Why It's So Fun To Play A Villain, According To Heels' Stephen Amell And Alexander Ludwig

Spoilers below for the third episode of Starz's Heels, so be warned!

For its third outing, the wrestling-imbued cable drama Heels brought a legitimate wrestler into the mix with former WWE superstar and current AEW fave CM Punk as the blood-loving Ricky Rabies. As awesome as that appearance was, the biggest moment for the show's central story involved Alexander Ludwig's Ace Spade finally giving into the advice from Stephen Amell's Jack that he should just embrace the fan backlash and the screwjob by becoming a villain within the DWL. Now we've got both Spade brothers truly living up to the show's title.

When I had the pleasure of talking to both Stephen Amell and Alexander Ludwig ahead of Heels' premiere on Starz, I brought up the episode "Cheap Heat" and Amell's glorious mic skills in the ring, and asked both actors what makes it fun to play a villain. Here's how Amell answered:

Well, just playing the bad guys, like, you get to sneer at people. And I mean, there's two times when I walk out to the ring — it's completely unscripted — I grabbed some popcorn and just cracked it up in their face. And we went backstage after the take and our directors cracking up; he's like, 'Is that the script?' I go, 'No, that wasn't in the script.' I just wanted to freak somebody out. Playing a bad guy is so much fun. And I'm going to steal what Alexander has been saying here: it's limitless. There's no thing that you can do that's too big. They would let me get in the ring and get on the microphone, and we would have a direction that we were going, but you know, I got to yell to people to shut up and call them trash, and tell them they have stupid kids. [Laughs.] Like, you're not allowed to do this in real life, and it's just so much fun.

Not everybody knows how to pull off wordy wrestling promos with memorable results, even within a company like the WWE, but Stephen Amell does a damned good job of it in Heels' third episode. It's reminiscent of classic superstar villains like Ravishing Rick Rude and the wordsmith Ric Flair, and is all the more impressive to watch "Jack Spade" go from being an asshole in the ring to being slightly less of one outside the ring. (Pay attention to your wife more, Jack!) It makes sense, given Amell's history with the WWE in particular, but still fun to watch it play out.

stephen amell's jack spade and alexander ludwig's ace spade on the mic in wrestling ring in heels

(Image credit: starz press)

While Stephen Amell answered things more from a personal acting perspective, Alexander Ludwig spoke to both the psychological underpinning behind the joy of acting out villainy, while also speaking to how it relates to his character Ace. In his words:

I think that there's this - we were saying this in another interview, too - when you see a really, really tremendous heel in the ring, there's this fascination with it. Because I think deep down in the animalistic part of all of us, there's this longing to be able to, even just for a day, not care. About anything or anyone. And getting to finally embody that, no spoilers, but my favorite episode for Ace is when he finally comes to terms with the fact that he might have to turn. And for him, you know, coming to terms with who you are, and just going 100% into that, is very freeing.

Considering Ace was already living pretty loosely before his big heel turn, one can only expect the character will get into even more debauchery in upcoming episodes. I certainly hope Kelli Burgland's Crystal doesn't get caught up and twisted in his wheels as he spins out.

Heels airs on Starz on Sunday nights at 9:00 p.m. ET, and it's just one of many awesome new shows hitting the 2021 Fall TV season, so be sure to stay up to date!

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.