Some of the most helpful advice I have received when it comes to portraying unlikable characters or antagonist in a performance are to approach the character without judgement. Instead to learn about the character, what motivates them, and then find the actions that the character chooses. And then begin the process of living out the choices that that character makes throughout the story.
The audience may judge the character, even hate them. But as the actor portraying the character I can never hate the character. This is a difficult practice and one that requires me to face the parts of me that are not always kind, loving, beautiful. But doing this has helped me see that each one of us is capable of evil - destruction and violence.
There are nuisances and complexities as to the motivators and reasons behind the whys of why we behave in certain ways. But when I portray a character that chooses evil, I am reminded that I have parts of me that are capable of that great evil as well.
There is much violence in our world. And I think of our responses. The fear. The hatred. The demeaning. The ways we judge one another. And I understand. It is easier, simpler to make someone an 'other'. It is easier to distance myself from something that I hate or makes me uncomfortable.
It is easier to say that could never be me. I'd never do that. To point fingers and judge.
Yet, the strange thing that happens, when I study a character that I might not like, is the realization that there is humanity in that person as well. And that's not an easy thing to see or say.
Those that we hate, dislike, fear, demean - are human.
Creating peace is not a six step plan. It is often more complicated and layered to walk through than I want. I often fail at walking in peace.
The practice of acting reminds me again and again, that if I make even those that I fear, dislike, hate, less than human - I too am practicing violence.
I don't have answers for all the violence in the world. But I think about the small choices my characters make over time. How they create a story, a life. How, the choices I make in how I see my own life and the lives of those around me build a story. And those small steps I take are choices towards violence or unmaking violence.
And like acting, which requires me to be in the moment, listening and reacting - my own life requires me to be in the moments listening and paying attention to my reactions. To the choices that I am making as I live out my story moving towards violence or away from it. And unmaking violence begins with me first - not in changing others - but in me and my story.