Jail Cae­sar

Went­worth is so dark and con­fronting that star Danielle Cor­mack re­mains haunted by the ma­te­rial, writes SHAN­NON MOL­LOY

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - NEWS -

WOULD you go to ex­treme lengths to en­act a mur­der­ous plan for vengeance on the man re­spon­si­ble for your only child’s death?

Thank­fully it’s not a hy­po­thet­i­cal many of us would have to con­front. But for Danielle Cor­mack, ask­ing her­self those sorts of dark and dis­turb­ing ques­tions is all part of the job.

While film­ing the third sea­son of hit Fox­tel se­ries Went­worth, which makes its dra­matic re­turn this week, the actress who plays lead char­ac­ter Bea Smith of­ten found her­self need­ing “a mo­ment” at the end of a long and dark day.

“This is what I do and what I get paid for, but with a se­ries like this you’re bound to be handed some things you’ll find chal­leng­ing,” Cor­mack ad­mits.

“It’s scary to then leave that world and re­ally think about the sit­u­a­tions. Not what it’s like for Bea, but for ac­tual peo­ple – there are peo­ple who’ve lost chil­dren to drugs, who’ve been in do­mes­tic vi­o­lence sit­u­a­tions, who’ve tried to com­mit sui­cide, who are in pri­son … the world is full of weight.”

Im­mers­ing her­self in those emo­tion­ally heavy sce­nar­ios, par­tic­u­larly those in­volv­ing ex­treme grief and loss, took its toll, she says.

“It’s ex­haust­ing. I have to em­ploy a lot of per­sonal care in those mo­ments. I have to be kind to my­self af­ter­wards. I work with an in­cred­i­bly sup­port­ive cast and crew too, which helps.”

The pre­vi­ous sea­son of the ac­claimed drama, based on the hit 1980s se­ries saw sev­eral main sto­ry­lines come to ex­plo­sive con­clu­sions.

The next in­stal­ment of the cap­ti­vat­ing jail­house story only ups the ante, Cor­mack prom­ises.

“Bea has achieved her goal and now she’s deal­ing with the mess she left be­hind,” she says.

“This sea­son seems to have a greater ex­plo­ration of the psy­chol­ogy of th­ese women. It has a darker feel – it’s very moody. That’s re­ally in­dica­tive of what’s hap­pen­ing to the char­ac­ters psy­cho­log­i­cally, I think.”

A cen­tral plot will be Bea’s strug­gle with pri­son gover­nor Joan Fer­gu­son, whose thirst for ab­so­lute power and pen­chant for sadis­tic ma­nip­u­la­tion is di­alled up a notch.

“At this point, Fer­gu­son is show­ing heavy dol­lops of so­cio­pathic be­hav­iour,” Cor­mack says. “She’s an in­cred­i­bly dam­aged per­son. There’s some­thing un­sta­ble about her.

“It’s such an in­sid­i­ous and dark power, and when a world is be­ing ruled with that heavy a hand, it can kill the fire in some peo­ple and ig­nite it in oth­ers.

“That’s what we’ll see. She raises the stakes. It makes for great drama.”

With Bea as­sum­ing the sta­tus of top dog – the in­mates’ voice of un­ques­tioned author­ity – she’s bound to face a chal­leng­ing re­la­tion­ship with Franky, who pre­vi­ously held that man­tle.

Ni­cole da Silva, who plays the tough-as-nails and heav­ily tat­tooed prisoner, hints that loy­al­ties will shift over the course of the new sea­son.

“What I love about the FrankyBea-Fer­gu­son tri­an­gle that’s emerg­ing is that it con­stantly shifts,” she says.

With Franky tak­ing “a few steps down the lad­der”, there will be room to ex­plore some of the other el­e­ments that make up her com­plex but fas­ci­nat­ing per­son­al­ity, da Silva says.

“So many peo­ple boil her down to her sex­u­al­ity or tough per­sona. She’s so much more than that – she’s com­pli­cated.

“It’s been a real joy ex­plor­ing that and fig­ur­ing out the breadth of who she is.

“She’s strong on the out­side but com­pletely vul­ner­a­ble and em­pa­thetic on the in­side, for sure. I can re­late to that.

“It’s what I wanted to bring to the char­ac­ter. There’s a real joy in play­ing Franky.”

As part of her prepa­ra­tion for first tak­ing on the role, da Silva re­veals she vis­ited two prisons and even met with a for­mer in­mate – a woman who helped shape the char­ac­ter.

It was an ex­pe­ri­ence she de­scribes as “en­light­en­ing and to­tally eye-open­ing” and while da Silva is protective of the woman’s story, re­fus­ing to even dis­cuss the crime that landed her in jail, she says the pair are still in touch.

“She was so gen­er­ous with all of my ques­tions. With­out her, you wouldn’t have the Franky that you see on screen, hands down.

“We’ve stayed in touch. She loves Franky – ab­so­lutely loves her. She told me Franky is her mum’s favourite too, which made me very happy.”

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