Author: David Downing

In the January 18, 2016 issue of The New Yorker there's a profile of the actor Damian Lewis (Homeland, Wolf Hall) that includes some useful advice for writers interested in creating great villains: Lewis sees himself as a champion for his characters, be they rapacious monarchs or domestic terrorists or capitalist pigs. Acting, for him, is analogous to mounting a case. “If you pick up an eighteenth-century play, at the top it says ‘The Argument,’ and then you have a list of characters, and then you have the play,” he said. “I was just always struck by that—that, of course, good drama is about conflict. And if there’s conflict there’s an argument, and there’s two sides of the argument, and, therefore, one must advocate for one side of the argument, just as much as a lawyer does in court.” The sense that a performance is a contest, a debate that can be won, appeals to...