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.

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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

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