Melinda Clarke Talks Fantasy Island, the Impact of Social Media, and Her Ideal Fantasy

at .

Melinda Clarke has made a career out of playing strong, capable, and determined women on television, bringing to life icons like The OC's Julie Cooper, CSI's Lady Heather, and even a fictionalized version of herself, Melinda, on Entourage.

Guest starring on Fantasy Island Season 2 Episode 7 as Island guest Amber, she portrays a seemingly more typical wife and mother whose only wish is for her family to be happy.

But the Island has a way of digging deeper, and TV Fanatic had the opportunity to do a little digging, too, speaking with Clarke about the role and how the story is one so many people can identify with.

Melinda Clarke Lead

Connecting with us from her home via Zoom, Clarke acknowledges that she is often cast as memorable characters with extraordinary powers and abilities.

"I always think it was interesting some of the roles that I got that were either sci-fi or fantasy or… they weren't your girl next door, put it that way. You were Goddess of Chaos... or a dominatrix. So there's something in me that I guess has a little bit of an edge."

Ladies on the Beach - Fantasy Island Season 2 Episode 7

FOX's Fantasy Island is a revival of the original series that aired from 1977-84. Clarke was a fan of the show as a child, but her connection to it is even more personal.

"I was a child in the Seventies. I watched the show. It was such a wonderful escape, y'know, for people to show up and have these wonderful fantasies.

"Then, in 1994, I actually did an Aaron Spelling show called Heaven Help Us with Ricardo Montalban. I worked with him. It was his last series as a regular."

"It was called Heaven Help Us, kind of based on [the 1950's show] Topper, and he played the angel that helped John Schneider, and I help people because we were angels ourselves."

"So I had a very deep connection to [Fantasy Island]. It was really fun and rewarding to get back to being on FOX. The FOX family, as we say!"

Dissatisfied - Fantasy Island

Every guest who visits Fantasy Island is there with a purpose. However, that purpose often masks a secret need. Island magic serves that need in the guise of providing the fantasy the guest requests.

Clarke finds a lot to relate to in Amber.

"I immediately had a connection because, I don't know about everyone else, but I took the pandemic to do a lot of self-reflection. If nothing else was going on in the world, what can we do except to focus on how can I better myself right?"

"Reading this script, I so connected with it because what's interesting about her is she comes from this classic traumatic, chaotic childhood, that very unstable family life. We only get a few words of her describing that."

Something in the Dark - Fantasy Island Season 2 Episode 7

"She comes to this island for a fantasy to make her family happy. Ultimately, she's operating out of fear, not love."

"When we try to control people or the world and [thinking], 'It's only going to work if I make it work my way,' that's not out of love, that's out of fear."

"She's created this standard of what she thinks is important for her, and she's not letting her family just be human beings on their journey exploring the world. She's judging the fact that she thinks they're not happy, and she's thinking, 'I'm failing them. And I'm bringing them secretly to this island to make them happy.'"

"So she suffers from the affliction of self, which a lot of us do. Human beings can be, at our core, narcissistic, but we're also survivors."

Amber on Her Phone - Fantasy Island

Amber's ideal for her family's happiness is based on the perfect family photos she posts on social media. The wish she expresses to Elena Roarke is that her family is as happy as they look online.

Clarke knows this is not an unusual desire for people nowadays.

"This #Happy. It's so true. We look at Instagram every day, and we see… I post amazing, beautiful photos, but you didn't see the one right before it. So yeah, she's flawed in that way."

"I very much connected to [her situation] because my daughter's now twenty-three, and I had a teenage daughter. I used to take it so personally if she was having a bad day."

"She slams the door on me! *gasp* 'Why can't you be happy?' So I understand that, right? 'Cause I'm a teenager! And you don't know what happened to me at school, Mom!'"

Riley - Fantasy Island

As we learn more about Amber, we realize she's filtered and curated how she looks to the world just as she selects the photos of her family she presents online.

Clarke connects that to the chaos of Amber's formative years.

"When we first see her, she's very put together and perfect. Perfectionism is such a terrible character flaw because it's just so hard to attain."

"She even described her childhood as chaotic, and she said, 'I self-soothed by doing times tables, and I always knew where the exit was,' because [then] she could run away from her problems."

"She could run away from her parents fighting. She could run away as opposed to facing it, leaning into it, learning from the pain. So she's doing everything she can. Exit means, 'I'm doing everything I can to get away from something instead of facing it.'"

Reflections - Fantasy Island Season 2 Episode 7

Amber's adventure delivers a message about our investment in social media and its effect on our lives and perceptions. Clarke recognizes there are multiple angles to the issue.

"It's such a complicated thing. I've only had to really get into social media recently since the pandemic. It's something that we, as actors, use to control our narrative of what we put out there."

"It's a business. We're promoting something. We want people to see certain things. I grew up in an age where – for instance, just talking about beauty or perfection and such – we lit women beautifully with make-up, and you touched up photos."

"That was the way I was brought up, but now there's this movement of no filters and show the pores and the wrinkles and such," Clarke shares.

Amber - Fantasy Island

"It's something that I've been like, 'But I like that filter… because it gave me [for example] red hair.' Y'know? Because it's fun."

"But there's something to be said for art and real life. And I think it's a huge comment on society itself that we are always judging everything."

"There's a voice in my head that's judging what I'm saying to you right now if I let it. Or there's a voice in my head that's judging the way I look on Zoom right now. Or judging other people for how they look and then actually commenting, which is a really fascinating thing."

"Now that I've put myself out there as myself by doing a podcast, people comment on what I said or how I said it, and I've just learned there's a lot of empowerment in saying, It doesn't matter.' You know, who cares?"

"They're just words. Things only have meaning or power if we give it that power, so one of the things I worked on personally in the pandemic is I used to apply a lot of judgment or negativity to things, but I still have the power to apply positivity to things as well."

Always Know the Exit - Fantasy Island Season 2 Episode 7

"I do think that social media is a powerful tool, but it certainly can be a dangerous thing. I can sit on TikTok sometimes late at night, and I'm like, 'Why am I still scrolling?' It's a very interesting thing that it gives these little bits of dopamine for entertainment purposes."

"But #Happy… look, happiness can be a choice. Like I said, I can apply a negative or a positive to any situation in the world, right? And it's not about me controlling the world."

"It's just because the world's just going to happen. It's only about how I react to it. That's the only thing I can control."

#Happy takes Amber and her family to the dark, unfiltered truth of her need for perfection, making it one of the most haunting narratives the series has presented.

Caught in the Storm - Fantasy Island Season 2 Episode 7

"The darkness of the show, or that place… we were actually in this hotel in Puerto Rico that had been damaged and demolished by Hurricane Maria, so the writers were very brilliant in writing a script for the location that they were shooting out there. We were really in that hotel."

"That represented her mind and the darkness. So even though she's presenting to Elena that she's this put-together person, that was what was going on in her mind. And I think people can relate to that."

"Not everybody has as traumatic of a background as Amber, but I think it is important to accept that what happens to us in life, especially trauma, isn't necessarily our fault, but it is our responsibility to heal from those things."

"Sometimes we don't do it until we get to this age."

Mirror World - Fantasy Island Season 2 Episode 7

Clarke is honest about her own learning, which parallels Amber's.

"I try not to 'should' on myself, like 'You shoulda done this, 'or 'What if?'"

'What if…' is an intrusive thought. But I've learned those things by going through some difficult times."

"One of the things that I tried to do as a parent with my own daughter is I've learned that I can tell her all kinds of things, but she has to go through something to learn it."

"There are times when I want to judge something that she's done, but she's an adult on her own, and I just remind myself she's on her journey, and I'll say, 'Hm, that was an interesting situation you just went through. Maybe we should take notes. And remember.'"

Happy Family - Fantasy Island

"I was reflecting on [Amber]. She wants her family happy."

"She has literally one day where they go snorkeling with her, and she's like, 'That was the best day ever!'"

"And then all of a sudden, just within one day, she's like, 'Wait a second, this isn't real. It feels weird.' And it does get dark."

"Eduardo Sánchez was one of the directors of the Blair Witch Project, and he directed this episode, so it definitely had that feeling, that kind of raw dark… Yes, it was very dark."

Setting Out - Fantasy Island Season 2 Episode 7

To end on a lighter note, we asked Clarke what fantasy she'd want to experience if she were to holiday on Fantasy Island.

"The first thing that popped into my head is that I turned down Dancing with the Stars back when I was on The OC [laughs]. I know! I was like, 'Oh no, I can't do it!'"

"But then I just jumped to doing a fabulous Broadway musical."

"I did it when I was young, but I didn't do Broadway. Some fabulous show like The Music Man. On Broadway. Let's say that."

Melinda Clarke Tall Fantasy Island S2e7

You heard it here first, Fanatics! Seeing Melinda Clarke star in a Broadway musical would surely fulfill many people's fantasies. Come on, universe, let's make it happen!

What role would you love to see her tackle on stage? (Call me crazy, but I think she'd be fantastic in Wicked.)

In the meantime, be sure to catch Clarke as Amber tonight on Fantasy Island, 8 pm ET on FOX, and as herself, on the weekly podcast she co-hosts with Rachel Bilson, Welcome to the OC, Bitches!

If you miss the show tonight, remember you can watch Fantasy Island online and then head right back here to check out our review!

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Diana Keng was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lifelong fan of smart sci-fi and fantasy media, an upstanding citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a supporter of AFC Richmond 'til she dies. Her guilty pleasures include female-led procedurals, old-school sitcoms, and Bluey. She teaches, knits, and dreams big. Follow her on X.

Show Comments
Tags: , , ,

Fantasy Island Season 2 Episode 7 Quotes

All I did was everything she asked. I kept our relationship a secret when she wanted to keep it a secret. I learned salsa because she likes to dance. Threw her a prom. Ruby, I made her a chair out of rattan. Do you have any idea how long it takes to make a chair out of rattan?


Isaiah: My dad, he died of an aneurysm when I was ten. I’ve always believed that I’ll die young too.
Ruby: Quite the Sword of Damocles hanging over your head.
Isaiah: Yeah, I’ve just come to accept it. No long-term plans or commitments.