Just like the characters in Wentworth, who are faced with intimate, tragic, dangerous and dramatic circumstances all within in the confines of a maximum-security prison, fans of the Foxtel prison drama (continues Tue., Jul. 2 at 8.30pm; Fox Showcase) experience the full gamut of emotions. As Season 7 continues to ramp up, WHO sits down with stars of the Logie Award-nominated show, Leah Purcell, Celia Ireland and Bernard Curry, who give us the inside scoop of one of Australia’s most popular dramas.
In a time when dramas struggle in Australia, why do you think Wentworth has maintained longevity?
Leah Purcell: I think the writing and the production values, and the ensemble cast that they’ve chosen; the talent, to be honest.
Celia Ireland: I reckon it’s because – this is going to sound really daggy – it’s got an epic quality to it, if you think about it. It sounds like a bit of a reach, but Game of Thrones has lust, torture, mayhem, sex, murder. We’ve got all that, but it’s in a prison. And it’s really truthful performances but epic huge stories.
Purcell: And if you think about the steam-press as the place where the top dog reigns, it’s like the people struggling in Game of Thrones for the Iron bloody Throne.
Bernard Curry: And another thing, is the fact that it’s with women as its central protagonist characters. Strong female roles, I think it resonates with the audience, be it female or male, I don’t think it matters. Male viewers also love the fact that there are really strong female central characters in a story, rather than what the cultural norm was. Also, the quality of the writing – I often relate it to Breaking Bad, where each episode has that sort of cliff-hang, that takes you into the next one. It’s that where you can binge it because you go, "I need to know what happens next," rather than a serial thing. That storytelling is what draws people in.
Did you ever imagine it would garner this much interest?
Ireland: We were waiting for a year to hear if it would go beyond Season 1. There’s no way we could envisage that it would get to Season 7, or beyond. We just didn’t even think about it, and I think because of social media, a lot’s changed, so we started filming Season 1 six-and-a-half, nearly seven, years ago. And social media has just gone nuts, so everything’s more accessible, and people can get more of what they want, more often, so it’s just kind of snowballed. It was like a great clash, a really great show, and it’s increasing.
Does the cast get along as well as they appear to?
Curry: Absolutely, there is not one person in the cast that’s a diva or that has any sort of hierarchical ascendancy over anybody else; we are a family. We are all peers and we all enjoy each other’s company as well as respect each other’s work. And I think we all raise our and each other’s standards to a higher level. When you walk in, you know that you’re going to have to step up to that higher level, and we always try to set a very high bar, and we’re not putting pressure on each other, that’s just the standards we set. The show definitely has some diversity to it, especially with the cast.
Purcell: We really do – you know when you asked before, about how we were so successful, I think that’s a big reason why.
Curry: I think one of the principal mandates that we have as actors going in the show is to be real. To be real people and not to be sort of some television version of whatever.
Can you share any big spoilers for the rest of this season?
Ireland: I reckon the ending. You’ve never seen before, for sure. Is that fair to say?
Curry: I will also say this, with my character, Jake, as much as people would think that they could never ever get onto Jake’s side, somehow, they’re going to go, “Go Jake!”