ABC’s new drama Revenge debuted on Wednesday as their highest rated series in the 10 pm timeslot in four years among adults 18-49.
Written and executive produced by Mike Kelley (Swingtown), along with executive producers Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey (Twilight), the series follows Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp), whose real name is Amanda Clarke, the newest arrival in the Hamptons. By all appearances, she’s friendly and sophisticated, with a charm that allows her access to the restricted circles of Hampton’s high society.
But Emily is anything but what she seems. When she was nine, her father David (James Tupper) was framed for a horrific crime by neighbors he trusted, and was sentenced to life in prison. Amanda never saw her father again, and now she has returned under an assumed identity with one endgame – Revenge.
Mike Kelley and Wyck Godfrey spoke about their new series, which is very reminiscent of the classic novel The Count of Monte Cristo.
Can you talk about how this show came to be? Did you think, ‘I’d like to do a present day version of The Count of Monte Cristo?’
Wyck Godfrey: Marty Bowen and I were partnered together, and we went to the network with the idea of doing the haves and the have?nots of The Hamptons.
That world is a very rich place for a soap. And they rightfully said, ‘Yes, but what’s your story engine?’ Marty then came up with the idea of doing The Count of Monte Cristo. And then someone at the network or the studio said, ‘But do it with a female.’
We immediately brought Mike in, and he is really responsible for everything that followed and the richness of the characters. The thing that I’ve responded to most in the scripts is that while they are doing wicked things, these are really well?rounded people and deeply damaged.
Your heart breaks for them in some way because they are trapped in their environment in some ways. It’s not an easy show to look at and go, ‘Oh, good. They are horrible people. I’m going to watch them fall.’ They actually have a lot of deeper qualities that they are dealing with.
How much do you view this as being an updated adaptation of the book?
Mike Kelley: Well, it’s such great source material I’m actually taking moments from the book and peppering them throughout the series. I’m using them as signposts for me. Revenge is such a great story engine, and it’s a challenge because it needs to be sustaining. And the fun of the Hamptons is it’s America’s answer to royalty.
In The Count of Monte Cristo, he needs to infiltrate royal society. I think that’s why the juxtaposition of the story and the location worked.
You mentioned these benchmarks throughout the season that you are taking from the book. We see her cross one person off her hit list in the pilot. Can you talk about how quickly or slowly you want these things to unravel as you go forward?
Mike: In the first part of the 13?episode order, we are holding to a character being taken down each week. That’s sort of your ‘revenge fix,’ if you will. So everybody that tunes in will get a little bit of revenge right up front. But we are going to slowly make them larger arcs, because we don’t want to burn through it too fast.
We want to bring the audience in with a couple of great hooks. So, for the first six episodes, she’ll be taking down conspirators.
Why was Emily VanCamp right for this role?
Mike: I think the show frankly works because she’s our girl next door that really allows the audience an entrée. You are rooting for her even though she’s doing something that’s kind of diabolical.
How many people is she going to have to wreak her revenge on? How long is this show going to last?
Mike: I’m thinking about 10 seasons’ worth!
So, obviously, there are many people that we have not even seen yet?
Mike: Oh, yeah. In the second episode, you’ll meet her father’s best friend at work, the guy that really threw him under the bus. You’ll meet the prosecutor that traded on the fame that he got from prosecuting this into becoming a senator. They have a very dark history with him as well.
We’ve got a psychologist that actually kept Amanda, as a little girl, and her father apart, so that she guaranteed they would never see each other again. This woman needs to be taken down as well, and Emily/Amanda will do that.
So it’s not just the people that were immediately involved in the conspiracy, but anybody who took advantage of the situation and who has traded on it.
Is it fair to assume that Emily’s character will be morally compromised over time as she exacts this mission of revenge, or will she somehow preserve her moral integrity?
Mike: Well, I think that she certainly believes that she’s justified in what she’s doing. And I think that the audience will feel that way too.
Wyck: But I think part of the fun of the show should be watching her disease or your own disease as she goes further and further down that path.
The pilot episode aired on September 21, 2011 and the season continues on Thursday September 29, 2011