'Revenge's' Madeleine Stowe on Victoria's Fate and Father, Emily's New Heart
[Warning: Spoilers ahead if you haven't seen Sunday's series finale of Revenge, titled "Two Graves."]
Victoria Grayson is dead — for real this time.
The Hamptons socialite (Madeleine Stowe) was thought to be dead until viewers of ABC's Revenge learned that she had faked her own death in her own attempt at revenge against Emily/Amanda (Emily VanCamp). In Sunday night's season finale, Amanda and Victoria finally have their face-to-face showdown, in which Emily sets out to kill Victoria — only to be beaten to the punch by her dying father, David Clarke (James Tupper). (Read the full recap here.)
On Monday, Stowe talked to The Hollywood Reporter about having to keep her big reveal a secret, the truth about Victoria's father and whether she can be considered a sympathetic character.
A few weeks ago you had to give a series of interviews in which you said Victoria had died. But then we learned she was still alive! How hard was that to play off?
That was a very tricky conversation because I was telling you that truth that she was dead; I just didn't tell you when! [Laughs]. I apologize for having to [mislead everyone]. It was one of those the things I told you that was true, so it was hard. But I do think the essential things I told you stick, certainly with respect to the fact that she had a standing death wish since season one, and I knew what other people didn't know was the backstory of her abusive background and having no parenting and nothing to fall back on. That's what made her so tough about protecting her children. She believed, in her own sick way, that she had to play defense her whole life — or offense, you might say, I'm not sure which of the two. But she believed this girl [Amanda] was going to hurt her kids. That's how far gone she was; she is in a mad state but seems competent and lucid. ... I cracked up watching [the finale]; I didn't have any tears. This woman, as I explained, is really ready to die. I felt her story ended perfectly after season three, and the fourth season was ABC's choice in terms of the story they wanted to tell, which was very much in keeping with Amanda's point of view and having her rewarded at the end of the day for all the trauma that had been inflicted on her. ... Victoria was so in love with her children and attached to them, even if it came out in funny ways. She wanted to make sure they were not damaged like she was. Amanda had suffered damage, but she had the love of her father and real friends and she had a chance for something great.
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But Victoria may have had the last laugh — even though neither she nor Amanda is aware of it. Does Amanda, in fact, now have Victoria's heart?
She's got Victoria's heart, which is funny. We did a table read, and it was just a wicked funny turn. Then [the writers] did a little embellishment in wanting to make it more from Emily's psyche: Did this happen? Did it not happen? Was it a recurring dream? She is such an authentic witness, and I think the general takeaway was that they wanted the audience to believe it actually happened, but of course you can never know [for certain]. It was very Edgar Allan Poe, and shows that these two women will never be able to separate from each other.
There is some confusion over who was Victoria's father. Can you clarify that?
So in season two, her mother came back and she has a new man in life [Maxwell] and Victoria kind of outs her for the damage she did and when took she fall for mother [who shot her boyfriend but then manipulated Victoria into taking the blame]. That [story line] was modeled after Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato [who was stabbed to death by Turner's daughter, claiming she was defending her mother from his attack]. Mike Kelley [series creator, who left the show in 2013] and I discussed this because Victoria had to have a backstory: How does this woman become what makes her what she is? This is what came out of it. Then, when Victoria mother came back from the juvenile facility [after taking the blame], she had moved on to a new boyfriend [Maxwell]. That guy molested Victoria, and her mother saw Victoria as a sexual rival. That man was her father, and Victoria didn't know it.
So just to clarify: It's not Jimmy Brennan, the guy who raped her, which resulted in the birth of Patrick?
No, that happened seven months later as Victoria was trying to put her life together. She was 16 and trying to pass herself off as older; she was terrified that people could smell "victim" on her and that's why she was so vociferous in creating a persona, a hardened shell that was impenetrable, and that's why she defended children so much. That [revelation] showed how deep the psychological damage in Victoria went.
Why did she decide to tell Louise the truth, despite Margaux's plea not to? Does that have anything to do with her death wish?
Yeah. I think, first of all, she has a really great affection for Louise. What that came out of I'm not sure, but in the psych ward, she mothered her. And it also was very much a reflection of her state of mind. As this relationship grew and developed, Victoria also felt loyalty to Louise, but when she asked her to come down, she did want to see her, but she also knew she would go tell [Nolan and Emily].
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Do you think Victoria died with regrets?
Oh yeah, she began the series with regrets. She regretted deeply what she did to David, but that was a Sophie's choice. Conrad was in league with terrorists, and she had to choose between her son and her lover. She hated every second of it.
Is Victoria ultimately a sympathetic character?
I love Victoria, but she can only be be as sympathetic as the powers that be are willing to have her be. If you take the show from her perspective, you really see things differently. The show succeeded well in crafting a villain. My obligation as an actor was to have her make sense and [have viewers understand] her deeply rooted psychology and her neuroses. If I were to go back and do certain things over again, I would delve more deeply into her as a pure villain.
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Were you happy with the way the series ended?
I think so many I have darker sensitivities, and there was a point in time where the writers room was very split about how to take this. There was a lot of talk about making David Clarke the actual bad guy, to have him be really kind of the mastermind from the beginning and covering his tracks. People were very divided about that. At the end of the day, what kind of story are you telling? One in which people deserve redemption? If someone causes harm, do you go back into their background to figure out why, or do you punish them? The writers felt Victoria needed to be punished.