Daytime’s Most Famous “Love to Hate” Characters

By Marlena Delacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

Eric Braeden as Victor Newman: Still Machiavellian after all these years

For any soap opera, a “love to hate” character is money in the bank.  Fascinated by their endless power to manipulate other characters and instigate interesting plots, these diabolical characters are adored by audiences who avidly follow all that they do. 

“Love to hate” characters dot soap opera history and frequently have long lives.  One of the first “love to hate” females was Lisa on As the World Turns, played by Eileen Fulton. Lisa drove her husband Bob and other ATWT characters crazy for decades.  On Another World, the original Rachel, played by Robin Strasser, was a “love to hate” character who evolved into a heroine, subsequently played by Victoria Wyndham. Stasser went on to play another and more famous “love to hate” character, Dorian Lord, on One Life to Live for decades.  Another iconic “love to hate” character, All My Children’s Erica Kane, made famous by Susan Lucci, quickly became the heroine of her show and was beloved for four decades as she stirred up trouble for generations of characters in Pine Valley.

“Love to hate” characters are usually played by women, but there have been some notable exceptions.  On AMC, James Mitchell’s Palmer Cortlandt caused trouble for his daughter Nina for years.   On TheYoung and the Restless, Eric Braeden’s conniving Victor Newman has been the catalyst of many twisted plots for 30 years. And he’s still going strong,mastermindinglots of problems for his children Adam, Nick and Victoria, and causing his wife Nikki to leave him over and over again. (They recently reconciled after Nikki forgave him for hiring a Cassie lookalike to frighten Sharon. But does anyone believe Victor is properly repentant and will change his Machiavellian ways? )

Right now, there are two “love to hate” characters on soaps who are relatively new and fascinating:

Spunky Quinn Fuller (Rena Sofer) came to The Bold and the Beautiful’s Forrester Creations as a jewelry designer along with her illegitimate son Wyatt.  Since arriving Quinn will do anything to help Wyatt win over the love of Hope Logan, including threatening and torturing Wyatt’s brother Liam, who is also in love with Hope.  This week Quinn even threatened to kill both Wyatt and Hope.  Quinn is so delicious as a “love to hate” character, she’s sure to be with us for a long time.

And on General Hospital, Nina Clay, as played  by Michelle Stafford (who originated and played another “love to hate” character Phyllis Summers Newman on The Young and Restless) has turned out to be a real terror since she came to Port Charles to bust up the romance of her husband Silas and Sam Morgan.  She has even resorted to faking paralysis to get her husband to feel sorry for her and stay with her. In interviews, Stafford has stated that Nina is a sociopath – great news for connoisseurs of “love to hate” characters.   She certainly has a long future ahead as a troublemaker on GH.

So, do you have a favorite baddie, past or present? Please share.


  1. Ah, Marlena, who could ever forget the wonderful villainess Sheila Carter, who terrorized people on not one, but TWO daytime dramas? Sheila could be sweet and romantic, make people believe she was this wonderful person (and a nurse, off all things!), then turn on a dime and be vicious, conniving and as evil as Satan himself (actually, she could teach the Devil AND Phyllis Summers Newman a few things!). Sheila Carter is my “go-to” villain for daytime soaps. Thanks for letting me speak out.

  2. GREAT commentary as always! I totally agree with you on all those mentioned particularly the incomparable Mr. James Mitchell. There are so many but a few particular favorites: Joan Copeland as the mother-in-law from hell Andrea Whiting on SEARCH FOR TOMORROW, Marla Adams as bitch supreme Belle Kincaid on THE SECRET STORM, Sofia Landon’s delicious Diane Ballard on GUIDING LIGHT, Judith Chapman as nasty Natalie Bannon on AS THE WORLD TURNS…..soooo many more but these talented ladies & those roles come to mind immediately. Your post also brought back memories of a former colleague of yours — Jon-Michael Reed who instituted “The Bitch Goddesses” series in DAILY TV SERIALS. Thanks again — have a great week!

    • David C says:

      Any mention of the wonderful Daily TV Serials brings back so many great memories. Marlena for decades now, you are the perfect heiress to that great magazine,

  3. I have so many favorite baddies. One of my faves was Iris on ANOTHER WORLD. When viewers met her, her ex or estranged husband, Eliot Carrington was taking care of their eye glass wearing son, Dennis, who had a heart condition.Alice Frame was Dennis’s nurse. Iris thought something was going on between Eliot and Alice, who denied it.

    Iris didn’t believe them. She had to know what she was dealing with. I guess she feared that Alice and Eliot would marry and there would be no hope for a reconciliation for her and Eliot. So, to protect her interest, she had Eliot’s suite bugged and was seen listening to his private conversations. Eventually, she was caught, but evaded a trial and possible incarceration when she had a nervous breakdown.

    In another gem of a story, Iris’ father Mac married Rachel, who Iris viewed as an opportunist and a social climber. She reminded Mac of Rachel’s sordid past with Steve Frame and how she harassed poor Alice. Mac did not want to hear anything negative about Rachel and he told Iris that he would remove her from his life if she didn’t cease and desist.

    Iris hired Philp Wainwright, a flat, broke and busted playboy to seduce Rachel and steal her away from Mac. And after he did so, Iris wanted him to drop Rachel. Philp repeatedly flirted with Rachel, who rebuffed his romantic overtures. Eventually, he stole a kiss and Rachel hit him across the face with a riding crop.

    Iris’ husband, Robert Delaney had an affair with Clarice Hobson, a sweet, waitress who wore a bad perm. Clarice became pregnant by Robert. Clarice was a naive type and Iris taunted her, telling her that when the baby was born, she was going to take the child away from Clarice. Because of the harassment, Clarice’s blood pressure rose to a dangerous level and she had to be hospitalized. Clarice confided to Mac what was going on. Mac confronted Iris and demanded that she leave Clarice alone, that if she didn’t cease bedeviling that poor girl that he would instruct Clarice to file a complaint against Iris for harassment and that he would also have Clarice request a restraining order. “You could end up behind bars, Iris,” Mac warned his daughter. Iris was livid that Mac took Clarice’s side and that he acting as though she was a common criminal.

    Iris harassed and mistreated her maid Louise, who grew sick of Iris’s abuse and went to work for Mac and Rachel.

    LOVED that Iris.

    • David C says:

      I believe the week this storyline climaxed, Another World became the most watched soap in the Nielsen ratings,

      • David C says:

        Whoops, posted without the full portion. The Iris harassing poor Clarice in the hospital got the show to Number One that week.

  4. Great list.

    But seriously. You left off Justin Deas’ Keith Timmons from “Santa Barbara.”

    This title — “Love to Hate” was literally created for that character.

  5. Roger Thorpe on GUIDING LIGHT. Never has a soap villain been so deliciously nasty and so painfully sympathetic.

  6. Oh, I forgot another one (and all those listed are AMAZING, folks, thanks!) …

    Michael Muhney’s version of Adam Newman.

    Now THAT was a character that people loved to hate, and hated to love, but oh, did they do both! And so many of them STILL want to have Muhney back on the show to portray his character of Adam once again. Wishful thinking, I’m sure, but yes, even I would love to have the extremely talented Mr. Muhney return. He was deliciously evil and sooo good at his job as an actor!

  7. I just had to add a postscript to my original comment since I zeroed in on the ladies but obviously as one other person, Michael Zaslow’s Roger Thorpe immediately comes to mind. In my mind, the only other actors equivalent to his greatness would be James Mitchell’s Palmer Courtland as you posted & Larry Bryggman’s Dr. John Dixon from AS THE WORLD TURNS. These three gentleman are what it’s all about in the category of soap bad boys you love to hate.

    • Exactly. remember when Palmer was going to allow Nina to go blind just so she wouldn’t be with Cliff..GL and ATWTS were the soaps I watched. Roger no matter what evil he pulled you couldn’t hate him. Dixon at first I just hated but still wanted to see what he was cooking up. These three were actors. That is all I have to say. Talented actors who were hired because they could act. Not like now they hire people because they are models.Some have trouble walking and talking at the same time.

  8. My all time favorite daytime Love to Hate character was/is/will always be Dorian Lord from OLTL (how I still miss you). Second runner up is Kristen Dimera from DOOL.

    For primetime soaps, no one can beat Abby Cunningham Ewing Sumner from the one and only Knots Landing!!! Second runner up is Amanda Woodward from Melrose.

  9. Does anyone remember when Kim and John separated on AS THE WORLD TURNS and Kim moved into a new apartment? John harassed her. He phoned her and wouldn’t utter a word and Kim would become frantic. “I know someone’s there,” she said in a shrill voice. “I can hear you breathing, you devil. Why are you doing this to me?”

    John knocked on her door and disappeared and Kim told her friends what was going on. John said that some sick guy probably gets his kick harassing women.

    Kim changed her phone number and had the new number unlisted.

    • Remember when Kim left John and was in a hurricane. She was hit on the head and had no memory. John was her husband and kept Dan Stewart away. They were in love but Dan was a doctor and couldn’t interfere. She had to remember on her own. That’s when she got pregnant with Andy. It took forever for them to get together. Sean Donnelly from GH played Dan after and I loved them together. I stayed home to watch ,no vcr or anyway to tape it. When Kim finally remembered Dan was with someone else. First John kept them apart then Dans ex, the drunken Susan stepped in. Original Dan returned him and Kim got together, mostly thanks to Dan’s daughter Betsy and they killed him off. I was livid.This was when soaps were a thing to watch.

  10. I’d have to throw Stefano DiMera in there, too. No matter what craziness has gone on, somehow Stefano is able to emerge with a shred of humanity in his eternal desire to hold his family together. And what a family! He must be the most virile man in DAYS OF OUR LIVES history. I recently went back and watched some of the sillier moments, such as when Stefano recreated the Roman-off-the-cliff scenario with John Black in the fall of 1988, four years after the original incident. Stefano was into some Asian thing at the time, and there wasn’t much scenery left because the actors chewed it all. But then watch his reaction to the death of Renee in 1983, or Megan in 1985, or Tony in 2009, or Lexie in 2011. Suddenly, you actually care about a man who is supposedly evil incarnate, and whose bad deeds actually cause harm to the people he claims to love the most.

    Billy Clyde Tuggle on ALL MY CHILDREN is one of my favorite all-time soap characters. So over-the-top, so wicked, so wily. He was a bad dude, but he had an edge that could be hilarious or brutal – and that was due to the great portrayal by Matthew Cowles, who passed away recently. Billy Clyde terrorizing Donna Beck Sago Tyler .. etc. was classic, especially in the early ’90s return.

    John Dixon on AS THE WORLD TURNS was another character I hated to love. Or loved to hate. Such interesting dynamics between he and James Stenbeck, Lucinda Walsh, and with other characters in his orbit. Even four years after the end of ATWT, I still think Larry Bryggman (John Dixon) may have been the best soap opera actor, ever. Go back and watch his 1996 take-down of Lisa at their engagement party. She had caused him to lose his job at the hospital — and boy, did he ever get her back! But then watch the 1997 clip where he and Barbara lose their baby after the church fire. Those scenes haunt me all these years later, due to the man’s great acting in the role.

    Finally, in my opinion, the greatest love-to-hate character of all is Roger Thorpe from GUIDING LIGHT. He was an abusive rapist who later faked his own death. He terrorized one female partner after another, and tried to tightly control his children (which often backfired). But man, what an actor Michael Zaslow was. The guy just gave and gave in every scene. I have gone back and watched some of the blackout story from 1992 on GL. Roger and Holly were mesmerizing; the writing and acting was so good in those days. But Roger, as terrible as he was, always was the victim of his own machinations and turned everyone against him every time.

  11. Anthony F. says:



    • Budget cuts, new writers and EPs who don’t really know the characters or history of the shows (or the folks on them) and corporations who look more to the bottom line and “can we bring in kids between 18-49?” instead of realizing that soaps are a FAMILY thing, that kids watch with grandma, aunts, moms, dads, babysitters and other older people FIRST, learning about the shows, the characters, the stories and grow to love them as much as the older folks who have been watching them for years, and then they are addicted to them as well. As soon as the powers that be realize that the vets of shows are important, that “love in the afternoon” and “daytime drama” means more than just pretty faces and hard bodies, then we’ll start getting our soaps and stories that we adored back again. We have to fight for them, just as we fight for our vets … because we LOVE them!

  13. I love gh says:

    Loved this week’s column! My favorite baddie is ADAM CHANDLER, who only had a soft spot for one person: his twin Stuart. Adam could torture Dixie, spar with Erica, flirt with Brooke, push the audience into hating him, then talk with Stuart & we’d see he wasn’t really such a bad guy.

    My runner-ups are.

    Dorian Lord
    Tina Lord Roberts
    Erica Kane

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