INSIDE: Seven days of TV viewing
HER portrayal of evil, scheming billionaire society queen Victoria Grayson has earnt Madeleine Stowe a Golden Globe nomination, a second round of stardom, and resulted US drama Revenge becoming an instant hit both in the US and Australia.
And all because, Stowe ( pictured) says, everyone has a primal appetite for revenge.
That, combined with a taste for seeing the rich and powerful interrupt partying to get their comeuppance is the secret behind the hit series, in which Stowe takes on a character about as far from her real- life persona as you can get.
‘‘ Revenge is a very primal instinct in all of us, it’s a fascinating topic to explore, says Stowe in the wake of Revenge’s Australian debut to more than 2 million viewers.
‘‘ In America we have the one- percenters, 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 ultrawealthy have those lives torn askew.
‘‘ I think audiences get satisfaction from that, they kind of live out their own revenge fantasies.’’
For Stowe, the character of icy, evil Victoria was one worth stepping back into the spotlight for.
The 53- year- old actress launched her career as a film star in the 1980s and 1990s, starring in Short Cuts, Stakeout and with Daniel Day- Lewis in Last of the Mohicans.
In 1994 she was named one of US People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People.
By 1996, Stowe had moved to Texas, and stepped out of the spotlight to concentrate on being a mum to daughter, May.
Her attention then shifted to developing and directing a western film, Unbound Captives, for which Hugh Jackman has been recruited to play the lead role, and Stowe hopes to start shooting in 2013.
By last year the frustrations and delays of getting the movie into production had whet her appetite to take on another acting role. Victoria Grayson is the result. ‘‘ I had literally taken myself off the market for several years. My agent would call with roles and I’d say ‘ can’t do it, I have to focus on the movie’,’’ she says.
‘‘ Then this opportunity came up, and I knew I wanted it.’’
She concedes it’s been one heck of a re- entry into the limelight.
‘‘ I always felt very distant from that spotlight, there was a filter between that and my real self. I imagine I’ll disappear again at a certain point in time, and that works for me,’’ she says.
While Victoria Grayson revels in wealth and staging massive functions for charity, Stowe herself gets to the forefront of charity work and has done hands- on work in Haiti for several years. She was conscious taking on the role of Grayson because the conflict between the character and her real self.
‘‘ I do have a reaction to the amount of money spent on clothes for this character, every single day I am mindful of it,’’ she says.
‘‘ When I’m in Haiti dealing with people on the ground on a day- to- day basis, yes it is distressing. At the same time this show has allowed me to draw attention to people who really need it.’’
The actress revels in the depths of her character. ‘‘ Initially all you see is this heinous person, full of hate then you start to understand her,’’ she says.
‘‘ She is also passionate and quite vulnerable, and she has redeeming features.’’
‘‘ Her love for her son is the greatest love of her life. She loves her daughter too; she just doesn’t know how to express it.
‘‘ And she knows there is something terribly wrong with Emily [ the woman out for revenge in Revenge, played by Emily Vancamp].
‘‘ She is able to recognise it because she sees that in herself. They are two sides of the same coin.’’ But back to that primal desire for revenge. ‘‘ We’ve all got it, somewhere,’’ Stowe laughs.
And she relishes being able to indulge that as Grayson.
‘‘ Oh God, yes. . . . these characters intrigue me. It’s just a fun, gripping ride.’’