Any great soap opera needs a great villain. While viewers may identify more with the protagonist, the villains in a serial drama always spice things up, cause trouble, and make it more fun to watch. From tongue lashings to catfights, underhanded tricks to boldface lies, the characters we love to hate have each brought a fair share of great moments to primetime soaps.
To celebrate Dallas' return to television, here are 10 primetime soap stars and the evil characters they played:
as J.R. Ewing, Dallas (1978-1991)
Larry Hagman's first major role on television, Major Anthony Nelson on I Dream of Jeannie, was nothing like the character he'd play on Dallas in 1978. While I Dream of Jeannie was a lighthearted show with typical sitcom mixups, Hagman's character on Dallas, J.R. Ewing, was malicious, cruel, and greedy. Before Dallas, television audiences hadn't witnessed anything quite like the verbal abuse J.R. hurled at his rivals, friends, and family members. In the second season of Dallas, Hagman's portrayal of J.R. had grown so delightfully despicable it became the main reason millions of viewers tuned in week after week. In the season 2 finale, viewers were left with a cliffhanger when J.R. Ewing was shot. Behind the scenes, Larry Hagman was involved in tense contract negotiations and was unsure whether or not he would return to the series, which combined with the "Who Shot J.R.?" storyline to create a media frenzy. The killer of J.R. was revealed in November, 1980, and Hagman returned to work on Dallas, where he entertained viewers with his scheming character for another decade. Hagman signed on to once again play J.R. Ewing for the 2012 reboot of Dallas.
as Alexis Colby, Dynasty (1981-1989)
ABC's Dynasty suffered from lackluster ratings in its first season. However, that all changed in the season two premiere, "Enter Alexis," when Joan Collins made her series debut as Alexis Colby, oil baron Blake Carrington's ex-wife. Collins quickly became the most vindictive, manipulative character on television. Physically beautiful while at times cruel and vengeful, it was often hard for viewers to know where Joan Collins stopped and Alexis Colby began. With her onscreen arguments often culminating in physical violence, Collins and co-star Linda Evans brought the catfight into the 80s. As Alexis, Joan Collins' glamorous costumes, hats, and shoulder pads combined with her deceitful behavior to make her one of the most iconic television characters of all time.
as Angela Channing, Falcon Crest (1981-1989)
In 1981, the same year that her ex-husband, President Ronald Reagan, moved into the White House, Jane Wyman moved to primetime television as the star of Falcon Crest. As the greedy matriarch of the Channing family, Wyman lied and cheated her way to get what she wanted. In the first season, fellow movie legend Lana Turner provided foil as one of her many adversaries. Cold-hearted and cruel, Wyman delivered her insults with a quiet intensity that made her the perfect soap opera antagonist.
as Dr. Kimberly Shaw, Melrose Place (1992-1997)
Marcia Cross may have spent the 2000s as prim and proper Bree Van de Kamp on Desperate Housewives, but during the 90s she served time as Melrose Place's resident psychopath, Dr. Kimberly Shaw. Initially introduced as a colleague to Michael (Thomas Calabro), she soon became his "other woman," and eventually, a woman scorned that plotted to kill him. While Cross' character on Desperate Housewives had her share of troubles, from battles with alcoholism to covering up a murder, none compare to what she went through on Melrose Place. During her 5 year stint, she fell into a coma twice, ran her ex down with her car, underwent brain surgery, and blew up the entire Melrose Place apartment complex.
as Joshua Rush, Knots Landing (1984-1985)
Before he worked at 30 Rock, Alec Baldwin played the neighborhood minister on Knots Landing. Initially a good guy, his character got married, and soon after transformed into an abusive, controlling husband with severe mental problems. Believing his soul was taken over by the devil, he tried to kill his wife by throwing her off a building, but accidentally fell to his death during his attempt. Baldwin may have spent only two seasons on Knots Landing, but soap fans still remember him as their favorite psychotic televangelist.
as Brenda Walsh, Beverly Hills, 90210 (1990-1994)
Shannen Doherty starred in a string of movies and television shows as a child star, most notably Our House. In 1990, she joined the cast of Beverly Hills, 90210 as Brenda Walsh, a new girl in town who recently moved from Minnesota. Though her character began as a naive good girl who was shocked by the lax values of Beverly Hills, Doherty's reputation and scuffles with the law began to influence the audience's perception of her character, with Brenda beginning to defy her parents and bully her friends. Tensions on set led to Doherty's departure in 1994.
as Dominique Deveraux, Dynasty and The Colbys (1984-1987)
Playing Dominique Deveraux, the half-sister of Blake Carrington (John Forsythe), Diahann Carroll got into her fair share of fights. Stunningly beautiful but scheming and vengeful, Carroll's character was a far cry from the likable nurse she played on Julia. Though the storylines on Dynasty never allowed Carroll to live up to her potential as a villain, viewers still knew that her character was spiteful and up to no good.
as Abby Cunningham, Knots Landing (1980-1989)
While Larry Hagman played the bad guy on Dallas, Donna Mills played bad girl on its spinoff, Knots Landing. Unapologetically going after what she wanted, Mills' character engaged in affairs with two of the husbands on the Knots Landing cul-de-sac. But, like most vixens on primetime soaps, she was only out for money, not love.
as Edie Britt, Desperate Housewives (2004-2009)
Picking up where her Knots Landing costar Donna Mills left off, Nicolette Sheridan got her chance to play the neighborhood divorcee on Desperate Housewives. She played Edie Britt as a woman incapable of considering anyone other than herself. In the five seasons Sheridan spent on Desperate Housewives, her character dated two of the other wives' husbands, faked her own suicide, and burned down a neighbor's house. Sheridan left the show after her character's death in 2009, and filed a wrongful dismissal suit against the show's creator, Marc Cherry.
as Amanda Woodward, Melrose Place (1993-1999)
After appearing on Aaron Spelling's Dynasty and T.J. Hooker, Heather Locklear joined the cast of the struggling Melrose Place at the end of the first season. Playing Amanda Woodward, an advertising executive and tough-as-nails boss to Amanda (Courtney Thorne-Smith), "special guest star" Locklear saved the show from cancellation.
Film Actress, Theater Actress, Television Actress, Television Producer, Writer / 1971 -
Shannen Doherty is best known for her roles as Heather Duke in the film Heathers and on TV as Brenda in Beverly Hills, 90210 and as Prue in Charmed.
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