TV's newest villains -- A look at the baddest from ''Ugly Betty,'' ''Heroes,'' and more
Kiefer Sutherland
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Being a good guy is overrated. Sure, you save the day and get the girl. But that gets old after a while. It’s the villains who captivate and have us howling in laughter and cowering in fear — often at the same time. Which brings us to this motley crew. Where is Prison Break without its one-handed wonder? Guess which person on Heroes actually has the most brains? And just how is 24‘s Jack Bauer supposed to be tortured if there is nobody around to stab him in the shoulder blade? Battlestar Galactica might not even have a battle on its hands if it weren’t for a certain lovestruck genocidal traitor, and no one acts uglier than Ugly Betty‘s cunning creative director. When it comes to arresting television, it is this bevy of baddies that keeps us in front of our TVs…under lock and key.

Robert Knepper as…

Why we love to hate him
With his corrupt toothy snarl and surprisingly decent vocabulary, this kidnapper/murderer/rapist/white supremacist/Southern charmer oozes a creepy cunningness as he connives and slashes his way to survival on Fox’s Break. Bottom line: Anyone who’s still at large after having his hand cut off twice is not to be messed with. ”You can’t nail down T-Bag,” sums up the 47-year-old Knepper. ”It’s like trying to put your finger on the mercury when it comes out of the thermometer.”

Convince us T-Bag is not actually that bad
”Around episode 6 or 7, I got so many letters from people saying, ‘When I first started watching this show, I absolutely hated you and I wanted you dead. Now I still want you dead, but I’m starting to feel for you.’ I think there’s something in my eyes, a childlike thing in there. There’s still an innocence. There’s still a bit of hope.”

Does T-Bag’s prosthetic hand help or hurt his badass factor?
”We haven’t used it in a lethal way yet. It’s almost like he’s wearing it on his sleeve as this little sympathy thing. I think it softens him up a little bit: ‘The poor guy had his hand cut off. No wonder he’s killing people. It hurts!”’

Oddest encounter with a fan
”My wife, Tori, and I were crossing Central Park and this Tweener-like white guy looked up at me and he went, ‘Oooooh! You handless motherf—er!’ I love outbursts like that. Anytime I get that reaction, I’m always like, ‘Yeah. I’m doing my job.”’

Horrible things we can look forward to from T-Bag
T-Bag takes a breather from running when he holds his ex-girlfriend Susan Hollander (K.K. Dodds) and her kids hostage — and forces them to act out his twisted perfect-family fantasies. Says Knepper, ”People think, ‘Oh, boy, what’s he going to do? Is he going to kill her, or is he going to love her?”’ We’re bracing for both. — Dan Snierson

Vanessa Williams as…

Why we love to hate her
Underneath the La Mer-moisturized skin and the fabulous monochromatic office that matches the fabulous monochromatic wardrobe (size 2, and don’t you forget it!), Mode magazine’s creative director Wilhelmina Slater is one vengeful mother.

Convince us Wilhelmina is not actually that bad
”She was passed over for being editor in chief of a magazine she’s worked at for years,” pleads Williams, 43, of her diva on ABC’s Betty. ”Her insecurity is that she’s not going to be respected and have the power she wants and deserves. You can feel her pain.”

What do you and Wilhelmina have in common?
”I do love a great assistant, and mine, Brian Edwards, is the best in the world. Unlike Marc [Michael Urie], he does not give me foot massages or Botox, but he would if I asked.”

What’s the most badass thing you’ve done recently?
”I did drive 100 [mph] when I got my new BMW 650i convertible last weekend.”

What’s the least badass thing you’ve done recently?
”I’ve got plenty of kids with plenty of activities,” says Williams before listing them in descending order of badassery. ”5:15 mass, watching Sasha be an angel in the Christmas pageant, driving my son to basketball games…”

Your favorite TV or movie villain
”I love Eartha Kitt’s Catwoman. She’s now 80 years old and still singing and wearing a velvet catsuit, so she’s my hero. That, and when Diahann Carroll was Dominique Deveraux in Dynasty. All those women of color made an impact.”

Horrible things we can look forward to from Wilhelmina
Even scarier than that Wal-Mart-esque outfit she wore to court an advertiser is the possibility that up until now, Wilhelmina may have actually been somewhat subdued. ”There’s one episode coming up that is the absolute furthest Wilhelmina has ever gone,” Williams says, creepily adding, ”I’m so happy.” And we’re so terrified. — Jessica Shaw

Zachary Quinto as…

Why we love to hate him
Any superhero saga is only as strong as its super-villain, and NBC’s Heroes has a doozy in Sylar, the power-hungry, ability-collecting nerdy watchmaker-turned-neurotic wacko who has a penchant for cutting open skulls, studying his victims’ marvelously mutated brains — and maybe eating them, too. Played with a creepy mix of icy detachment and volcanic anger by 29-year-old Zachary Quinto, Sylar figures prominently in Heroes‘ ”Are You on the List?” story line beginning Jan. 22.

So…does Sylar feast on brains or not?
”I think he might,” says Quinto in a sinister, singsong voice. ”But I also think the mystery is as much fun as knowing. My opinion? Let’s just say I think Sylar has a refined palate.”

What do you and Sylar have in common?
”Searing intelligence and devastating good looks?” Quinto jokes. ”No, I would say we both have a desire to be valued. My desire to be valued is manifested in cultivating relationships with my friends and family. Sylar’s desire to be valued manifests itself…well, in a murderous rampage.”

Oddest encounter with a fan
”I was at a movie theater and a guy started yelling at me, ‘Don’t eat our brains!’ I said, ‘Don’t worry. I’m just here to see Casino Royale.”’

Favorite TV or movie villain
”Hannibal Lecter scared the bejesus out of me. Leatherface is another. My friend was in the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which made it 10 times more scary to watch, because here was this horrible creature cutting my friend’s face off. That left a bad taste in my mouth for Leatherface.”

The actor’s personal kryptonite?
Technology. ”In the past two months, my computer crashed and lost everything, my cell phone broke, and my camera broke twice. I seem incapable of maintaining a consistently healthy relationship with machines.”

Horrible things we can look forward to from Sylar
More murder, a renewed bid to take a bite out of the cheerleader, and ”a string of bone-chilling deceptions,” says Quinto. ”We’re going to go to places I don’t think people are quite expecting.” Here’s a tease: Although we thought he’d escaped, Sylar is still being held captive by the mysterious Horn Rimmed Glasses…or is it actually the other way around? — Jeff Jensen

James Callis as…

Why we love to hate him
In these ever-darkening days, there’s evil, there’s e-VIL, and then there’s selling out the entire human race for a piece of some sweet, sweet robot love. Yes, we’re talking Gaius Baltar: mad genius, Cylon apologist, and the best thing going on Sci Fi’s utterly terrific Battlestar Galactica. How despicable is he? Well, no offense to Wilhelmina, Sylar & Co., but last time we checked, they hadn’t been indirectly responsible for the deaths of billions of people. So give it up to Baltar for allowing his Cylon girlfriend to infiltrate the human defense system on Caprica. ”I was saying to one of the grips today that in terms of body count, I clearly win,” chuckles Baltar’s alter ego, 35-year-old British actor James Callis. ”I’m quite proud of it, actually.”

Convince us Baltar is not actually that bad
”Baltar is certainly a criminal, but the thing that makes him different is that he had no idea [what he was doing]. I have heard that in Talmudic writings intention is everything — what you mean to do is more important than what you end up doing. And by that standard, he’s not so horrible.”

On the other hand…
”When, however, the human race is reduced to 40,000 people, that might go out the window.”

Oddest encounter with a fan
”I just walked into a store on Sunset, and this lady said, ‘Omigod, I love you!’ And I’m like, ‘How could you? I destroyed the human race.”’

Favorite TV or movie villain
”I thought Ian McShane in Sexy Beast was as close to Satan as someone can actually be. The darkness was overwhelming. Deeply psychotic and twisted.”

Horrible things we can look forward to from Baltar
”What goes around comes around. Gaius has been tortured at the hands of the Cylons and now he’s going to be tortured at the hands of the humans. He will go on trial [for his crimes]. It’s more of a case of people doing despicable things to him.” — Daniel Fierman

Adoni Maropis as…

Why we love to hate him
After the five truly bad days Jack Bauer has been through — not to mention his recent two-year stint in a Chinese prison — it takes a hell of a guy to rattle our unflappable hero. Enter Abu Fayed, who proves his multitasking prowess in the Jan. 14 season premiere by torturing Bauer while also coordinating multiple terrorist plots.

Convince us Fayed is not actually that bad
”[Bauer] has tortured and killed my brother,” the 43-year-old Maropis explains, referencing Fayed’s vengeful streak. ”When I was 10 years old, my dad was in an airport and he got attacked by the PLO. My dad survived — he had some shrapnel in his leg and ran out. I relate to this guy.”

Why it’s bad to be good
Two seasons ago, he actually played a good guy on Fox’s 24 — the small part of a father who got caught up in a subplot and shot. Unfortunately, the scene was cut. ”I told everyone I had this part, so my parents and my brothers got hooked on the show,” he says. ”And I was so upset [about the axed scene] that I quit watching. My family would tell me what had happened, and I was like, Yeah, 24, whatever.”

Best part of being a villain
”We try to keep the beast down as real people, but as an actor, I can go there,” says Maropis, who’s also played meanies in Mortal Kombat and Bad Company. ”I’m a full-blooded Greek, so it’s all there — I’ve got the swarthiness and the passion.”

The least badass part he’s ever played
”For an audition, I once had to wear a corset, boots, and a wig and do a transsexual voice,” he says. ”But even then, the character turned out to be a boxer — a dominatrix transvestite boxer. My characters always have something going on.” — Jennifer Armstrong

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Kiefer Sutherland
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