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A steamy affair, a crushing betrayal and a shocking murder and Victoria Grayson is at the heart of it all in M-Net’s new suspense drama, Revenge. Debashine Thangevelo bagged an exclusive tête-à-tête with heavyweight Hollywood actress Madeleine Stowe to chat about her influential TV role as the matriarch and why her character is troubled so by the arrival of mysterious socialite Emily Thorne/Amanda Clarke (Emily VanCamp) in The Hamptons…
WEALTH and authority are generally associated with the toffee-nosed residents of The Hamptons. And the Grayson family certainly fit the bill with Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) as the lady of the house in M-Net’s highly anticipated new series, Revenge.
Although the Graysons appear to be leading an idyllic life, all is not as it seems behind the stunning exterior of their posh home. Victoria and her husband Conrad, the CEO of Grayson Global, have a large skeleton in their closet and it goes back to her affair with David Clarke – a man whose life she is ultimately responsible for ruining.
Nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama this year, Stowe explains how she came to be involved with the series.
“I was focused on a long-time project I was going to direct. And I took myself off the market. But it wasn’t working out and when this offer came up, I was coming out of a low in the project.
“It was a difficult decision as the film means a lot to me,” the 53-year- old actress explains.
What sold her on the show?
“I felt Victoria was a really compelling and unusual character. I was familiar with Dynasty and Dallas, but I have never seen someone like her. Her cunning is exceptional.
“Of course, when I did the series, the film came together,” laughs Stowe.
She made Unbound Captives, starring Hugh Jackman, Robert “I’m-so-broken-hearted-now” Pattinson and Rachel Weisz. Stowe co-wrote the script with actor and husband Brian Benben, with whom she has a daughter.
“It’s an epic tale. We are in discussions right now for its release,” she clarifies.
With more than three decades in the industry, during which time she worked in television and film, Stowe explains her stronger presence on the small screen.
“The film roles tend to be more youth-targeted these days. When I was 23 and 24, I thought I’d retire as an actress by 40,” she points out.
While Revenge has proved a hit with audiences, with ABC giving it the nod for a second instalment, Stowe refuses to be smug about it.
“I think when you see anything become a success on television, you are a little stunned by it. I never thought people would embrace this character. And it is demanding in a sense in that the audience aren’t privy to her past and her psychological make-up,” she offers.
Of course, that made getting into the skin of the character somewhat more demanding.
“I can’t arbitrarily perform terrible acts as Victoria. There has to be something, I believe, pressing on her psyche – making her respond the way that she does. She loves power.”
Between her two children Daniel and Charlotte, Victoria tends to favour her son who can seemingly do no wrong, while she often chastises Charlotte for the slightest thing.
“It is interesting, Mike (Kelley – the show’s creator and co-executive producer) and I have a different philosophy about that.
“I don’t buy that she can’t be close to her daughter because I’m a mom. Sometimes you tend to be harder on your children when you are driven. I think she wants perfection out of Charlotte,” Stowe rationalises.
The arrival of socialite Emily Thorne/Amanda Clarke (Emily VanCamp) unsettles Victoria. While she can’t quite put her finger on it, she isn’t keen on Emily dating a besotted Daniel.
As for working with VanCamp, last seen in Brothers & Sisters, Stowe praises: “Emily is extremely professional. I think we are both taken aback by the show. Sometimes, we just laugh and say: ‘Can you believe this is happening?’ She is a very present actor and really thinks the character through – I admire that.”
On what puts Revenge in a league of its own, the veteran actress comments: “I don’t like making comparisons. Each film/TV show has its own flavour. That’s all I will say.”
Stowe stays viewers will find themselves revelling in the suspense, especially from episodes nine and 10 where the show “really finds its legs”.
She says: “People love to see other people manipulating and being secretive. Just when they think the story is going to head in one direction, there is another surprise. And there are wonderful performances in this well-written and well-shot series.”
With a big score about to be settled as Thorne sets about clearing the tarnished reputation of her dead father, viewers can look forward to a labyrinth of twists amid the unfolding secrets and deadly deception with everyone becoming a pawn in her plans.
This time around, revenge is a dish best served dangerously sexy.
• Revenge starts on M-Net (DStv channel 101) on Thursday at 7.30pm.