ABC hasn’t exactly gone for a subtle publicity push when it comes to its new Wednesday night thriller, “Revenge.” There are advertisements on every bus stop and billboard in Los Angeles. They even sent us an iPad with the pilot episode screener loaded up — and a top secret message from the lead character. Yes, much like the Hamptons residents that populate the series, the marketing team behind “Revenge” has little regard for the economic crisis. (And we love it.)
We’ll let you in on a little secret, though. They didn’t really have to do any of that. At least, not to snag our attention. (We would’ve watched the show even without the Godiva truffles that came with the iPad, though they were a nice touch, ABC.)
The real draw for “Revenge” is its lead actress, Emily VanCamp.
The show is only the latest in a series of smart career moves by VanCamp. The audience that was introduced to her as the strong, but flawed Amy Abbott on The WB’s gone-too-soon family drama “Everwood” remains loyal. Her exit from “Brothers and Sisters” came before the show unraveled in its final season. Her film choices have been well-received, if under-the-radar, and her TV movie “Beyond the Blackboard” generated an impressive amount of buzz this year.
So yes, we tuned in for VanCamp, half-expecting to see her in another comforting and relatable role. What we got instead was a young woman on a ruthless vengeance mission, perfectly at home as she dances the line between bad and very, very bad.
VanCamp plays Amanda Clarke, a woman whose beloved father was betrayed by those closest to him and framed for involvement in a terrorist plot. Sent to prison when she was only nine years old, he died while she was still in the foster system.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) he left her with a seemingly bottomless pool of money, and now Amanda is all grown up and, under the name Emily Thorne, is renting the beach house where she and her father spent their last summer together. The Hamptons are still populated by the people who destroyed her family so many years ago, and “Emily” is out to take each of them down. The execution of the character is just so good that we find ourselves
relating to her in ways we sort of wish we didn’t. She appeals to the
dark side in all of us, and it makes for a thoroughly brilliant hour of
To say that she “exacts” her revenge is doubly appropriate — in the first few episodes, Emily inflicts her punishment with a deft precision, taking out underlings as she works her way up the social ladder to Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe), the closest thing to an evil fairy tale queen you’ll find in the Hamptons.
Things are sure to be complicated, however, as she finds herself in a love triangle — because don’t they always? We know that she’s in for a tumultuous relationship with her soon-to-be fiancee, Daniel (Josh Bowman) — who happens to be Victoria’s son and, inevitably, a key pawn in her intricate game.
Still, she’s unable to avoid run-ins with Jack (Nick Wechsler), a townie with a heart of gold who has been pining for Amanda, the real Amanda, since she disappeared the night her father was arrested. (He’s been taking care of her dog all these years, okay, people? He’s basically perfect.)
With all those emotions in the mix, the plan is sure to go awry. We gave VanCamp a ring on a rare day off before her recent Jimmy Kimmel appearance, and she dished on just how it feels to be playing the modern woman’s answer to the Count of Monte Cristo. And, because we couldn’t help ourselves… we got the Amy Abbott update we didn’t know we needed.
Zap2it: So your face is on the side of every building in town. Is that super weird for you?
VanCamp: It is so weird. I’ve never been on something where they’ve done any kind of publicity push. For me, it’s been wonderful, and for our crew and cast, going to work every day knowing that we have so much support from the network.
You were telling me the other night that your parents haven’t really gotten to witness the spectacle.
VanCamp: They live in a small town just outside of Toronto, so no, they don’t really know. I’m trying to get them to come out here soon. I’ve been sending my mom loads of pictures of billboards, though, so she’s loving every second of it from afar.
Obviously, you’ve had a lot of success on TV before, but “Everwood” and “Brothers and Sisters” were very much ensemble shows. Now you’re on those billboards all by your lonesome.
VanCamp: As wonderful as it is, every time I see a billboard, it’s like an extra brick is being put on my shoulders. I’m lucky, though. Our cast is so amazing and so talented, so as much as I’m feeling the pressure, they’ve been so great and supportive, and they’re carrying a lot of that, with me. We’re just trying to do the best job possible every day to make the show as twisted and delicious as we can. I can’t really let my head go there too much, because I might have a panic attack if I let it sink in too much.
Twisted and delicious are good words for it. Are you having fun playing someone who is so far from that well-intentioned girl-next-door?
VanCamp: I can’t tell you how much fun I’m having! Every day is exciting. I love this character. I felt like, if I’m reading these scripts and I’m rooting for her, then hopefully our audience will too.
It’s been said before that your character is a little bit like a female Dexter — she’s definitely out of her mind, but we find ourselves rooting for her anyway.
VanCamp: In an odd sense — I mean, it’s debatable, but she feels justified in what she’s doing. She’s not taking down good people. These are bad people, who do a lot of bad things. There’s an element of moral code, which Dexter has as well. She’s not in the business of killing people. She wants to take them down, but she does have a moral code. She’s not an evil person. She just wants to see the people who destroyed her family suffer as much as she has.
Are we going to see a softer side to her?
VanCamp: Well, there’s something that’s quite tragic about her story, in that if she lets go of this revenge, if she gives up, she’ s giving up on her father. That’s not something that she’s willing to do. It pulls at the heartstrings a little bit, especially when you see the flashbacks and you see what she’s gone through. We’ll start to see more of where she went after they took her away from her father. That was a horrible teenagehood of going from foster home to foster home to juvie. Horrible things happen in those kinds of circumstances. We’ll come to see what she’s had to go through.
There’s already an element of sympathy for her, because she’s pretty much the loneliest girl in the world. Nobody loves her as Amanda, because nobody knows Amanda, and all of her friends are just people she’s using in this grand master scheme.
VanCamp: She lives an incredibly lonely existence. We have another joke on set that I’m always doing these scenes with this infinity box. I always say she has one true relationship, and it’s with this box, with all of the clippings and the journals that her father left her. It makes for boring days on set, but that’s her one true connection.
I have to say, also, her relationship with Jack is one of the only times where we get to see her vulnerable. We get to see her guard come down a little bit, which terrifies her. She keeps him at an arm’s length because of that. It’s very sad, because at the end of the day she is a lonely girl who has no love apart from the love of her deceased father.
Speaking of Jack, you guys have a really brilliantly crafted love triangle on your show. Jack is so endearing, and we’re expecting Daniel to be this entitled wealthy jerk, but he’s totally not.
VanCamp: We talk about it all the time! Team Jack and Team Daniel, which infuriates Joshua Bowman, because he has a competitive side. They’re both such great actors and they’re playing it so well. It’s difficult to play opposite them, because I’m playing a character within a character. We have an ongoing joke with Nick that every time we think he can’t get more likable, he becomes more likable. He has a boat, and a dog, and he’s the underdog — it’s just not fair. Best guy ever.
I’m waiting for him to bust out a guitar and say that he’s a volunteer EMT on the weekends.
VanCamp: I know! And the worst part is, he plays the guitar, and he plays it really well, too. They’ll probably incorporate that at some point, and then we’re all in trouble.
When we first meet Daniel, we hear about his bad reputation and we expect him to be someone who keeps a lot of secrets, but he’s pretty honest right away. He comes clean about his drinking within five minutes of knowing Emily.
VanCamp: My character is really expecting him to be something that he’s not. He has a bad reputation and on paper, he looks bad, but when she meets him she realizes that he’s actually a good guy, and he’s kind of suffering at the hand of Victoria as well. They have great chemistry, and at the end of the day, as crazy as Emily is, she still has feelings. I think it’s going to be a tough pick for her as well. In a sense, she’s using him, but at the same time, there’s sort of an undeniable connection there.
Emily is so masterful and methodical as she’s kind of crossing people off of her list. Where did she learn this stuff? Did she go to life-ruiner college?
VanCamp: Sort of! As you know, that it’s loosely based on “The Count of Monte Cristo.” So the idea is that when she found out the truth about her family and her father’s death, she decided to take the money and run with it. She went and studied all of these
things, she acquired the tools to exact this revenge. There are so many crazy ideas that have been thrown out there in terms of her history and her backstory, which will be revealed at some point. She took this seriously and is incredibly clever. She’s masterfully crafted this plan. Just when you think she can’t get more twisted, she does. I mean, in short, she’s a badass.
Okay, I’m going to let you go enjoy what’s left of your day off, but before you go, I need to ask you a very important question. Where do you think Amy Abbott is now?
VanCamp: [Laughing] Amy Abbott is living happily with Ephram. They probably have a couple kids. He’s a famous pianist and she is a great mom and a women’s rights activist and they visit Everwood all the time.
And they have a Ferris wheel.
VanCamp: Yes. They have a Ferris Wheel in their backyard.
Keep an eye on Zap2it for more from our chat with Emily VanCamp, and don’t forget to tune in to “Revenge” on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EST, beginning Sept. 21 on ABC.