Madeleine Stowe took nasty to another level in her portrayal of wealthy Hamptons socialite Victoria Grayson in the hit US series Revenge last season.
A key player in the conspiracy that saw Emily Thorne's father David Clarke (and Victoria's lover) sent to prison for an act of terrorism he didn't commit, Victoria went to great lengths to protect herself and her family's reputation as Emily began plotting their downfall.
At war with her estranged husband Conrad (Henry Czerny) and ostracised at various points from her children Daniel (Josh Bowman) and Charlotte (Christa B. Allen), Victoria was also consumed with finding out the truth about her nemesis, Daniel's fiancee Emily (Emily VanCamp) who, as viewers know, is really Amanda Clarke, having swapped identities with the real Emily Thorne on release from juvenile detention.
When season one ended it looked like Victoria had finally done the right thing in handing over evidence to the government about Conrad's illegal activities. Then the plane she had boarded exploded.
In the two episodes since Revenge returned to Australian screens, viewers have not only learned that Victoria survived but also witnessed her bizarre plot to fool the media into thinking she had been kidnapped by joining forces with Conrad, who had to assault her to make it look convincing.
Stowe knew she would be back this season but wanted to sew the seed of doubt in the minds of viewers. She spoke to series creator Mike Kelley and they agreed to "make a game of it", going as far as missing the US summer press tour and having her name removed from Victoria's outfits on set.
"I had them remove everything that had my name, had them take my name off the dressing room door and just disappeared," said the elegant and accommodating Stowe during an interview in her dressing room in Los Angeles last month, where she offered to sit on the floor so the visiting Australian contingent could have chairs.
"I was actually very surprised that Mike brought her back so soon, in the first episode. The way I would've done it, I would've waited until the fourth episode or so."
There's little sign of remorse in Victoria's actions in the early episodes; in fact, she's back with renewed vengeance.
"It'll always be about protecting the family," Stowe said. "I think right now her hands are tied and Mike has explored different avenues with the characters, and this whole thing with The Initiative. But right now he's in the process of setting the show and getting it back to that central conflict of Emily and myself.
"I think he's gone on record that Victoria's going to be the villain once again. So with that there will be all kinds of grabs for power.
"And I think they're going to be investigating the people who trusted her. So you know she's up to no good."
Just how bad Victoria gets may surprise viewers later in the season.
"It's back to Victoria returning to form," she said. "And it demonstrates to the audience what kind of a threat she can actually be. Because I think so much of the first season was, she was always a perceived threat, and I think audiences were kind of frightened of her."
Victoria's motivations may make more sense when her teenage years are explored in an origin episode later in the season. But does she have an endgame like Emily does?
"I think because so many horrible things happened to Victoria when she was young, she had a really damaging background, and so she wants to radiate," she said. "That's the only way she can really feel good about herself. And so she wants to put herself at this centre of attention. She has all these things in the house and they're very empty things, life is getting darker.
"I said at the end of last season that she wanted to purify herself. That act of going on the plane to testify was about trying to claim something pure again and clean the mess of her life, and now she's back, she's in that cesspool."
'It's back to Victoria returning to form. And it demonstrates to the audience what kind of a threat she can actually be.'
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