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EXCLUSIVE: Wentworth's Susie Porter explains why the new season was one of the hardest to film

''It was quite moving, quite sad. I felt a bit flat in my own life.''

By Helen Vnuk
Susie Porter has a warmth that can be felt through the phone and a deep, throaty laugh.
She's laughing as she tells TV WEEK why she took on her latest role, a woman possessed by an evil spirit in new drama Hungry Ghosts.
"I just love the whole idea of being possessed by something!" she says.
"I thought, 'How can I say no to this?'"
The role of Catherine Taylor has Susie doing everything from grabbing people by the throat to ravenously wolfing down bowls of Vietnamese food.
"Because I don't eat meat, they had chicken feet made of tofu and all sorts of things," she remembers. "I was gorging myself. When they'd say, 'Cut!' I'd burst out laughing."
The only thing about the role that made Susie hesitate was knowing she had to speak a few lines in Vietnamese.
"I was a bit freaked out, because you think, 'Oh, I don't want to do a disservice to that.' But you also know it may take a lifetime to be able to perfect the accent. I recorded it on my phone and just listened to it over and over and over again."
The role of Catherine Taylor has Susie doing everything from grabbing people by the throat to ravenously wolfing down bowls of Vietnamese food.
At 49, Susie is being offered some of the most interesting roles of her career. She's now into her third season as crime matriarch Marie Winter in Wentworth.
"I've loved being in Wentworth," she says of the prison drama. "Any female actor would kill to be on it."
But Susie admits she's found it more difficult to shoot this season than the previous two.
"I've found this season harder because of what the character has to go through," she says. "When Marie lost all her power and status, lost everything, I found that quite difficult in a weird way – quite moving, quite sad. I felt a bit flat in my own life."
Susie got through it by turning to two things that make her feel better: exercise and American comedian Larry David.
"I love doing F45, the gym classes. F45 always picks me up. That, or watching anything that Larry David does, any Curb Your Enthusiasm. That often makes me feel really happy too."
Susie has found ways to get her through the tough times. (Instagram)
Things really are grim for Marie this season, and the character's face shows it.
As with most of the stars of Wentworth, Susie has had to get used to seeing herself looking raw on screen.
"I kept saying to beautiful Megan [Tiltman], the make-up artist, 'So when can I wear mascara? When can I get my lashes put on?'" she says with a laugh.
"It's confronting to see that. It would be unrealistic to say none of us have an ego or none of us want to look good. But with this, sometimes, you just have to go with it, because that's the reality. Eventually I do get a bit more make-up, which is good!"
Three seasons is a long time for Susie to play one character. The actress, who was born in the NSW city of Newcastle, made her name in movies such as Two Hands and The Monkey's Mask, before going on to star in short-run series such as RAN Remote Area Nurse and East West 101.
She admits she does have a fear of being typecast.
"I love to fly under the radar, so you can then play all these different characters," she explains.
"But I think with Wentworth, this whole season is all about redemption, so hopefully my character is redeemed and changes."
As with most of the stars of Wentworth, Susie has had to get used to seeing herself looking raw on screen. (Instagram)
Over the seasons of the acclaimed prison drama, Susie has built up some close friendships with actors she's worked with.
"I really love Celia Ireland and Tammy MacIntosh," she says. "I knew Celia when I was at university in Newcastle. I did my first-ever professional play with her."
More recently, Susie has been spending a lot of time with Zoe Terakes, who joined the show this season as transgender man Reb Keane.
"I hung out with Zoe a lot during lockdown," she says. "We would walk for hours."
As important as acting is to Susie, she says she's getting less ambitious as she's getting older.
"I just think that's a natural thing that happens," she muses. "Is it less ambitious or do your priorities change? Maybe a bit of both."Susie's other great passion is animal welfare. She has a rescue dog called Grace, who is 16 years old.
"I've never felt such love for anything [as] an animal, because of the unconditional nature of it," she explains.
Susie has built up some close friendships with actors she's worked with. (Instagram)
Susie lives in an apartment in inner-city Sydney now, but dreams of one day being able to take in more animals.
"It would be great to have a rescue farm full of rescue animals," she says.
"I could do that, but I could also do a bit of acting here and there too."
Susie is feeling optimistic that there will be more and more great roles around for older women. She's felt inspired recently by seeing the movie Relic, starring veteran Australian actress Robyn Nevin.
"I've always admired her as an actor and I just think, 'Wow, it's such a great thing to see a woman in her seventies up there on the screen,'" she says.
"I hope that I'm in my seventies and still working."
As for what she'd like to play after Wentworth, Susie has a few ideas.
"I've always liked the idea of playing a nun, for some reason, but Lambs Of God has probably done that. A nun, or a complete psycho – anything that's extreme!" she adds with a laugh.

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