Why play­ing TV’s big­gest vil­lain feels so good

Herald Sun - Switched On - - ON THE COUCH - TIF­FANY DUNK NA­TIONAL TV EDI­TOR

Even though she’s tech­ni­cally on the right side of the law, Gover­nor Joan Fer­gu­son is ar­guably the big­gest vil­lain within the Went­worth walls.

And Pamela Rabe, who por­trays her, says it’s “a gift” to play the meanest woman on TV.

“I can’t say I lick my lips when I read some of the stuff she’s go­ing to do,” Rabe says of the de­spi­ca­ble acts, in­clud­ing tor­ture and at­tempted mur­der her char­ac­ter un­der­takes.

“But there’s a pro­fes­sional plea­sure in that, yes.”

Re­cent episodes have seen au­di­ences learn more about how Fer­gu­son be­came “The Freak”. Rev­e­la­tions have in­cluded a trou­bled re­la­tion­ship with her fa­ther and a doomed ro­mance with a for­mer in­mate.

Rabe says she knew none of this back­story when she first signed up to play the Gover­nor. How­ever, she did find a way to find em­pa­thy for the char­ac­ter de­spite her nasty ex­te­rior.

“I wasn’t in­ter­ested in her be­ing a mous­tache-twirling bad­die, she had to be­lieve that she had a modus operandi — a rea­son to be do­ing what she was do­ing,” Rabe ex­plains.

“I’ve of­ten face­tiously said that she’s just mis­un­der­stood. But I also think that’s true — she’s do­ing things for the greater good.

“I didn’t know why (Joan) was al­ways do­ing things in the be­gin­ning but I knew it was go­ing to be my job to connect all those dots and make sure there’s a sort of logic. Even to the point that there are times when Joan’s logic is some­thing unto it­self.”

It’s to her credit that Rabe’s por­trayal of Joan Fer­gu­son has seen some in­ter­est­ing re­ac­tions when she’s off set.

“I got onto a plane this morn­ing and as I went through se­cu­rity some­one looked at me and sort of squealed and went, ‘Oh, my God,’ ” she laughs.

“I en­tered into a short con­ver­sa­tion and the end of it she went, ‘I’ve never seen you smile.’ I do smile quite a bit in real life.”

With sea­son four al­ready com­mis­sioned and the show air­ing in more than 80 coun­tries, Went­worth is a run­away suc­cess. And Rabe says that’s down to the “com­pli­cated spin­ning of saucers” the writ­ers do to keep mul­ti­ple sto­ry­lines go­ing for all the women in Went­worth.

“There’s a Ru­bik’s cube of del­i­cate story con­struc­tion that comes home in the most un­ex­pected way (in the fi­nale).”

“I wasn’t in­ter­ested in her be­ing a mous­ta­chetwirling bad­die”

PAMELA RABE ON THE FREAK

WENT­WORTH, SOHO, TUES­DAY, 8.30PM

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