Wentworth’s Danielle Cormack shakes off the iconic character Queen Bea with new challenges, writes HOLLY BYRNES
FOR Wentworth fans, Danielle Cormack still casts the long, dark shadow of one-time prison top dog Bea Smith. So imposing and impressive a performance was it by the New Zealand-born actor that it seems impossible to believe it has been two-and-a-half years since Cormack bid the iconic Australian drama – and her acclaimed character – goodbye. Not that Cormack has been resting on her laurels – tripping between filming the second season of Foxtel’s political thriller Secret City: Under The Eagle and starring as Guy Pearce’s complicated love interest, psychologist Rory Finch, in ABC drama Jack Irish. With five months of theatre work in Sydney (in Bell Shakespeare’s reworking of The Misanthrope) and the Queensland Theatre Company’s production of Hedda Gabler in Brisbane ahead of her, there has been no dimming of demand for Cormack’s talents.
While her Wentworth fans might still see Bea, the 47-year-old powers on to challenges anew. “For every day,” she tells TV Guide, “it’s a step away from Bea, and the truth is I carry all of my characters because they are me. I don’t think you can completely shake a character, but I certainly feel a long way away from Bea Smith.
“I absolutely adored being part of Wentworth and have great affection for the show and what it’s done for me.”
Pulling on the clothes of the next character, immersing in new worlds, or existing ensembles such as Jack Irish, is what provides new intrigue. The appeal of playing Rory, Cormack says, “was a chance to play someone who was more observational than reactive like a lot of the characters I’ve played.”
At a time when the power pendulum in the TV industry is finally shifting to reflect more gender balance, Cormack admits to being more conscious of the parts she chooses and the wider role she has to play. No longer content to play one-dimensional supporting roles, Cormack says she seeks out the complex and complicated, such as Dr Finch.
“For me, I saw it more like, she is just as messed-up and dislocated as Jack and to me that really helped form her as a whole person,” she says.
Creating her own opportunities is also part of what excites Cormack, recently teaming with her Wentworth co-star Nicole da Silva to form their own production company, Four One One.
Seizing on movements including ‘50/50 by 2020’ (a push to see women hired in 50 per cent of available production roles, both as cast and crew); Time’s Up and the local equivalent, Now Australia, Cormack notes change is already apparent.
“There has been a huge shift,” she says. “A huge perspective and paradigm shift over the last two or three years in terms of gender bias and also the roles that we play in the industry and then in the world, because each reflects the other.”
Her advice to those slow to grasp the changes is simple: “If you haven’t acknowledged that conversation or sat down and even listened to it … haven’t started to apply what has been discussed in those conversations … then I don’t think there’s any space for you in the industry. I think you just need to eff off and go and find something to do by yourself.
“With all the efforts and all ears to the ground, it should be happening at light speed. And I have no tolerance for anyone who has any excuses not to be employing certain codes of practice, or considering these discussions.” 8.30PM, SUNDAY, ABC