Star Emily VanCamp agrees her hit show can get absurd but says the excesses are balanced by the depth of the characters

American drama Revenge, the second season of which is now airing on TV2, is popular, well-reviewed and awfully addictive to its many fans.

It's also, let's face it, a little ridiculous on occasion.

That's not necessarily a slam, by the way. Many of the best melodramas have a dash of excess to keep things compelling, and Revenge wears its excess proudly and with panache.

Series star Emily VanCamp, who plays the vengeance-seeking Emily Thorne, would be the first to agree, admitting the show often "walks that line".


"But the campy element of this show is what makes it so appealing, because we balance that campy element with great stories and unbelievable writing," she says.

"Cinematically, this show is phenomenal. You have a quality show and great actors, great writers and great directors coming in, and when you add a campy, soapy element to that, that adds a whole other thing."

VanCamp credits Australian filmmaker Phillip Noyce, who directed the Revenge pilot, with setting the tone for the show but singles out series creator Mike Kelley for its trademark combination of elements.

"Mike is so diligent about finding that balance with the characters and adding just enough campiness, depth, vulnerability, weight and fluff to it," she said.

"He puts it all together, and it's this perfect recipe that he's created."

Revenge developed an impressively complex and labyrinthine plot as its first season progressed, revealing dark secrets, mysterious motivations and hidden agendas from its gallery of characters.

And like any good cliffhanger, it resolved its share of issues at the end of the season while leaving a few dangling and leaving the door open for some startling developments.

Foremost among the shocks coming up in Revenge's second season is the introduction of Emily's mother Kara, played by acclaimed TV and film actress Jennifer Jason Leigh.

VanCamp was thrilled by this development, partly because of the opportunity to work alongside Leigh but also because "I think the relationship between mother and daughter is so interesting, even in a semi-normal family. It is going to give me so many places to go.

"Obviously, it has been said that [Emily] is not the most stable of characters. What is interesting about that, when you think about mental health, is that young women will often come into those problems and difficulties in their 20s, so it is very possible that this will start to affect her psyche.

"She will wonder, 'How crazy am I? Am I following in these footsteps? Am I mentally unstable? Where is all this coming from?' So it will be a reflection on herself and a great way to explore her behaviour. I think that will cause her a lot of discomfort, to start analysing why she does what she does through her mother and what she begins to understand of her mother. It will be a really interesting relationship."

VanCamp's description poses a couple of intriguing questions. There's an old saying about getting even that goes something like this: Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.

That basically means any kind of payback, while possibly satisfying in the short term, may eventually lead to your own demise.

The pursuit of revenge, says VanCamp, is "the tragedy of this show". Emily Thorne is trying to bring herself peace by laying to rest the ghosts of her past but must confront "the collateral damage along the way and all the trauma she indirectly causes all these other people in her circle". Indeed, love and friendship go hand in hand with disappointment and betrayal on Revenge, with Emily's relationships with the likes of Jack (Nick Wechsler) and Daniel (Josh Bowman) getting more and more tangled as the story progresses.

(For her part, VanCamp believes Emily and Jack are meant to end up together, despite the many obstacles in their path. "In so many ways, that is a massive part of the heart of the show," she said. "He represents everything good in her, and she can't help but love that about him.")

Even though Emily can be driven and even ruthless in her pursuit of revenge, VanCamp believes it's motivated by pain rather than malice.

"The thing I love about Emily and the reason people are able to continue to cheer for her is - as much as she behaves as a sociopath - underneath that shell is a vulnerable, hurt, angry young girl who ultimately just wants to rid herself of that feeling."

TV profile
Who: Emily VanCamp as Emily Thorne

What: Revenge
When and where: Two, 8.40pm tonight