A matter of crime

6th July 2019 - TV Week

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Ask most Australian actors if they'd accept a life sentence in Wentworth, chances are they'd pull on the teal tracksuit before you'd finished the question.

So magnetic is the Wentworth juggernaut that across seven seasons and more than 70 episodes, it has become the country's most respected drama.

Since first screening on Foxtel in 2013, the show has attracted the best talent on the small screen and delivered the most gripping storylines. The result has been a show loved by a global fan base.

In 2019, Wentworth once again proved a standout, winning the TV WEEK Logie Award for Most Outsanding Drama for the second consecutive year.

"I feel I say this every year, but this show is amazing!" Tammy MacIntosh, 49, who played the recently departed Kaz Proctor, enthuses.

The show's constant reinvention contributed to Wentworth's enduring success, despite early scepticism it would simply mimic Prisoner, the 30-year-old series from which it was adapted.

"At the end of season one, we believed this extent of drama had never been seen in Australia before," Robbie Magasiva, 49, who plays Will Jackson, explains. "But we didn't know for sure until a media pre-screening in Sydney."

"They were all staunch Prisoner fans, so no-one was sure how it would go. It was like, 'you guys better prove yourself, because otherwise we're going to destroy you.' [Laughs] But they were blown away. We sat at the front of the cinema and could hear all the media behind us going, 'Ooh! Aah!'"

The seventh season, currently on air, has once again delivered shock and awe in equal measure.

"There isn't a weak link," Tammy explains. "Just when you think storylines for certain characters are done, and you're like, 'What's going to happen now?' there's a twist, they move forward, and you don't see it coming."

Fresh from another Logies win, it seems absurd that not long ago there were rumours that the current season of Wentworth would be its last. Instead, the show was greenlit for another 20 episodes, set to air in 2020 and 2021.

"We wanted to go out on a high, and we didn't know what was happening," Kate Atkinson, 46, who plays Governor Vera Bennett, says. "I wanted the writers to finish the show the way they wanted to, so when we found out we had this epic 20-episode finale, everyone was overjoyed."

Celia Ireland, who has been part of the cast since day one, is still rather astonished by the rise and rise of Wentworth.

"I don't think any of us had any idea we'd even go into season two," the [*53]-year-old says with a laugh. "The vibe was really strong after those first few episodes, and we were hopeful, but to be here now, winning Logies and still making television, is a bit of a dream."

Wentworth is the longest-running locally produced weekly drama currently on Australian television. What makes the achievement all the more impressive is that strong, complex female characters make up the core of the cast.

"It's great, because it gets to show women in non-conformist roles, and a female prison is quite a unique environment," Bernard Curry, who plays corrupt prison officer Jake Stewart, says. "Women being at the centre of that is one of the main reasons it resonates with the audience. But ultimately, we're telling compelling stories, and that's why it's universally appreciated."

So while the women of Wentworth may have only a couple of more years left to serve behind bars, given their run of success at the TV WEEK Logie Awards, there's a good chance that these repeat offenders will be back again next year.

Turns out crime does pay!