Allie Theiss: 3 Steps To Creating Over-The-Top Characters That A-listers Will Love To Play

by Allie Theiss

What do Kramer from ‘Seinfeld,’ Goren from ‘Law & Order: Criminal Intent,’ and Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren from ‘Orange is the New Black’ have in common?

All three are characters created with a little bit of crazy and a dollop of extreme.

Characters on TV are rarely like real people. If we wanted to watch real, we’d stare at our neighbors.

Actors feel the same about playing, average, plain-Jane characters — B-O-R-I-N-G!

How can you create characters that will attract A-list TV actors to play them?

Simple, take the character to the extreme in three steps.

Let’s take Bob, an accountant, through the process.

Bob’s Base Description

Bob is a man in his 30s who is a mid-level accountant in a local manufacturing firm. He’s a single man who likes to travel.

Bob sounds pretty boring. Nothing makes this poor man stand out in the crowd. No actor would run to his agent begging to play him.

Time to help Bob become more enticing to prospective actors.

Step 1: Add a couple of unusual traits to Bob’s common traits.

Typical traits: explorer & educated.
Unusual traits: sadistic & deceptive.

Now we can describe Bob as a man in his 30s who is a mid-level accountant skimming money from his employer. He’s a single man who loves to travel and murder couples who are on a romantic vacation.

Bob just got a whole lot more interesting. His front is that of an ordinary, boring man. However, behind the scenes, he is a murdering thief.

Step 2: Put Bob in a situation that’s out of his comfort zone.

While on one of his murder trips, Bob runs into his old neighbor, who is the love he never could express.

Now, what’s Bob going to do? He’s on vacation and has an itching to kill. However, his secret love and her husband are there celebrating their anniversary.

Does Bob kill this couple? Or does he spare their lives and snuff out another set of love birds?

Bob is now an interesting man put into an uncomfortable situation.

There’s one more step to taking Bob to a character that A-listers will love.

Step 3: Bob has a trigger that makes him overreact.

Bob can’t stand the sight of blood. Anytime he sees blood, whether it’s his own or another’s life force, he totally freaks out. The only way for Bob to calm down is to shower and scrub his skin raw.

Now Bob is a murdering thief who wiggs out at the sight of blood.

Can you imagine what will happen if Bob murders another couple, gets some of their blood on him, freaks out, and on the way back to his room runs into his old love?

Poor Bob is now triggered and in an awkward position.

Bob also is finally the type of extreme character that an A-lister would love to sink his teeth into and think “Emmy nod.”

Easy Peasy, Right?

Now it’s time for you to take any boring characters through the three steps and see how extreme they will become. Then build your story around them, and voila, you’ll be out there on the field with the rest of the Big Dogs.


Allie Theiss is a TVWriter™ Contributing Writer and one of TVWriter™’s Recommended Writers. Check out her story and marketing tips on Instagram. Learn more about her HERE