One of the most controversial criminal cases in years comes to the screen in Wicked Love: The Maria Korp Story. Guy Davis spoke with its star, Maya Elliot.
spent months in a coma before the feeding tube keeping her alive was removed by court order – had been assaulted by Tania Herman, the lover of her husband Joe, a tragic tale of betrayal, infidelity and manipulation was unveiled.
Based on the book by journalist Carly Crawford, who covered the case from beginning to end, Wicked Love stars Rebecca Gibney as Maria, Vince Colosimo as Joe and Elliot – formerly known as Maya Stange – as Tania.
The role of Tania is one of Elliot’s first back in Australia after an extended stay in Los Angeles, where she appeared on shows such as Burn Notice. Even while over there, though, she had heard about the Korp case.
“ Even the US media had taken an interest in it,” she said. “ And when I read the script, I was just blown away by what an interesting story it was.”
Wicked Love has single mother Maria swept off her feet by the charismatic Joe, with the two building a house and having a son together. While Joe is constantly pledging eternal love and devotion to his wife, he’s also leading a shady double life with his mistress Tania, constantly promising that he’ll eventually marry her.
The way the telemovie presents the situation, neither Maria nor Tania are weak-willed or unintelligent, so it’s something of a mystery how both women could be so easily and regularly swayed by Joe Korp.
And Elliot admits that she found herself “ baffled” by the way they were led astray by the man in their lives.
“ The impression I got – and it’s difficult for me to talk about this because I don’t know the people involved and I want to be sensitive to those people still living – was that Joe was this incredible, Machiavellian manipulator and both these women so badly needed to be loved or needed a powerful figure in their lives that they were willing to do things that would have been unimaginable previously,” she said.
“ According to a forensic psychiatrist, Tania Herman has a personality dependence disorder – she so badly needs outside validation that she basically made this guy the centre of her universe. He was her life, and she couldn’t imagine being without him.”
It was this aspect of Tania’s personality – “ her need to be loved” – that Elliot used as a way into her portrayal. “ I didn’t play her as a murderer,” she said. “ I tried to connect with that other quality.”
Understanding and empathy seem to have been pivotal among the cast members of Wicked Love – Elliot recalls with a laugh that she and Colosimo got into an argument early on while talking about their characters.
“ We never claim to be telling the true story of what actually happened because everyone had a different version of events,” she said. “ But Vince played it as if Joe was innocent and I played it as if Tania was a victim of his manipulation.”
Tania Herman is currently serving a 12-year sentence for her part in the crime, and while Elliot acknowledges the severity of her actions, she has a great deal of compassion for her as well.
“ I thought about Tania a lot while I was making Wicked Love, and I hope that she understands that we were trying to be respectful,” said Elliot. “ I understand she has changed a lot during her time in prison, and I hope she gets the chance to lead a relatively normal life when she gets out.”
Love triangle: Maya Elliot, Vince Colosimo and Rebecca Gibney in