Why playing TV’s biggest villain feels so good
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