SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of Sunday night’s Revenge series finale.
It was always promised, going back to original Revenge creator Mike Kelley, that the nighttime soap series would end with two graves. Amanda Clarke aka Emily Thorne was always bound to off the dynasty nemesis who plagued her life, Hamptons queen bee Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe), but we never knew who that second body would be lying next to Victoria.
Logically, fans always thought it was Amanda, and in this current TV age of complex protagonists meeting their end — read Nucky Thompson on Boardwalk Empire, Walter White on Breaking Bad, and supposedly Tony Soprano on The Sopranos — that didn’t seem like a far-fetched idea. But alas, Amanda survives a bullet to the heart, the last one shot by a dying Victoria.
Talking to Deadline this morning about last night’s series finale, Revenge star Emily VanCamp says, “There were several options we explored. She could have wound up in prison, but that would have been a darker way to end the show. But we had to find a happy ending for Amanda Clarke which is amazing and satisfying to fans.”
That ending entailed Amanda sailing off into the sunset with her childhood love Jack, but with a twist: She is forever haunted by a dream that the life-saving heart transplant she received was from Victoria Grayson herself; a decision made by Amanda’s half-sister Charlotte (Christa B. Allen). VanCamp says she knew about a month before she received the last script that this was the direction Revenge showrunner Sunil Nayar was taking the show. “We both collaborated on the ending. We invested so much time in the show that we wanted to build the best version possible,” says VanCamp.
“The part about the heart was strange and we wanted to make it clear that it was a psychological idea that she couldn’t leave Victoria behind. So we incorporated this in a dream sequence — it’s Amanda/Emily’s worst nightmare, and we had to flesh out what the dream meant. Where is it coming from? Sunil made it clear that it was a psychological frame of mind, even though she received a happy ending. The idea that Victoria will follow her for the rest of her life is an interesting one. You don’t want to see Amanda get off without any kind of pain or suffering,” she says.
“She doesn’t have Victoria’s heart — that’s a strange and iffy thing. But the idea psychologically that Grayson will haunt her for the rest of her life is absolutely true. The dream is symbolic; the idea that Emily will never truly be happy. She was driven to be this person by this woman, which in turn created so much hate in this young girl. To have her gone is bittersweet in a weird way.” added VanCamp.
Stowe echoed that today in a separate interview: “There was a back and forth about the heart and what was going on — if the actual heart transplant happened, or if it was more of Emily’s psyche, so that the audience wasn’t quite sure if she wound up with Victoria’s heart.”
Before VanCamp sunk her teeth into the role of cunning sociopath Emily Thorne, she was known on TV for her girl-next-door-roles on Brothers And Sisters and Everwood. Much like Rooney Mara’s challenge to shed her Katherine Ross-like image for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo auditions, VanCamp went the distance to prove to Revenge creator Kelley and EP Marty Bowen that she could play dark as a girl plotting revenge on her father’s upper-crust killers. VanCamp’s finesse within the action genre had graduated her to more kick-ass roles on the big screen, read her reprisal of Agent 13 in Disney/Marvel’s upcoming Captain America: Civil War. Is she ready to embrace this new found image moving forward?
“I enjoy playing the girl next door as well as action roles. In order to have any kind of longevity you have to keep re-imagining yourself in this business and challenge yourself,” says VanCamp. “I’m working until the end of summer on Captain America, but it’s also about reading this summer and seeing what is out there. After being on TV for 12 years there’s a window of opportunity to do other things and my options are opening.” VanCamp must remain mum on Agent 13’s story line in the third Captain America installment.
As much as fans loved Revenge, the consensus has been that Season 1 was just perfect. Arguably, Revenge was playing around with the time-jump bookend plotting (starting with a dead body in the Hamptons at a wedding in the pilot, jumping back in the past for several episodes before bringing us back to the scene later on in the season) before Breaking Bad executed it in Season 5. Conceived by Kelley as a nighttime soap in the spirit of ABC’s 1980s lynchpin hit Dynasty, Revenge had its fair share of zany zigs and zags: a pregnant Amanda Clarke (Margarita Levieva) falls off a balcony and lives; Victoria fakes her death twice; Emily Thorne/Amanda Clark is shot twice during the course of the series and lives.
Commenting on the series’ journey and how it impacted her as an actress, VanCamp tells Deadline, “As an actor, it’s my job to show up and to portray the material. Do we have conversations if I have questions? Absolutely. We have had a collaborative environment. But at the end of the day, I’m not writing the story. Did we miss some things? Absolutely. Did we nail some things? Absolutely. Yes, Season 1 was superbly crafted and I loved Season 2 with the whole Initiative plot line, and there were stories I liked in seasons 3 and 4. I did question David Clarke (James Tupper) coming back over and over again and figuring out what that meant for the character. But it was something new to play in Season 4 and we serviced the story.”
And despite its roller coaster ride, what has kept fans coming back again to again has been Revenge‘s 360-take on its characters.
“Yes, we were allowed to live in a heightened reality. Even though we had soap opera elements, Revenge had an emotional core,” she said. “It had a really strong beating heart. Not everything was totally insane. I always tried to find the reality in Emily/Amanda’s emotions and grounded it. Mike Kelley put together a group of actors that had the same desire to take this heightened reality and root it in reality. Yeah, it was crazy, but we always hoped that people were connecting to the characters. It was a soap, but with a bit of depth.”