Tom Hiddleston, Michael C. Hall and more reflect on the importance of character’s redemption
Television has entered a new era of antiheroes: Whether played for laughs or for being deadly serious, viewers can’t help but root for a generation of morally gray troublemakers whose transgressions can be more attractive than appalling, seeing them as stray underdogs who have gone astray. Still, goodness always seems within reach, and for the actors who play them, redeeming these rascals is sometimes a tantalizing prospect – and sometimes irrelevant.
“From Loki” Tom hiddleston enjoys exploring the possibilities of redemption for the fan-favorite Norse God of Mischief (who sometimes flirts with selflessness) whom he has played for over a decade in Marvel Studios films and now on Disney Plus.
“I understand that the public sees Loki well – they want him to overcome his internal and external obstacles,” he says. “They want him to mend this relationship with his brother and become the hero he can be.”
Although Loki has long masked his alienation by portraying himself as a grand and conquering villain, feeling the compassion of his allies Mobius (Owen Wilson) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) makes him reconsider his fate, Hiddleston says.
“He realizes, ‘I actually can choose my path and choose to do the right thing. Or I choose, at least, not to repeat the same old stuff that I have repeated over and over again in a cycle of trust and betrayal. It’s exciting to keep all of the characteristics that make Loki, Loki, and at the same time play a little different music in him, ”he says.
Reprising his signature role in “Dexter: New Blood”, Michael C. Hall was intrigued to pick titular serial killer Dexter Morgan years later as an isolated being who is now both less willing to rationalize his dark compulsions and remorseful for the consequences – the deaths of many of his loved ones – of his actions.
“He’s someone who suffers collateral damage from their behavior,” says Hall. “If Dexter were a total sociopath, he would have disappeared from Miami and continued to kill. But the point is, he didn’t. He has a certain sense of responsibility that he takes. He’s telling a story about himself that’s quite different from the one he was telling when we met him a long time ago. He presents himself as a monster, but an evolving monster.
Whether redemption is on the table for a character like Dexter remains to be seen. Hall notes that he “faces a desire to cultivate an access to purity, and then a desire from the shadows to surrender completely to his dark impulses in a way he’s never done.”
One character who unfortunately has no chance of redemption is Murray Bartlett’s Armond in “The White Lotus”. The hotel manager died before he could redeem himself for slipping down a slippery slope of drugs, lies, sexual transgressions and an act of aggressive defecation. Yet he has demonstrated “a vulnerability underneath, a real struggle with his own demons, and utter frustration with the mad world he finds himself in, taking care of these truly obnoxious privileged guests,” Bartlett says. “It’s a symptom of this system that we can all relate to. He’s the representative of that part of us that says, ‘Whoa, this is madness, this board game that we keep that isn’t good for anybody, really. I forgive him because I fully understand him.
Playing the compromised sheriff of “American Rust” who crosses several moral and ethical lines in the name of love, Jeff Daniels says he’s never been called upon to openly court favor with the public.
“[I’m not] stopping to remind the audience, ‘You remember, you like me, don’t you?’ Daniels says. “I really like guys who are all in it and you push so they maybe get away with this, ‘Oh my God, I’m pushing a guy to get away with murder!’ We want you to want this guy to get away with it – and it’s not good for the audience, but it’s good for the story.
Complicating matters is that Daniels’ character still has “a good heart, good intentions and love for Grace,” the actor notes. “It doesn’t change no matter what happens or what he does.”
On another side, Nick mohammed‘s Nate in the second season of “Ted Lasso” lashes out at his boss, titular Ted (Jason Sudeikis) as a result of “really hurt for a lot of reasons – ultimately, probably because of the toxic relationship with his father.” His heart may have darkened a bit, and revealing that it was “scary, anticipating the audience’s reaction, but just as thrilling” for the actor.
But Mohammed doesn’t believe Nate is a lost cause: “He cries a lot, he looks at himself in the mirror a lot. I think he’s the one looking at himself, thinking, “What are you doing?” And if he thinks that, then maybe he will see that he is not doing the right thing and come back on the right side.
While these characters were partially driven to bad behavior by external circumstances, Oliver (Martin runs) on “Only Murders in the Building” is a narcissist, leading to neglectful parenting dynamics and unloading a barrage of barbed reprimands.
“Playing a jerk while pretending not to be a jerk is a great level to play,” said Short, recalling a long line of “asshole” characters from “SCTV” Jackie Rogers Jr. and “Saturday Night Live”. “Nathan Thurm. “The thing is, how do you make it clear that this is the fate of a narcissist, but not an evil narcissist?” He’s preoccupied with himself and his career and under pressure because he’s going bankrupt, but you have to believe that when he’s with his son he loves his son, and his son loves him.
Bonding with the next generation can help transform a former antagonist into a more complete character, as is the case with Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) from “Cobra Kai”. He doesn’t “consciously try to find redemption as much as he tries to find himself without the Cobra Kai blanket on him,” the actor said. “He’s trying to go back in time and get back to where it all started and untie all those knots.”
A turning point comes when Johnny realizes that he no longer needs to subscribe to the “No Mercy” credo. “What a great thing to play: someone who realizes for himself,” says Zabka. “He just wants his child back, he wants love and he wants to run a dojo without any interference – [to] live a nice and simple life. But he has a long way to go there.
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