EXCLUSIVE: Wentworth star Danielle Cormack reveals how she got in the mindset of her character Bea, five years after being killed off

In an exclusive extract, Danielle details her introduction to prison life and her alter-ego Bea Smith.
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“Arriving on the first day [on the set of Wentworth], I remember everyone being in awe – of the set, the world that had been created, the production values.

It really felt like being in a prison. A lot of the actors had never met each other before, so, for me, it was perfect because everything was so new.

“My experience played perfectly into the hands of Bea’s experience.”

(Image: Foxtel)

My experience played perfectly into the hands of Bea’s experience.

I didn’t need to know what it felt like to be in prison for the first time as it was Bea’s first time in prison too. Whereas for some of the other actors, it was imperative that their characters had to be familiar with that environment. But for me, no, because I arrived on the very first day as did Bea.

Being in that prison environment every day completely supported the absolute state of fight-or-flight that Bea was in, but it was a different kind of fight-or-flight than what she experienced with Harry.

Bea became familiar with Harry’s behaviour, so the anxiety became about hiding the abuse from Debbie. But being in prison delivered a new raft of danger topped with the anxiety about not being with her daughter.

Danielle starred as Bea Smith in Wentworth for four years before leaving the Foxtel drama in 2016.

(Image: Getty)

What helped me was ruminating on the question: ‘Why did Bea not leave Harry? Why did she settle for that?’ There are some clues as to her emotional vulnerability and also perhaps her lack of self-esteem and understanding of her own psychology, which came later on.

That helped me situate her – because, sadly, there are lots of people that stay in a situation like that, and there is that big question: ‘Why can’t you just walk away?’ It’s not as simple as that. There is a complexity that perhaps cannot be understood if you have never been in that situation.

The key for me lay in what had happened for her growing up, her family life and the intergenerational trauma – which you never see on screen.

In that first season, you have Franky’s backstory, there was a lot on her growing up and what happened to her as a child – she suffered horrid abuse – so you actually get that insight into her character and why she is responding to the world like that. But with Bea, you don’t – you only know what she endured with Harry.

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With the advent of Bea going to prison in the first episode, I remember thinking, ‘How does Bea wear an experience that is so foreign to her? How does she move? What’s happening interior-wise?’ So I had to stay in a constant state of fight-or- flight. It’s just the worst nightmare, never-ending.

And then things kept compounding and then she would make rash decisions that would worsen the situation – much like she did with Harry. ‘The only way out of this nightmare is to kill this person’ and, in a state of desperation, ‘I’m going to cover it up.’ She wasn’t really thinking. Then in the worst outcome of all, she ends up incarcerated for attempted murder.”

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