From day one, it was evident Wentworth was different from other Australian dramas. The cast could just feel it.
“I remember sitting around the table at the first read-through thinking, ‘Am I in the right place?'” Katrina Milosevic, who plays Sue “Boomer” Jenkins, recalls. “We started rehearsing and very quickly I realised this show was unique.”
No-one had any idea it would go on to become one of the most-celebrated local dramas of recent times.
Nicole da Silva, who plays Franky Doyle, loved the show. But she was unsure how it would be received, right up until season one aired in 2013.
“We did the first media screening ahead of episode one and I realised this show had a resonance that my being inside couldn’t perceive,” Nicole, 36, explains. “In that screening, I heard reactions to moments I never expected. I thought, ‘We’re onto something here.'”
Of course, she was right. Wentworth has been nominated for the TV WEEK Logie Award for Most Outstanding Drama Series for each of its five seasons and won the award in 2015 and 2018.
Danielle Cormack was also named Most Outstanding Actress in 2015, and a year later Celia Ireland took home the Logie for Most Outstanding Supporting Actress. At the 2018 Logies, Pamela Rabe was named Most Outstanding Actress.
But what is it about Wentworth that has made it such a success?
There have been other Aussie dramas with strong female characters. But none as smart nor as brutally unflinching as those in Wentworth. The best comparison is the show Wentworth is based on, Prisoner – and that wrapped up in 1986. The timing was right for a drama like Wentworth.
“In Australia, Wentworth has set the pace in terms of telling female-driven stories,” Nicole says. “I’m really proud to have been part of that movement.”
Kate Atkinson, who plays Vera Bennett, believes the show works due to “cracking good stories”. She also says everyone from Foxtel to the directors, the crew and the cast have combined to raise the bar for Australian drama.
“It’s just one of the most magic moments when all the elements come together,” Kate, 46, smiles.
Interestingly, Nicole thinks the series has now transcended being one that aims to appeal to women.
“I have equal numbers of male and female fans,” she says.
It comes as no surprise to find the cast have bonded like superglue over six seasons. They’re a tight-knit family.
So, events like the Logies are an opportunity to catch up in a slightly less stressful environment.
“It’s lovely to see everyone and to be our family, and see other families sitting at their tables,” Katrina says of the Logies.
Sadly, both Katrina’s parents have passed away. Her father died before she appeared in Wentworth.
“Unfortunately, Dad didn’t get to see it,” she says. “I think about that a lot. It makes me sad that neither of them are here anymore. The show is my family now.”
You can’t blame Katrina’s co-star Kate for leaning on her colleagues for support. The West Australian-born actress lost her dad last year.
“My father died only in November, and the last few months have been quite shaky,” she admits. “Dad found my career choice pretty baffling, but he was supportive nonetheless.”
Tammy MacIntosh says the Logies are a way to congratulate each other for work well done – a pat on the back.
“We’ve all worked really hard and we deserve it,” she says.
Nicole adds: “It’s really lovely when you put your heart and soul on the line in your work and you get that recognition.”
For more from our chat with the cast of Wentworth, pick up a copy of this week’s issue of TV WEEK. On sale now!