Celebrity News

EXCLUSIVE: Wentworth star Danielle Cormack reveals which role she was “terrible” in

''It’s certainly opened doors.''
Loading the player...

For a lot of people, Danielle Cormack will always be Bea Smith from Wentworth.

So it’s not hard to imagine the reaction she got when she walked into a women’s prison in New Zealand.

“It created quite a furore,” Danielle tells TV WEEK with a laugh.

“They [the inmates] were like, ‘Oh my goodness!’ They couldn’t quite believe I was actually inside.”

Bea was killed off – unforgettably – in 2016, but that wasn’t the end of Danielle’s involvement with inmates, either in Wentworth or in real life.

Danielle says her role as Bea on Wentworth opened doors for her.

(Image: TV WEEK)

She was visiting the prison in New Zealand to run workshops with the women held there.

It’s the kind of thing she was doing even before Wentworth came along, but starring in the prison drama made it easier.

“It’s certainly opened doors,” she explains. “When I say I was part of that show, it helps people join the dots.”

Now, Danielle, 51, is back on TV, spending time with newly released inmates, as the presenter of the three-part docuseries Life On The Outside.

She says the people she met through the show really affected her.

“I always am. Whenever I’ve had the opportunity to meet people who’ve had a colourful life and ended up inside, when you really hear their stories, they’ve incurred a lot of trauma,” she says.

Being involved with Life On The Outside has made Danielle thankful for what she has.

(Image: SBS)

“I have a genuine desire for people to thrive – especially if they’ve had a hard start to life – and that’s what this show is about.”

Being involved with Life On The Outside has made Danielle thankful for what she has, even though the past couple of years haven’t been the easiest.

Mother to Ethan, 25, and Te Ahi Ka, 11, she’s based in Sydney, and travel back to her home country of New Zealand has been restricted.

“My family are all in other countries, and being a mum, without that kind of support here, and being a solo mum as well, has certainly had its challenges,” she says.

“But look, I’m grateful I’ve got clean running water and a warm bed to go home to every night. This is what a show like this has shown me – that not everyone has that luxury.”

Danielle is also thankful that home-schooling has come to an end and Te Ahi Ka is back in class.

Danielle with her youngest son Te Ahi Ka, 11.

(Image: Instagram)

“I just want to say how proud I am of him for knuckling down and doing some work,” she says with a laugh.

It’s been a while since Danielle was on our screens, and it’s not just due to the pandemic.

After Wentworth, she had roles in shows such as Jack Irish and Secret City, but things have been quiet on the acting front recently.

“People have this predilection for positivity around this – ‘Oh, everything’s great, great, great!’ – but frankly, the industry for me, and employment for me, hasn’t been great in the last three years,” she admits.

“I don’t know what I can attribute that to – whether it’s just that I’ve had my time, maybe, or there haven’t been the right projects – but what’s been good about it is it’s made me do other things.”

Danielle has been focusing on producing and directing, and has branched out into other creative pursuits.

Loading the player...

“I’ve been making my own jewellery, so I’m looking at maybe putting some of those pieces online, pay the bills!”

The possibility of a future as a producer and director rather than an actor doesn’t bother her.

“I don’t want to put myself out of a job, but I’d be okay with that,” she says. “Maybe it’s me growing out of playing different roles now. Playtime’s over!”

Danielle has been acting ever since she was young. She says it was just something she always did, rather than a career path she chose.

“I don’t know if I ever stopped to go, ‘Whoa, I want to be an actor.’ It just kept happening,” she says.

In the 1990s, when she was still living in New Zealand, she played the Amazon queen Ephiny in cult series Xena: Warrior Princess.

Danielle stared in the 2016 political thriller Secret City.

(Image: Foxtel)

“I don’t mind people being a fan of it – ﷯the show’s great – but I thought I was terrible in it,” she says. “If I could go back and do one thing in my life, it would be all my scenes in Xena!”

For the many people who do love Danielle’s acting, there could be an opportunity to see her in a role again soon.

She’s been collaborating with her former Wentworth co-star Nicole da Silva, and through their production company, they have a theatre project set to go on stage and a couple of film projects in development.

Will Danielle and Nicole be starring opposite each other in any of those?

“We might be,” Danielle teases, “which I think will be very exciting for those people who are Wentworth fans.”

Being involved with Life On The Outside has made Danielle thankful for what she has.

(Image: TV WEEK)

Even though Danielle left Wentworth more than five years ago, she still has a lot of contact with fans of the show.

During COVID lockdowns, she took part in international conventions online.

“It helped me stay more sane – still having those connections to the outside world – and highlighted just how popular this TV show has been,” she says.

Danielle is hoping Life On The Outside will get people talking about things, such as the numbers of former inmates re-offending and ending up back in jail.

“I really hope this starts that conversation,” she says.

Related stories