Character Actor, Stephen Tobolowski, was interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air today, and at one point spoke a profound truth about acting and also life in general. One of Tobolowski's more significant roles was playing leader of the KKK, Clayton Townley, in Mississippi Burning.
An except from the interview regarding that role:
The secretary looked over and saw me nervous and she said, 'You know, Stephen –- they like you a lot in there. A lot of people have been reading this part and they keep trying to be scary, but Alan [Parker] thinks you're scary just as you are' ...
"This is true with a lot of things in acting. You need to ask questions and you need to ask the right questions. Alan asked me how I saw the man and I said, 'I saw him as Abraham Lincoln –- I don't see him as a villain. This man is a hero with his agenda, with his point of view.' I did not intend to play Clayton Townley as one chromosome short of a human being, like a lot of people will play various villains in movies ... In real life, everyone kind of sees themselves as the good guy, doing what they're doing. They see themselves as a kind of hero...
"In real life, everyone sees themselves as the good guy..." This is why viewing the world in terms of "good" and "evil" does not work. Certainly from the Christian perspective, there is a significant difference between what we call "Holy" and what we would call "Evil" but it is not always easy to tell which is which in this life. Jesus told the story of three men who passed by an injured helpless person on the road. Two, who were considered holy, passed the man by, and the third, who was considered profane, bandaged him, took him to a place to rest and receive further care, and paid ahead for any unforeseen expenses... and we all know which of the three was a "neighbor" to the man; which of them was good/the hero. But we can't forget that the other two fancied themselves the hero. The Priest and the Levite, avoiding becoming unclean, not getting distracted from the important business to which they were no doubt attending.
None of us are wholly evil; we have been created in the image of God and so have some inclination towards righteousness even if that inclination may be misguided, marred by sin. And none of us are wholly good. When the young rich man asked Jesus, "Good teacher, what must I do..." Jesus answered, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God."
This is the complexity of life in between our current imperfect nature and the full righteousness towards which we strive in Christ.
Who have you viewed as a villain/the enemy? In what ways might that villain see themselves (properly or improperly) as a hero, doing good work? In what ways do you fancy yourself a hero (properly or improperly), doing good work in the world? In what ways might someone experience you as a villain (properly or improperly)?