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EXCLUSIVE: Wentworth star Susie Porter opens up about her incredible marriage

She could have been knocked off course by depression, self-doubt and alcohol addiction. But Susie Porter took the wheel to ensure life in her 40s and beyond were her most successful – and happiest – yet.

By Jenny Brown
Susie Porter howls with laughter as a stiff breeze demolishes the tent in which she's trying to get changed, almost baring her fluoro pink knickers to a ute-load of passing tradies.
"I should have known better than to wear these," the Wentworth star chuckles, more mortified by her way-out choice of underwear than the sudden and untoward exposure (on a quiet cul-de-sac in one of Sydney's most exclusive suburbs).
Sunny, funny, gregarious, thoughtful and endlessly obliging, it's hard to imagine Susie has ever struggled with depression, crippling lack of self-worth and a "destructive" love-hate relationship with alcohol.
Yet, surprisingly, that darker side is what emerges in a candid, no-holds-barred chat on what turns out to be the award-winning actor's ninth wedding anniversary.
Marrying in her late thirties came as a beautiful surprise to Susie, who speaks of husband Christopher Mordue with the wonderment of someone who just discovered a rainbow-coloured unicorn grazing on their inner-city balcony.
"There were times I did wonder if settling down with someone was going to happen to me," she confides, cuddling the couple's adored rescue dog, the elderly and arthritic Lady Gracie.
"But I felt that if it was meant to happen, it would. It was all about the time being right."
She was fatalistic about the likelihood of staying single but love came half way around the world to find her – in the shape of Christopher, a British-born psychotherapist who was a friend for 21 years before they finally connected.
"Imagine! We've been married for nine whole years," Susie exclaims, still slightly disbelieving.
She seldom refers to her spouse by name, but speaks frequently of "my husband" with a beaming delight as obvious as it is heart-warming.
Today, the 48-year-old film and television favourite has clearly found her happy place, blissfully contented at home and in her role-of-a-lifetime as Wentworth's charismatic crime matriarch Marie Winter.
There had been acclaimed roles aplenty – in Puberty Blues, East West 101, East of Everything, RAN, Love My Way and Secret Life of Us – when Wentworth came along and from the outset Susie knew it would be special.
"My little sister and I used to watch Prisoner, the original show, so when the opportunity came up to be in Wentworth, I jumped at it. I've always been interested in crime, to be honest," says Susie, revealing that secretly, long before her Wentworth days, she once visited someone behind bars at Sydney's Silverwater Correctional Complex.
Why was her friend locked up? Like any good Wentworth inmate Susie won't blab.
"My mum will probably read this and go…" She pulls an expressive, slightly anxious face, before continuing.
"Of course, if I was really in jail, I wouldn't last a minute. We all laugh about that. I certainly wouldn't be like my character. I would just keep really quiet, I think, and try to fade into the walls. It would be a challenge, most definitely."
Susie stars as the terrifying Marie Winter in Wentworth. (Photo by Peter Brew-Bevan, styling by Mattie Cronan)
The gorgeous 48-year-old lives in Sydney with her husband Christopher. (Photo by Peter Brew-Bevan, styling by Mattie Cronan)
Indeed it's hard to imagine charismatic Susie, currently sporting three-quarter length leopard-print pants, a knotted white shirt, classic trench coat and enormous sunglasses, ever blending in with the scenery.
Regularly recognised as her seductive Wentworth alter-ego – when she's not being mistaken for lookalike friend Rebecca Gibney – she was even spotted by one avid fan while cosmetics shopping at a Sephora store in LA.
"People seem to love Wentworth wherever you go," she smiles, still elated by the show's two ensemble Logie Award wins – for Outstanding Drama Series and Most Popular Drama Program – last year.
"I would say it is probably my favourite job and the favourite character I've done in a little over 20 years, although Rebecca and I would love to play sisters one day. We've even put it out to the universe on Instagram!"
Career-wise, the planets have aligned for Susie and her private happiness with Christopher also seems oddly predestined. Both from Newcastle – she's from the NSW version, while he hails from north-east England – they first met and became friends working at a cafe in Sydney's bustling Oxford Street 21 years ago.
Susie, then between roles, was slinging smoothies, while he was visiting from the UK.
"I always thought he was lovely but he was seeing someone else," she recalls. So there it rested, until she ran into him by chance in a London street three years later.
They subsequently lost touch for another three years, until just before Susie was due to return to Australia for a movie role. Apparently the gods were against them ever getting together.
But fast forward five more years and, out of the blue, Christopher suddenly reached out to say he was coming Down Under on holiday and would love to reconnect.
"We planned a road trip to Byron Bay and when I picked him up at Broadmeadow station, I thought he was the one for me. And he told me, 'I have thought about you every day for the last five years,' which was the most wonderful thing. But it was a long drive. Little did he know he had 13 hours ahead in a car with me!" she chortles throatily.
Susie's adorable rescue dog, Lady Gracie. (Photo by Peter Brew-Bevan, styling by Mattie Cronan)
Following another 12 months of long-distance romance, the couple eventually tied the knot at Sydney's harbourside Nielsen Park on March 27, 2010.
"It wasn't like an extravagant, massive wedding," Susie remembers.
"I was doing a big play at Belvoir Street Theatre and I had no time to organise a big event, I tell you that, but it was really lovely and it's our ninth anniversary today, which seems incredible.
"He's 41 and I'm 48. I could lie about that, but I won't. I know all these actors who take about five years off (their age) and I think perhaps I should. It's not an ego thing. It's about being able to work longer. You know what? I think I might be 48 for a while now!"
Another hoot emerges.
"But having said that, I think it's getting better. It's a very good time to be an older woman. Look at Dame Judi Dench and Helen Mirren."
Down-to-earth, "extremely funny" Christopher helps Susie live in the moment, stay grounded and worry less about the uncertainties of the entertainment industry and her place within it.
In the past, she admits to self-medicating to dull her anxieties, but those days are gone.
Sober for 13 years, she quit cigarettes a decade ago and feels healthier for both decisions.
"It was a part of my life that was becoming unhealthy, destructive and dangerous," she frankly admitted in a keynote address at last year's Women In Television breakfast.
"With money in my pocket and time on my hands, my drinking started to get out of control. My life was full of broken promises, broken relationships and hangovers.
"I felt like I was not reaching my full potential as an actor or as a person, and my life force and determination where my drinking was concerned was of no use whatsoever."
Reinvention benefited her life and career, but came at a slight social cost.
"I don't drink, I don't smoke, so I certainly won't be the life of the party," she jokes, showing off the cosy one-bedroom apartment she shares with Christopher in Sydney's Potts Point.
"Plus I don't eat meat so people probably think I'm an absolute nightmare to invite anywhere!
"It's still weird being Australian and not drinking, but my life is better without it. Now I don't crave it, I don't miss it. And I don't have to wake up and go, 'S**t, where am I, what did I do? Did I drive the car?' All that stuff…
"I don't know about you, but being human is always difficult. You just have to get on with it. The world is quite a trip really. We all die, we know that, but if we think too much about it…it's tough at times. We need to be kind and understanding."
Wentworth's return next week has been highly anticipated by fans of the cult favourite show. (Photo by Peter Brew-Bevan, styling by Mattie Cronan)
Always prone to insecurity, Susie battled the black dog of depression for decades.
Part of the problem, she maintains, was defining her worth too closely with her work.
"I kind of felt I was never going to amount to much, so I was always like, right, I'm going to prove to the world that I can succeed. I set the bar high for myself, so when life didn't work out as I'd hoped, I experienced depression. I was forever looking for happiness and success. But then I'd go, 'What does it all mean, anyway?'"
Putting the problem into context, Susie discovered a sad yet illuminating family history of mental illness when she appeared on SBS television's Who Do You Think You Are program back in 2013.
Both her grandmother Gloria and great-grandmother Winifred were committed to psychiatric hospitals, for six and 30 years respectively. Still a patient in Ballarat asylum at the time of her death, Winifred was buried unmourned in an unmarked grave.
"Looking at the medical records, her whole life for 30 years was contained on one sheet of A4 paper," says Susie, obviously moved.
"My dad never knew anything about her so we could have all passed away and her story would have been completely lost, those tragic years. It was a real life highlight for me and for my dad that we got to find out about Winifred and give her a headstone, so she will never be forgotten now."
Growing up the second youngest of four sisters, Susie shared a close bond with her late father Bill, a Newcastle doctor.
"He passed away on February 6 last year and it's been a difficult time for all of us," she explains, her eyes filling with tears. "Dad was a bit outnumbered by women – even the dogs they had were female towards the end – but I think he enjoyed it really, being around all of us girls."
Not that animal activist Susie – a passionate ambassador for World Animal Protection – was particularly feminine back then.
A confirmed tomboy, she preferred skateboards to dolls and strangers often asked mother Jenny, a nurse, how old her son was! Nobody – least of all the future actress, who honed her craft at Newcastle University and NIDA – could ever have dreamt she might one day be considered a bombshell for steamy roles in films like Feeling Sexy, Better Than Sex and Monkey's Mask.
Nowadays however, she has a "no nipple" clause written into her contracts.
Susie and Christopher have been married for nine years. Getty
Other movie highlights include Bruce Beresford's star-studded World War II epic Paradise Road, the fun flop Welcome to Woop Woop and working with a "very diligent, very serious, very kind" Heath Ledger, then aged just 19, on the Aussie heist thriller Two Hands.
"It's funny, because I don't think of myself like that, not in that way," she says, visibly embarrassed by the "sex symbol" tag.
"I think, as you get older, you worry less about that stuff as well. I'm not ambitious like I was when I first came out of drama school. I go with the flow of it more.
"Of course there have been times when I've been out of work and I've thought, 'Wow, maybe I will never get another job!' But I'm a little more philosophical about it now. For a start there's not enough work to go around and other actors have to get their chance. You have to share, if that makes sense.
"Without sounding too esoteric, it all works out the way it's meant to. If I'm meant to be in something, then I will be, like Wentworth. The older I get, the less I worry, strangely enough. You never have to retire as an actor, although I don't know how many Driving Miss Daisys there will be!"
WATCH BELOW: Wentworth stars open up about their first kiss. Story continues after video.
No regrets then?
"None," she agrees, without hesitation.
"Obviously some things are more successful than others and a lot of it is out of your hands, how a film or TV show is going to turn out. But I've been lucky enough that the kind of jobs I wanted have gravitated towards me and then I've been privileged to be able to say 'no' to other things, although it's sometimes difficult.
"I kind of look at it as a marathon rather than a 100m sprint. I want still to be doing good work into my seventies, if that's possible, doing things that I believe in and love and want to be a part of."
Wentworth starts on Tuesday, May 28, at 8.30pm on Fox Showcase.
The June issue of The Australian Women's Weekly is on sale now.
The new issue of The Australian Women's Weekly is on sale now. AWW

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