Emily VanCamp: The Queen of 'Revenge'
by mickey rapkin
Revenge was last year’s guiltiest pleasure, easily displacing The Real Housewives of Anywhere as the juiciest, most-talked about prime-time soap-like drama on television. The ABC series began with a bang, literally. At a tony beachside party in the Hamptons one late summer night, Emily Thorne discovers her fiancé has been shot. Or so we think. Nothing on this twisty show is ever what it seems—least of all its heroine, played with girl-next-door-gone-wild aplomb by Emily VanCamp (Brothers & Sisters). As the viewers are taken back to the beginning of summer, one minute we find out she speaks fluent Japanese and the next we learn she’s a black belt in karate.
Revenge returns on September 30 (in the Sunday-night time slot vacated by Desperate Housewives), and if you’re tuning in fresh, here’s what you missed: Emily Thorne is actually Amanda Clark, a young woman who returned to the Hamptons with a swapped identity to avenge her father’s ruin, which was orchestrated by the Grayson family—most notably, matriarch Victoria Grayson (played with cartoonishly perfect gusto by Madeleine Stowe). In the Revenge season finale, Emily breaks off her engagement to the Grayson heir, only to find out that her true love had possibly impregnated the real Emily Thorne. Elsewhere, Victoria was believed to be killed in a plane crash, while her daughter overdosed on pills. And that’s just the abridged recap.
Fronting a massively successful network drama brings its own unique challenges—like tabloid photographers lurking in bushes, not to mention long hours. But the girl from Port Perry, Ontario (population 9,500) has more than risen to the occasion. Here, VanCamp, 26, talks about what to expect in season two, the thrill of her first Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week, and why playing bad feels so incredibly good.
Revenge is such a thrill ride. Is it tough to keep the wild plot twists from friends?
EMILY VANCAMP: Everyone is indirectly trying to get secrets out of me. The thing is, we don’t know a lot in advance. Often we’re just as much in the dark.
Revenge is set in the Hamptons—yet you’d never actually been to the Hamptons before this cover shoot. ABC should send you on a “research” trip.
EVC: That’s what we’ve been saying! They should send the cast out here for a fun weekend. [Laughing] I don’t know if they’ll go for it.
So how does your show’s fictional Hamptons compare to the real thing?
EVC: I think we got it right. It was overcast when I was out here. We do a lot of overcast, eerie days on the show, so we definitely got the East Coast vibe right.
Your role on Revenge is extremely physical; how is all that hand-to-hand combat treating you?
EVC: Well, luckily I had ballet training. At the end of the day, a fight scene is choreography; we’re developing the character as we go. I’ve definitely been thrown for a few loops—trying to memorize the Japanese. But that’s what I love most about this character. This is a girl who has gone off and trained intensively for eight years. She’s incredibly skilled.
\Why do guys seem to love watching two women fight?
EVC: I don’t know, but it’s a good thing! I’m all about strong female empowerment. It’s funny, a lot of men watch this show— and I don’t think any of us were expecting that in the beginning. They’re more hooked than their wives! It’s kind of hard not to look. It’s like watching a train wreck.
Agreed. In the finale Victoria Grayson, played by Madeleine Stowe, was allegedly killed in a plane crash. I’m going to assume she survives? Or maybe she wasn’t actually on the plane….
EVC: It’s safe to assume that Madeleine will be back.
Will you two ever resort to fisticuffs?
EVC: I think the fans would love to see that. But I don’t think she’s as much of a physical fighter as she is with her words—that’s her tool against people. We have this underlying banter that is masked with smiles and laughs. That’s almost more fun.
Mike Kelley, the creator and executive producer, has said he doesn’t consider Revenge a soap opera. How do you feel?
EVC: I think that it depends on what kind of soap opera you’re talking about. Whether you’re talking about Downton Abbey or Revenge, it’s all entertainment. We have soapy elements; we also have incredibly deep characters.
Jennifer Jason Leigh joins the show this season—playing your long-lost mother. That’s great casting.
EVC: It’s such a complex character they’re introducing. Emily’s mother is incredibly unstable. You’re wondering if maybe some of the sociopathic behavior Emily displays comes from her mother, and what does that mean for their relationship? Emily is trying to unlock the secrets of her past—shut out because of this childhood trauma.
For many, Revenge is a guilty pleasure, but what’s your television vice?
EVC: I have definitely dabbled in The Bachelorette. It’s a great way to escape and relax with a glass of wine and just put all of my work stuff to rest for an hour or two and focus on other people’s relationships and the absurdity of it all. You get sucked in.
You’re dating your costar, Josh Bowman. Is it convenient to go to work with your boyfriend?
EVC: We don’t really talk about our relationship. The show becomes about your personal life if you talk about it too much.
You grew up in the tiny town of Port Perry, Ontario—and left home at age 11 to study ballet. Why did you make that move?
EVC: I’m an overachiever. I wanted to take ballet to the next level. It was originally just for the summer. Then I got a part in The Nutcracker and thought I’d stay for half the year. It ended up being four years living with a French family in Quebec. I never really went home after that.
H: Ballet requires so much discipline and sacrifice. Is it a relief to be away from all of that?
EVC: There was a lot of drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes in that world, too. For me, I never loved ballet quite enough to do it. You have to want it so much to pursue it. You give your heart and soul to the art form. I have so much respect for it, but it wasn’t the right thing for me.
You speak French fluently. Is that helpful for your work?
EVC: I was in Monaco recently at the Monte Carlo Television Festival. It comes in handy when I’m traveling.
Did you gamble much in Monte Carlo?
EVC: A little bit. I’m not much of a gambler. [laughing] I like playing poker with friends, but I don’t enjoy pointlessly losing money.
You’ve been living in Los Angeles for a few years now. Have you put down roots yet?
EVC: I did. I have a home now, which is so odd. The first couple of years I lived here, [I wasn’t really that comfortable]. The thing about LA is finding a group of people you love and feel comfortable around—a family of sorts. I really did find that there, and I’m grateful for that.
What is your house like? Did you look long?
EVC: I was looking on and off for about two years and finally found this cute, cozy place. I like to entertain and have my friends over for barbecues. Cooking is one of my favorite pastimes.
What’s the most ambitious meal you’ve made?
EVC: I did a Thanksgiving dinner for a lot of the cast and for some of my friends—which was so much fun.
That sounds difficult….
EVC: You can’t put too much pressure on yourself. My attitude is, if it doesn’t work out, we’ll order pizza.
You’re one of four daughters. What was it like for your dad to be in a house full of women?
EVC: [laughing] You know, sometimes he just has to throw his hands up and recognize these are the cards he’s been dealt. I asked him one time if he wished he’d had a boy; he said no. In a way, I think he lucked out. Girls are daddy’s little girls forever, although it’s challenging when boys start coming into the picture….
The Hamptons are, of course, also a fashion destination, and Michael Kors, Vera Wang, Zac Posen, and Valentino have all been represented on Revenge. Are you a fashion girl?
EVC: It’s definitely a departure from my real life because I’m not particularly fashion savvy. I certainly try, though. I borrowed an Oscar de la Renta dress from the wardrobe department for an event.
Do you have a favorite designer?
EVC: I went to Jason Wu’s show when I was in New York. That was amazing— to see these unbelievably gorgeous women walking around in the designer’s clothes. It’s otherworldly. I want to do more of it. I find it fascinating.
Are you working with a stylist?
EVC: Sometimes. What’s nice about working with a stylist is being pushed to step outside the box a little bit and try something new. I tend to be very traditional and stick to the basics. I’m just developing a desire to get into that world. It’s nice to learn from people who know what they’re doing.
How do you stay in shape?
EVC: Pilates is probably my favorite way, but I want to get back into yoga. When I’m working, I find it’s the best way to balance working on your body and also your mind and spirit.
Are you ready for your return to the Hamptons in Revenge season two?
EVC: Last year was the hardest I’ve ever worked. I’m trying to sleep as much as possible to gear up for season two!
photography by stephan wÜrth
Styling by Amanda Weiner
Hair by Rheanne White for Serge Normant Hair Care at See Management
Makeup by Rosie Johnston for Exclusive Artists/Chanel
Shot on location at 263 Surfside Dr., a property exclusively marketed by Susan Breitenbach, senior vicepresident at The Corcoran Group