Johnny Bananas Unpeels What Makes a Great Reality TV Villain—and Why He Loves Being One

The Challenge champion Johnny Bananas is going toe-to-toe with infamous reality TV troublemakers on E!'s House of Villains. He told E! News why he's one of the best anti-heroes.

By Tierney Bricker Oct 19, 2023 11:33 AMTags
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You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become a villain.

Or, if you're Johnny "Bananas" Devenanzio, you win so many times that you have no choice but to become public enemy No. 1.

After making his reality TV debut on The Real World: Key West in 2006, Johnny Bananas went on to become one of MTV's most notable figures thanks to his legendary run on The Challenge. In his career, the 41-year-old has competed on 25 total seasons of the franchise and holds the record for most wins with seven victories.

But his impressive track record isn't what transformed John Devenanzio into Johnny Bananas. No, it was his ruthless decision to keep the $275,000 he won with his partner, Sarah Rice, during 2016's Rivals 3 that cemented his status as an iconic reality TV anti-hero. And now, it's earned him a spot on the stacked cast—which includes Omarosa, Tiffany "New York" Pollard and Jax Taylorfor E!'s new series House of Villains.

"You can't run away from your destiny," Johnny told E! News in exclusive interview. "Our destiny chooses us and I think I've always been a villain."

House of Villains: Meet the Cast

An admitted troublemaker growing up, even Johnny's father can't believe he's managed to take his mischievous nature and turn it into a lucrative career.

"I've always been somebody that just likes to get a rise out of people and push people's buttons," Johnny explained. " I just love seeing their reaction."

While that kind of behavior is usually frowned upon in the real world, it's encouraged and incentivized in the realm of reality TV, with Johnny saying, "Dude, I couldn't have found a better job that fits my skill set."


Not that there hasn't been a learning curve over the course of his 18-year career.

"I think I really managed to find that niche and really perfect the art of being a fun villain," he reflected. "Sometimes I know I had my dark days, but we're all sums of our decisions, good and bad. I don't think I'd be the person that I am today if I hadn't faced the tough times, the adversities that I had in the past."

Ultimately, Johnny "learned the hard way" before he found his footing on a very thin line.

"There's a difference between being a villain that people hate and then a villain that people love to hate," he said. "I found a way to be a villain that people love to hate, not just hate."

And, make no mistake, being a good antagonist is a full-time job, with Johnny explaining he often feels like an "embedded producer" on The Challenge, a role he relishes.

"If you want to make good TV, you can't go with the flow. If everyone's going this direction, you go that direction," Johnny said. "You create friction. You want to do what everyone else isn't doing and you just have to capitalize on the moment. You have to be willing to do what everyone else is unwilling to do."

So what does that mean? Well, a perfect example would be Johnny alerting cameras to a cheating scandal during The Challenge: Battle of the Bloodlines in 2015.

The Challenge Season 39 Cast

"In the moment," Johnny reasoned, "sometimes you're like, 'Okay, I need to bring the cameras into this scene is that's not being filmed. I gotta make sure they see this or this conversation that's taking place in private and might be like a little smoldering ember. I need to throw some gasoline on it and make sure this thing turns into a blazing inferno.'"

While people initially call him out for being "an a--hole," Johnny noted these moments often become some of the most memorable scenes—and learning that lesson is crucial when it comes to being a great reality TV villain.

"It's also very important to do things and feel absolutely zero remorse for doing them," he added, "like stealing money from your partner." (Sorry, Sarah!)


Of course, Johnny was entering a completely new game when he walked into the House of Villains mansion to compete for $200,000 against some of the genre's heavyweight champs of bad behavior. But he was able to go into it without a massive target on his back and sans any pre-existing relationships to weigh him down. Basically, Johnny was on reality TV's version of spring break. 

"It was refreshing, coming in and not having to feel like I had any ties that I had to protect," he said. "And I could basically lie and cheat and manipulate and steal my way to the end and feel less remorse than I normally do."

On the flip side, however, was not having any allies he could trust, which led to Johnny breaking one of his usual Challenge rules of not entertaining showmances by quickly establishing flirtationships with Bachelor Nation alum Corinne Olympios and 90 Day Fiancé's Anfisa Arkhipchenko.

"Listen, I went in with a game plan in mind, and that was to play as many games as I possibly could," Johnny admitted. "Obviously, I'm used to being on The Challenge where it's the same cast season after season. You're potentially gonna have to deal with them in the future, which is why a lot of times I avoid any type of showmances cause it's like a jar of jalapenos: What you do today is gonna burn your ass tomorrow."

Knowing he might not ever see the rest of the House of Villains cast members again, Johnny was more than ready to use his flirtatious nature to his strategic advantage.

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"If it went somewhere else, then that's where it went," he added. "I was open to whatever. This was a new experience for me. I was going to do whatever it took to make it to the end, and to make good television on the way. We'll see if I was successful in either one of those endeavors."

Let the games begin. 

House of Villains airs Thursdays at 10 p.m., only on E!.