LOS ANGELES — The Graysons apparently enjoy historical novels, boating, and singalongs around the piano.
Or at least this is what can be deduced from poking around during a recent visit to the set of the deliciously soapy ABC drama “Revenge,” which returns for a second season Sunday at 9 p.m.
Wandering around the fictional Grayson Manor — home to the fabulously wealthy but highly dysfunctional family at the center of the show — it’s easy to believe you’re in an opulent Hamptons mansion where the series’s twists and turns take place.
A grand foyer with a sweeping staircase ushers you in. A real baby grand sits in one corner on faux marble floors. Actual books line the shelves. (Including “The Far Pavilions” and “Jewish Thought.”) And the oh-so-chic French script chair from which Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe) wielded her power as the queen bee of the Hamptons (before her family imploded) sits in pride of place.
“Everything in the Grayson manor is pretty extraordinary,” says Emily VanCamp, who stars as Emily Thorne, the woman hoping to serve up the cold dish of the title.
A throwback to classic nighttime soaps popular in the ’80s like “Dallas” and “Dynasty,” “Revenge” chronicles Thorne’s attempt to avenge her father, who was wrongfully imprisoned and ultimately murdered by the Grayson family.
The first season plots veered from standard-issue soap (secret identities, shifting allegiances, blackmail, murder) to outlandish fun (somehow a martial arts sensei figures into Emily’s back story). And the actors are having as much fun keeping up with the twists as the audience watching, which made it ABC’s biggest freshman hit last season.
“I think it’s fun to have a throwback to real serialized dramas and cliffhanger after cliffhanger,” says Gabriel Mann, who plays misfit tech billionaire and Emily’s co-conspirator Nolan Ross. “As to why there’s a broad scope of people watching from older men to younger women, across the board? I don’t know. But I love being stopped by 60-year-old guys saying, ‘That Nolan, he’s great.’ ”
Mann, hanging out in the Grayson backyard, is already licking his chops for season two.
“Not to get too highfalutin about it,” he says, “but I think this season is really about free will versus destiny or fate. That’s a very broad concept, but that’s the general feeling we’re going to play with and we have some great playmates this year.”
Indeed, Jennifer Jason Leigh (“Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “Georgia”) has signed on to play Emily’s mother and VanCamp has nothing but raves. “I think she’s going to kill it, she’s amazing. It’s a really cool twist.”
For VanCamp, who had previously played much tamer characters on “Everwood” and “Brothers & Sisters,” the chance to play the complicated, angry, confused, and sometimes remorseless Thorne has been a great gift.
“I have a fondness for this sort of antihero,” she says. “I’m a big fan of ‘Dexter.’ I always wonder: How can you make someone like Dexter so likable? And that’s a huge testament to Michael C. Hall, he’s one of my favorites and does such an amazing job with that show. I think I was able to find some similarities. These are people who have had very traumatic experiences in their lives and they’re trying to do the best that they can to redeem those things and make that better in their own twisted way. And who’s to say they’re wrong? And who’s to say another person is right?”
Mann believes that the success of “Revenge” — which averaged nearly 8 million viewers in its first season — came from a combination of factors including a dearth of shows with a similar serious-but-not-too-serious approach, balancing real drama with a little camp. VanCamp says “tongues are planted in cheeks, but not firmly. We take it very seriously as we do it, but there’s a lot of fun in the process.”
There was no sign of the lady of the manor as Stowe was not on set. Although viewers saw her board a plane that exploded in the first season finale, we never saw the door close behind her and Mann was mum on whether Mama Grayson might reappear.
“What’s so odd is they haven’t told us anything about Madeleine. We haven’t seen her, she hasn’t been around. We speculate maybe that was it,” says Mann. He does admit, however, that the producers avoid telling him stuff until the last minute since they know “I’m up on Twitter.”
“The beauty of this show is anybody we were to lose can always come back in flashbacks. But we genuinely don’t know.”
When it’s pointed out that Mann and Stowe must be friends, he laughs and says, “I’m not saying we don’t text a little bit, but she’s keeping it very close to the vest.”
“Revenge” has also helped open the door for more serialized dramas, including the upcoming ABC series “666 Park Avenue,” which premieres after “Revenge” on Sunday, and “Nashville,” which premieres Oct. 10.
“I think a little competition is healthy,” says Mann. “It pushes everything forward. And it makes the creatives in the big room upstairs have to be even more clever and I think that’s going to be great for everybody.”
email@example.com. Follow her
on Twitter @GlobeRodman.