Madeleine Stowe talks evil, excess and a hit drama
Her portrayal of evil, scheming billionaire society queen Victoria Grayson has earned Madeleine Stowe a Golden Globe nomination, a second round of stardom, and seen US drama Revenge become an instant hit both in America and Australia.
And all because, Stowe says, “everyone has a primal appetite for revenge”.
That, combined with a definite taste for seeing the rich and powerful getting their comeuppance, is the secret behind the hit series which sees Stowe take 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,” Stowe says in an exclusive interview with TV Guide in the wake of Revenge’s Australian debut to more than two million viewers.
“In America we have the onepercenters – the people who control the vast amount of the wealth in this country – 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 kind of live out their own revenge fantasies.”
For Stowe, the chance to play the character of icy, evil Victoria was one worth stepping back into the spotlight.
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, the essentially private Stowe had moved to Texas, and stepped out of the spotlight to concentrate on being a mum to daughter, May.
“It was not a deliberate choice, I always wanted to continue working, but I just never had that same motor running after she was born,” she says.
Her attention shifted to developing and directing a western film – Unbound Captives. 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
Everyone has a primal appetite for revenge
production had whet Stowe’s appetite to take on another acting role. Victoria Grayson is the result. “I had literally taken myself off the market for several years,” she says. “My agent would call with roles and I’d say, ‘can’t do it, I have to focus on the movie’.
“Then this opportunity came up and I knew I wanted it.”
Stowe 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 years.
“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 Victoria Grayson.
“Initially all you see is this heinous character, 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 ( 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. She’s having people followed and beat up, it’s stuff you could only dream of,” she says. “You unleash that little bit of crazy that you wouldn’t in real life, that fleeting fantasy of wanting to create injury.”
Stowe has never been to the rich and powerful playground of The Hamptons, where Revenge is set.
“No, and really I’ve got no desire to,” she laughs. “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. But these characters intrigue me. It’s just a fun, gripping ride.”
Alexandria, NSW for Nationwide News Pty Ltd (ACN of Holt St, Surry Hills, NSW Published by News Magazines. Printed by Hannanprint,