even when they do they Poke the Poodle, like Jafar turning Donald Duck, who's been a Large Ham, into a literal ham.
    • Notably, they take over the House in one of the direct-to-video films, but it doesn't really last for long. The film was more of a compilation of shorts, so when the villains did take over the club, they didn't really change it much aside from having to keep kicking out Mickey and the gang.
    • Donald Duck himself is this in the eyes of his voice actor, Clarence Nash; on his later days, he used to carry a Donald puppet everywhere to play ventriloquism with, and he would make him say that he never got mad; he was merely an actor.
    • Similarly, a Bonkers comic in Disney Adventures had Monstro from Pinocchio as a long-out-of-work Toon actor who was actually pretty friendly (albeit destructive due to his size) off the set.
  • In Family Guy, Chris' idol, Marilyn Manson, is revealed to be nothing like his stage persona and encourages Chris to not be a jerk towards his family just because he's gotten into rock music.
    • Seth MacFarlane himself. His regular roles on Family Guy range anywhere from Apathetic Citizens to outright villains but Seth is a champion of several progressive causes and fights for the rights of whomever he can.
  • In a related example, on Clone High, Marilyn Manson sings an insanely catchy broadwayesque tune about the importance of eating properly and paying attention to the food pyramid.
  • Similarly, metal band Korn appeared on South Park and their off-stage persona was very goofy and upbeat (they basically were a parody of the Mystery Machine gang). One can wonder whether this is the case in Real Life or just the band Adam Westing.
    • Probably a bit of both. While the band's wholesome animated persona was played up for laughs, Jonathan Davis is soft spoken and extremely polite in interviews, in contrast to his dark and sometimes violent lyrics and the harrowing way in which he sings them.
  • On The Critic, Jay got threats from an action star he had panned. He corners Jay in an alley, and just when it looks like it's the end, the actor reveals that he's really a nice guy, and only acts mean in his movies, and the threatening was just an attempt to prove that he really can act.
  • Doctor Calico (the main villain of the Show Within a Show) from Bolt.
  • Blurring the distinction with Real Life, The Boondocks suggests this in a parody of Ann Coulter.
  • In the Hey Arnold episode "Eugene, Eugene!", Arnold performs as the Big Bad of the titular play. Arnold spends most of his time solving people's problems.
  • In the Kim Possible episode "Pain King vs. Cleopatra", we meet pro wrestlers Pain King and Steel Toe blustering at each other how the other is "going down", and then see them chatting in a nice friendly fashion in the locker room.