Ashley Madekwe Bewitches Us with Her 'Salem' Style
The actress and fashion blogger dishes on staying stylish on set in Shreveport, investment pieces and a 'Revenge' comeback.
Ashley Madekwe is long gone on Revenge, but her character Ashley Davenport's fashions will never be forgotten (we even caught Emily's latest nemesis Margaux redhanded, recently sporting a bold blazer straight out of Ashley's closet). Fortunately, her style is just as covetable in real life and can be followed on her blog Ring My Bell. While she's a series regular in our Most Stylish Celeb Instagrams roundup, we get to see an entirely new side of Madekwe in Salem, WGN's first original series about the Salem Witch Trials. Earlier this month, we paid her a visit on the set of the sci-fi show in Shreveport, Louisiana, where we discovered that the actress is just as bewitching off camera.
How do you keep up with your blog and fashions while on location in Shreveport? “Really badly. I’m working all the time, and I don’t have as much time as I’d like to update the blog. Literally, I have four pairs of jeans here and probably 15 to 20 T-shirts—I don’t ever wash my jeans but I do wash my T-shirts every day.”
How would you describe your personal style? “I’m very uncommitted. I love to try things. I’m decidedly not very girly, but other than that I’m uncommitted. I’m quite simple and laid-back. I love forever pieces. I will spend money on a great leather jacket, a handbag or pairs of shoes, but I’m not really into what I call ‘sugar-rush’ fashion—that immediate, cheap fix—the older I’ve gotten. I’m more into forever, good-quality pieces.”
What are some of your go-to labels? “If I could, I would wear Céline head to toe but I can’t because I want to stay married. I think [husband Iddo Goldberg, who also stars on Salem] would divorce me if I spent that much money, but I think that aesthetic is very beautiful, very clean, very chic. You can get that look for less at places like Zara, and Topshop does some great pieces as well. I’ve been wearing my Balenciaga jacket for like four years now because it's getting better and better with age. I remember wincing at the price of it, but now in hindsight, I mean, cost per wear it’s almost free. I literally wear it at least three to four times a week.”
Of all the characters you’ve played, whose style do you relate to the most? “I think I had the most input into Ashley Davenport’s wardrobe on Revenge. Jill [Ohanneson] and I were really in sync, and I loved the process of dressing her. In not having a lot to do on the show, I poured all my energy into the fashion side of it. And Jill is one of the most generous costume designers you can ever work with. She taught me the benefit of trying everything on and alterations—she would find great pieces on sale that would be way too big, and she’d be like, ‘It’s fine, we’re going to cut it down,’ and she would make it work. I love her—sweetest lady ever.”
You’re one of the few characters on that show that hasn’t died off. Will we ever see you return to the set of Revenge? “I don’t think so—not because I wouldn’t, I just don’t think timing would work out. Emily [VanCamp] and I have a wish that she would get to kill Ashley Davenport. It should have happened, but maybe.”
Has living in Louisiana or playing your character influenced your style at all? “No, I don’t think so. I don’t get to experience Louisiana really as much as I’d like to. We’re on set a lot of the time, there’s not much downtown and then when we drive out to Grand Cane we’re in the woods. It’s influenced my food—I’m eating a lot of fried food."
The makeup worn on the show is very minimal. How does that compare to your everyday beauty routine? “It makes me super happy, that’s what I like. I struggle with that on TV shows sometimes; I think they do need to pump it up a bit for it to read on camera, and I’m used to seeing my face with a lot of makeup on, [which] can scare me. I’m really, really happy in the world of Tituba—we just have great skin and our eyelashes are curled."
Are there any scenes that are scary to watch or film? “In the first season, I had a spell where I had to animate the dead. I brought a man’s face to life to speak to him. That was kind of creepy [because] the face was very, very life-like—the special effects make it amazing. We have a great spell coming up where we have a tongue that we cut out. That stuff’s icky and it looks real, but there are so many people around that it’s kind of hard to lose yourself in a scary moment. Sometimes in the woods—not when you’re shooting but when you’re walking back to the trailer by yourself—that can be scary.”
When it comes to the fantasy element of the show, how do you get into character? “I think you just try to find the grain of truth in the situation. For me, often that is thinking about how Tituba feels about Mary a lot because I think that she genuinely loves her. Whether that’s in a romantic way or in a friend way, there’s a history there. And also thinking about Tituba’s journey before she came to Salem—sometimes I feel like it may look like Tituba’s just doing evil things for evil’s sake, and I have to remind myself, ‘Oh she went through this, then she was sold to this person.’"
Any famous witches you pull inspiration from? “I did love The Craft a lot. Me and my best friend from London, if we feel like someone’s being shady or starts being mean, we say to each other, ‘I bind you.' It’s a joke of ours. And I loved Angela Bassett playing Marie Laveau [in American Horror Story], where she was just so strong and beautiful. Back in the 17th century, witchcraft was accepted as a very real thing, and it’s interesting that all the witches were supposedly women—rarely men—like it was a way to keep women down. And now, witches are kind of seen as sexy."
Fall under Madekwe's spell by tuning in to Salem, which premieres its second season Sunday, April 5 at 10pm EDT on WGN. If you can't wait until then, stream the first season on Netflix now.