Thaao Penghlis is famous for playing a villainous character on "Days of Our Lives" and other series. However, he recently starred in "The Book of Esther," which is now available on DVD. Penghlis took time to speak with The Christian Post about the mindset required to play a villain and how that all changed when working on a Christian film.
The Christian Post: You worked on "Days of Our Lives" off and on for 28 years playing a villain. What does it take to get into the mindset of a villain on a regular basis?
Penghlis: I don't think of myself as a villain in life; I've read about enough villains in my life … just finished reading about Putin, actually. I always think, "What does it take for someone to think that way? How do people live with themselves when they go to that dark place?" For me, it was play-acting … if you don't have a good villain, you can't have a good hero. If a person is boring me, I'll try to antagonize to get something more out of them so they're not so linear. You think that what you're doing is right and you must have fun with it!
I enjoyed it, but I can't stand cruel people. There's so much violence in the world today. Everybody tries to get away with something in his or her life; I just exposed it. Man and his contradictions … I suppose they haven't worked it out, which is why we're still here.
CP: What made you decide to work on "The Book of Esther"?
Penghlis: You must be able to have people tell you, "I loved hating you," which is a success. I've actually had a number of occasions when women would come to me with umbrellas. Villains can't just be one-sided.
I went to the director and said to him, "I hated saying how much I hated Jews," especially having been to Israel and trying to understand their own corruption, the way that they're treating Palestinians these days. We're here to work out what we don't understand. I asked, "Why does he hate Jews so much?" I found out it was King David who eliminated his tribe, and that's what set him off. You can't just be dark … there has to be a balance somewhere.
CP: What was it like going from a soap opera set to a Christian movie set?
Penghlis: We started "Book of Esther" with prayer, and I wondered, "What is this?" I stood outside at first … it was not the way I had worked before. When I saw the results of it that first day, I thought, "Wow! Nobody comes with any ulterior motives except to do their work ... Every piece comes together, and people aren't trying to upstage one another." Every day was a joy– no one was walking on eggs. People were there to contribute to the cause.
CP: Do you plan on doing more religious projects in the future?
Penghlis: I just did a piece with Doris Roberts in which I played a Catholic priest. The chaos was unimaginable. I went up to the director and spoke to him about the lack of control and the effects of that … I told him, "You're costing yourself more money in the end." He had nothing to say; he was just stunned, then he said, "You and I are going to be working together for a long time." If it's part of your core, then that's where your light shines, and it's only going to end up going well for you.
I play a priest who brings people together after a mass murder, and bullying … It's about forgiveness. I mean, if you look at Moses, he brought calm to his people. Even when they lost it, he went a different way to bring calm to them. You have to help people find the path again. There's a lot of growing up for us all to do … It's about listening to an inner voice and how available you are.
Spent 25 years in metaphysics trying to bring healing … it has to come down to you, what you bring to it. I took a two-week journey to Egypt and wanted to find where the places of the Holy Family were, and I went to several monasteries up and down the Nile. I sat in the caves where the Holy Family sat, or go to a monastery, where a monk took me to a secret chamber. I sat there for an entire hour by myself.
On Christmas Eve, I went to the place where Jesus was born, but it was closed. I persisted until a monk came out and recognized me from "Mission Impossible," and they opened the doors for me. I had an hour to an hour-and-a-half by myself in the place where the Christ child was born. I've experienced some of those sacred places in the most wonderful ways.
I'm writing a book now about all of my travels through the Middle East, called "Stepping Into the Light." I'm hoping to release it in the fall; I'd like to go around the country speaking about my experiences and telling my stories.
"The Book of Esther" is available on DVD now. Click HERE for more information.