At first, ABC’s Revenge did not appear to have a recipe for success. The soapy, poker-faced Hamptons drama, filled with insincere hugs and lines like “Will you escort the ladies to the conservatory for petit fours and refreshments?” is at times completely absurd—but that’s exactly why we love it. The clothes in particular are fantastic, but it’s the primly calculating Ashley Davenport, played by British actress Ashley Madekwe, who wins our vote for Best Dressed every week. At the age of 31, the actress and fashion blogger is having a bit of a moment—she recently wed former Secret Diary of a Call Girl costar Iddo Goldberg, and is developing an increasingly autonomous role when it comes to styling her own character. We recently caught up with our favorite Revenge-er, chatting about fashion, Vanity Fair parties, and her Real Housewives addiction.
The winter finale has your character at a pretty low point.
Yeah, I was really excited to explore and see where they were going to take her, and I think for someone to redeem themselves in a show like Revenge, they really have to go far down a road of darkness before they come back, so I was happy that we got to do that. I’m not scared of being an unlikeable character. It’s a TV show, and it’s all fun and games!
What can we expect from Ashley Davenport when the show returns?
Well, she disappears for an episode to lick her wounds. But she comes back pretty strong, she doesn’t take any shit. She gets herself a strong job; I won’t tell you what it is because it’ll give too much away. Much to Victoria’s dismay, she’s not far away from her. They have a really interesting dynamic when they come back together; Madeleine [Stowe] and I were laughing about it recently. They’re kind of like the two girls in The Importance of Being Earnest, with their snappy one-liners to each other.
I love Ashley’s style on the show. How much input do you have on her wardrobe choices?
She has the best clothes, I wanted to be humble about it for a really long time, but it’s season two now. I’m gonna admit, she gets the best outfits! I have a ton of input; it’s crazy how generous our costume designer Jill is. This week I didn’t have time to come in for a costume fitting, and it’s the first time for an episode that I haven’t, and I said, well you just pick, Jill, I totally trust you. And it came to the day and they called me in 45 minutes early so that Jill and I could go through the racks together. She always makes sure there’s time for me to have a say. I think it’s rare for a costume designer to be so generous, because it’s really their vision.
What do you think Ashley’s clothes say about her as a character?
I think there’s kind of an armor to her, she wears a lot of chunky jewelry. She always wears these huge cuffs, or a big necklace. She always has something, it’s never plain and simple. She likes to feel put together, I think it gives her an air of authority.
You wore some amazing dresses in the most recent episode, like the chiffon Lanvin Ashley wears to the skeet shooting party.
Last season we were really careful, because she was a party planner and Victoria’s assistant, so we spent our money on shoes and bags, because I think working girls do that. They can’t always afford to spend $2,000 on a dress—I mean, I can’t afford to spend $2,000 on a dress! But this season she’s gone up in the world, and she’s sleeping with Daniel, so Jill was like, she has more disposable income. We’re going to Burberry, or Lanvin, or Mulberry, and getting really nice pieces.
You have your own fashion blog, ringmybell.com. What blogs do you follow?
I like Man Repeller, just because she’s so funny. And Cupcakes and Cashmere, she’s like a little domesticated goddess! She blogs, and makes things for her home, and she cooks. It makes me feel really bad about myself! I just take pictures of my outfits.
When did you decide to become an actress?
I started being interested in acting when I was around ten. I was always quite a precocious child. I sang and danced and forced people to listen to me, much to my parents’ dismay. And I got enamored with the idea of going to drama classes, because a friend of mine was going, but my parents were very against the idea of me being a stage school child. And then eventually I convinced them that I was old enough to take the bus and go by myself. I just really enjoyed it, I don’t know why. I found something I was good at, and I think that for a child, when someone gives you a pat on the back, you’re like, oh! I’m good at this? Okay, I’ll keep doing it, then!
What’s the coolest thing you’ve gotten to do as a result of Revenge?
We did a photo shoot with Vanity Fair, and as a result we got to go to the Vanity Fair Oscar party. I hope there’s never a day when I become immune to going to things like the Vanity Fair party. I have never seen so many celebrities in one place at one time, I nearly choked on my free In ‘N Out burger. It’s insane! I have a strict no-bothering-celebrities rule, but the boys in my cast are like puppies, and they were bounding up to everyone. Everyone was really nice, really sweet. When people come and tell you that they love your show, and they’re celebrities themselves, you’re like, what? You do?
Who are you closest to on set?
We all get along really well, but I think Christa B. Allen [who plays Charlotte] has become my closest friend. We live within five minutes of each other and we love all the same things, so it’s really nice that I’ve found a friend in her. She just turned 21, but we call her Dame Christa, because she’s just old beyond her years. She’s been acting for a really long time, and she’s got a really strong mature head on her shoulders.
What do you see for yourself, career-wise, after Revenge?
I would love to do films, and I would also really love to go home to London and do a play, that would be a dream of mine. I was talking about that with my agent today, she was like, do you want to do something modern, or something classic? And I was like, I just want to be on a stage! I never thought I’d miss it as much as I do.
Would you ever want to do anything on Broadway?
You know, I don’t even say the words out loud, because I feel like Broadway is such a closed shop! But I would love to, I would love to. I’ve had friends do it, and I’m so jealous.
What are your favorite guilty pleasure shows?
Anything with the word ‘Housewife’ in the title.
Photography by Iddo Goldberg