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INTERVIEW: Essence Atkins Talks Ambitions' Messy Damian/Amara/Titus/Stephanie Situation

Essence Atkins, Kendrick Cross/OWN

Essence Atkins, Kendrick Cross/OWN

Twenty-five years ago, Amara Hughes broke "girl code" by falling in love with her best friend's ex. That betrayal is one of the driving forces behind Ambitions, the nighttime soap airing its ninth episode tonight on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). 

I caught up with Essence Atkins (Amara) to learn more about the triangle her character is in with Stephanie (Robin Givens) and Titus (Kendrick Cross). We also discuss how Amara's unhinged ex-lover Damian Collins (Alexander Mulzac) factors into the equation.

Daytime Confidential: Is Amara nervous about karma coming to her door now that she’s back in Atlanta?

Essence Atkins: Oh man! Yes absolutely. I think that any mistake you make, any grievances you caused, there's always the lingering possibility...unless you have been given forgiveness [Laughs]. There's always that lingering, gnawing idea that karmically something is going to come back around.

DC: What drove Amara to cheat with Titus and then later on him?

EA: Well, she didn't cheat with Titus. Titus and Stephanie were done. Stephanie had broken up with Titus. But the fact of the matter is, it's still messy, she broke --

DC: Girl code.

EA: Yes, you know what I mean? But they didn't cheat on Stephanie. Stephanie was done. But you know, Stephanie being Stephanie, was she really done? She wasn't really done; it was a tactic! [Laughs]. In terms of why would she cheat on Titus, I think in any relationship that spans two decades plus, there are ups and downs. There are moments when you are not as close and not as connected as you once were. I'm not trying to justify her actions as Essence, but, you know, Titus and Amara got married right after college. Now they're in their 40s and there definitely have been some moments where, again, they didn't have the same closeness that they began with. We hope that we evolve. We hope that we can continue to grow and change and sometimes in that process there's negligence, there's loneliness. I might be telling too much, but I think there's a kind of loneliness that's all the more tragic when you are laying next to someone.

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DC: Does Amara miss her friendship with Stephanie on some level?

EA: Yes. We haven't dealt with that yet. But as far as that relationship, I have one similar in my own life that this reminds me of. I had a friendship of 33 years that I walked away from recently, a year and a half ago. I still love her to death. We grew up together; we met when we were 12. I spent more holidays with her and her family than I spent with my own. So for me, the dynamic of Amara and Stephanie in college was that. She [Amara] was always with the Carlisles and had been taken under the wing of Stephanie and was very much treated like the little sister, even though Stephanie has sisters. I understand what that loss is, what that connection is. At one point they were very, very close and I do think she misses that. I would venture to say, Amara was in some ways hoping that they could get past this. I mean, golly, it's been 20 years, lady! [Laughs] Can we move on? Can we forgive each other? You're happily married to the Mayor of Atlanta and successful. You got everything you wanted and I have what I wanted. But you know Stephanie... [Laughs]

DC: Has Damian's return to Amara's life stirred up old feelings. Or is she --

EA: Completely over it?

DC: Yes. Is she thinking he's about to mess up the good thing she has going again with Titus?

EA: I don't know. I've never been in a room where I've encountered someone I've been intimate with and it hasn't had some sort of effect on me; where you haven't reflected back on it. Sometimes the feelings are negative. Sometimes they are positive. But, I've never been numb. I've never been disconnected from it. I think that's the case with Amara for sure, 100 percent. Seeing Damian brings up a whole lot of stuff. It brings up the betrayal; it brings up the desire. It brings up a whole lot of things that she now has to try and manage and figure out again. She has to figure out what she's prioritizing; as we often do when life is happening and then there's this curveball. She struggles with that as I think we most often do.

Catch an all-new episode of Ambitions tonight at 10EST/9C on OWN.