We had the honor of chatting with Revenge‘s acclaimed actress Madeleine Stowe, who plays a glamorous, powerful matriarch named Victoria Grayson in the hit ABC show.
Check out our interview with her below!
How much fun is it to play a character like Victoria Grayson?
Madeleine Stowe: It’s amazing fun because I love Victoria. I really, really love her. She has a very interesting backstory that makes her understandable and explains why she’s as warped as she is – but you have to watch the show to see when that is revealed. Playing a villain is so much more interesting than playing the roles I’ve played before, which is usually the heroine of the story or the tortured love interest. Victoria is a piece of work, which is great fun and something to sink my teeth into.
Do you think Victoria is a heinous character?
Madeleine Stowe: I don’t think that at all. I think Victoria is hiding something that goes way past the terrible sin she committed. To be honest, I think we all hide things in different ways. In her mind, she feels that she has risen to being a good human being, but she’s very much in love with Emily’s father to this very day – and that’s what really haunts her.
Were you looking to play a different type of character when this juicy role came up?
Madeleine Stowe: That’s not something I ever consciously thought about; it wasn’t part of my calculations. It truly came out of the fact that I had left acting for a while, but then this script came up and I was immediately hooked. Particularly being the age that I am at right now, when women aren’t allowed to be glamorous creatures. It was definitely the right role for me.
Is it easy to make Victoria appealing to an audience?
Madeleine Stowe: Initially, it was tricky finding the right balance, because some people thought she should be almost a mustache-twirling heavy, but I never felt that. I felt that she had a certain kind of vulnerability about her, that if the hammer had to come down, it was going to come down. So when they were testing the character, I think what they found is that the audiences unexpectedly felt for her. They felt a lot of sympathy for Victoria because she’s trapped.
What do you think of the show’s portrayal of such an extravagant and rich lifestyle?
Madeleine Stowe: We are dealing with a particular time right now in American history where I think the average American wants to see the take down of the rich. The disparity is so huge right now in terms of who’s making the money. There’s this group of incredibly wealthy people and then there’s everybody else. I think everyone is feeling their lives starting to slip away, so I think it could be satisfying to be able to watch this sort of escapist fantasy, which has a really dark heart.
Revenge is a very primal instinct in all of us, which is why it’s a fascinating topic to explore. In America we have the one-per-centers – the people who control the vast amount of the wealth in this country – and since the global financial crisis, a lot of people outside that group have been struggling. So maybe the appeal is two-fold? There’s this delicious bit of escapism in seeing how they live, and also seeing the ultra-wealthy have those lives torn askew. I think audiences get satisfaction from that; they live out their own revenge fantasies.
Revenge is set in the Hamptons. Have you ever been there?
Madeleine Stowe: No, and I’ve got no desire to visit either. I look at it with a sense of unreality. The lives of those people really don’t interest me that much; it’s not terribly fascinating to me. It just seems so outside and incomprehensible. However, these characters intrigue me. It’s a fun, gripping ride on the show.
Has playing Victoria Grayson changed people’s perception of you in real life?
Madeleine Stowe: I have to say that when I walk down the street, people are really terrified of me now. They really are. In truth, I’m nothing like Victoria. I’m actually very shy and very introverted, which is why I disappeared from Hollywood for so long. I went and moved into a ranch in Texas for a number of years. I’m idiosyncratic and I’ll disappear again.
What is your relationship like with Emily VanCamp?
Madeleine Stowe: Emily VanCamp is a very interesting girl and an extraordinary professional. Emily has a great deal of inner dignity. A lot of young actresses these days give themselves away too much, but Emily keeps it inside. I don’t know whether that was her ballet training or how she was raised, but I respect that. She reminds me a little of Grace Kelly.
Are you similar in the way you go about your roles?
Madeleine Stowe: No, we work very differently. Emily has a very smart process and she thinks everything through. Also, with our different characters, she has a lot of exposition while, in a way, I have the more fun role to play. My role is all about manipulation, but I never have to explain anything. Emily has to do that. She’s doing a brilliant job carrying the weight of the show on her shoulders.
When you’re on set, do you stay in character between takes?
Madeleine Stowe: Generally, an extra stands in for the actors when the lights and cameras are being set. However, I like to stand there for every second, so I can really stay focused and in character. That’s not how people typically work, but I feel that it’s essential with Victoria.
Victoria is incredibly glamorous. Do you feel a lot of pressure to live up to her image?
Madeleine Stowe: This is where Victoria and I are completely different. I like to wear big baggy shirts, jeans and cowboy boots. That’s what makes me happy and that’s how I go to work every day, but I have to be a little more careful when I go out now. I have to think about it a little more.
How important are awards like the Emmys and your Golden Globe nomination?
Madeleine Stowe: First of all, I should never have been there for the Golden Globe nominations. I don’t know what I was doing there, but it was very, very nice. It was a complete and utter surprise, but it wasn’t something that I’d focused or campaigned for, or anything like that. You know what? It was also lovely to get dressed up like that. It was sweet. And it was also fascinating watching the room to see what goes on at these events. I’m glad people like the character.
How different is it to be in the spotlight today compared to when you first found fame?
Madeleine Stowe: It’s a very weird world now. I grew up in a world where people weren’t commenting or scrutinizing you. I don’t Tweet, I don’t use Facebook or any of those things and I’m bewildered by it, so pop culture is a very strange phenomenon to me. I don’t know what to make of it. I’m very old fashioned and I can’t see myself changing now, but who knows what the future holds?
Revenge: The Complete First Season is now available on DVD!