Pamela Rabe | TV Week Magazine 2018

TV WEEK Interview (July 2018)

Wentworth’s Pamela Rabe on fans and playing Joan ‘The Freak’ Ferguson

Freak in a box | Pamela Rabe takes us through THAT scene

In last year’s season five finale, Joan Ferguson was buried alive in a coffin in the bush by Will Jackson, played by Robbie Magasiva.

What was going through The Freak’s mind in her final moments?

“There was an extreme anger with herself for not seeing this coming,” Pamela says.

“Joan is proud of being the smartest person in the room. She’s the one who can see all eventualities and be prepared for them.

“She would think she’d trapped herself – that she hadn’t anticipated something and now was going to suffer the consequences.

“Filming that scene was intense. There’s the imagined box you put yourself in, knowing it would be the ultimate nightmare for people, particularly Joan.

“And there’s the real box, which has an open side and is surrounded by 30 members of the crew. It’s a mad kind of chaotic war zone.”

‘I was excited they would consider me!’

People can’t get enough of Pamela Rabe. And not just here, but around the world.

You can put that down to the fascination – and in some cases, obsession – with her Wentworth character, Joan “The Freak” Ferguson.

But not everyone loves The Freak. Canadian-born Pamela, who won the 2018 TV WEEK Logie Award For Most Outstanding Actress, says one of her siblings has stopped watching the show.

“One of my sisters found it too distressing seeing a family member do terrible things,” Pamela, 59, says.

Pamela was born into a large family near Toronto and was raised in Vancouver, The actress trained in her homeland before moving to Australia in her early 20s. What would motivate a young woman to move to the other side of the world?

“Love,” Pamela says. “I met an Australian (theatre director Roger Hodgman) in Canada. He was offered a job back in Australia and asked if I wanted to come, I said, ‘Sure.’

“That was the beginning of this adventure. We have since married, we’re still married.”

Moving to Australia wasn’t a tough decision, she says. It was the 80s, and in the US and Canada there was a fascination for all things Aussie.

“Australian movies were popular,” she says. “And Men At Work were on top of the charts.”

From Canada to Oz – and now to the UK. The rabid love for Pamela’s character Joan will this year take her to a Wentworth fan event in the UK.

“They’re incredibly loyal and protective of Joan there,” Pamela explains. “I couldn’t be spending my time with a nicer group of people.”

Such is the level of fandom in the UK that some excited Wentworth fans yell “Joan!” at Pamela from across the street.

In general, however, she calls the fans “really respectful” – although, she adds, “that may be a version of fear”.

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Nuke Power Play Tests Ethics

This production asks hard questions about our future, writes Elizabeth Fortescue

When Pamela Rabe marched against the Vietnam War at the age of 12, she believed in people power and an optimistic future. But when the respected actor was preparing for her stage role as a retired nuclear physicist, she became keenly aware of the “ever-present anxiety” of today’s youth — mainly about just how long planet Earth can survive humanity’s mistreatment of it. Read More

Pamela Rabe - The Saturday Paper 21 October 2017

Pamela Rabe on unpicking the knottiness of Ghosts

Following the success of her Glass Menagerie with Eamon Flack, actor Pamela Rabe reunites with the director to explore the knottiness of Ibsen’s Ghosts. By Harry Windsor.

Pamela Rabe is on the phone, the morning after opening night of the new production of Ibsen’s Ghosts at Belvoir. Without a trace of actorly effusion, she says: “I’m really looking forward to settling it in.”

The show’s previews have afforded the cast, which includes Robert Menzies alongside Rabe, opportunity to tweak the work extensively, a process she likens to “popping grapes”.

Pamela Rabe - The Saturday PaperIt’s a phrase she picked up from director Annabel Arden, the co-founder of British touring theatre Complicité, during rehearsals for The Art of War at the Sydney Theatre Company, where Rabe was a member of the short-lived Actors Company from 2006 to 2009.

“When a thing is starting to congeal and galvanise, suddenly the little moments that you need to attend to become really apparent,” she says. “You learn a lot about the story you’re telling collectively, and the audience is helping you tell that story.”

Ghosts is one of Ibsen’s knottiest works, one “that has no bottom”, according to Rabe. She stars as Mrs Alving, a survivor of violent abuse at the hands of an unfaithful husband, dead for 10 years when the play begins.

We meet the widow drawing up plans for an orphanage with the assistance of the doctrinaire and judgemental Pastor Manders, played by Menzies. Getting the place insured won’t be necessary, he says; it might look like faithlessness. No prizes for guessing what happens next.

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Pamela Rabe opens up about Wentworth’s tongue scene

‘I know what’s happening is horrific’: ‘The Freak’ actress Pamela Rabe explains how she steeled herself to film THAT gruesome tongue-cutting scene in prison show Wentworth

It was one of the most violent scenes in Australian television history.

Now, Wentworth actress Pamela Rabe, who portrays Joan ‘The Freak’ Ferguson has spoken about what it really took for her film the Foxtel show’s infamous tongue-cutting scene.

In an interview with KIIS FM’s Kyle & Jackie O Show on Wednesday, the 58-year-old star revealed she had to compartmentalise as she acted.

In the bloody scene, Pamela’s character screeched, ‘You’ve licked your last pussy!’ to ‘Juicy’ Lucy Gambaro before slicing off her tongue with a scalpel.

‘It’s tough isn’t it? I had to kind of separate it, because I know what’s happening is horrific,’ Pamela explained about filming the gruesome footage. Read More

Pamela Rabe | Jailbird Joan

Bea’s parting gift: The Freak’s in the frame

REVENGE is sweet, but it’s not always easy to come by in Wentworth.

Foxtel’s award-winning drama, which is a contemporary reimagining of the iconic 80s series Prisoner, returns for an explosive fifth season on Tuesday.

The season premiere resumes in the days following Bea Smith’s tragic death at the hands of Joan “The Freak” Ferguson, Wentworth’s former Governor who suffered a spectacular fall from grace last season.

Emotional, psychological and professional shock waves pound Wentworth Correctional Centre’s staff and inmates, who set up a memorial for Bea.

Pamela Rabe, who plays Joan, says the reverberations of Bea’s death, for which she has seemingly successfully framed Joan, will be felt throughout the entire season.

“That’s a big change to the culture for the prison of Wentworth and for the storylines that have been dominated by Bea’s trajectory for the past four seasons,” she tells The Guide.

“It helps you realise the world of this drama is a prison where life is precarious and the struggles are monumental, epic; they are life and death. Part of the reality of this narrative is some people are going to disappear.”

In the wake of a stabbing death at her prison, Governor Vera Bennett is under fire from Corrective Services and, with Will on suspension, she is relying more on her deputy Jake, not realising he is Ferguson’s puppet. Read More

Pamela Rabe - Foxtel Magazine April 2017

The Devil You Know

Wentworth Season 5: Pamela Rabe reveals her life as The Freak

PAMELA RABE WALKS into a room on the Wentworth set to talk about the highly-anticipated fifth season of the series, premiering in April on showcase.

While her character Ferguson is renowned for a dagger glare so intense it can leave even a hardened criminal shaking in her shoes, the actress describes herself as “shy”, which is evident as she gazes at the floor or out the window as she ponders then answers questions.

When asked if she can relate to the late Dennis Hopper’s (Blue Velvet) quote on playing characters who plumb the darkest depths of human nature, Rabe says: “People keep asking me, ‘What evil lurks in you to play bad characters?’” Hopper said. His comeback to that was, “There’s no evil in me, I just wear tight underwear”.

Rabe shoots back, “Well, I just wore a tight bun. Keep the bun tight!”

She laughs, but it turns out there’s some truth to what she’s saying.

Pamela Rabe / Joan "The Freak" Ferguson
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Interview: Pamela Rabe – Wentworth

Playing one of the most formidable women in Wentworth prison – Joan ‘The Freak’ Ferguson – has given Pamela Rabe the freedom to develop as an actor.

Wentworth is much more than just a re-imagination of iconic Australian drama series Prisoner. After four successful seasons, it’s now as volatile and unpredictable as the female inmates who populate the titular prison, and continues to gain momentum and a legion of loyal fans.

“Each subsequent season has a huge responsibility to maintain the drama and excitement and then build on it,” says Pamela Rabe, who plays the prison’s fearsome and manipulative governor Joan Ferguson, aka The Freak – a role made famous by Maggie Kirkpatrick in the original series.

“I wanted her to stand alone,” says Rabe of her interpretation of the character. “I’ve worked with Maggie on the stage, and I know her well and know the impact of that character. Joan Ferguson in Wentworth is closer in her persona to Maggie’s character than others who share their names with Prisoner characters, but I chose not to study or incorporate anything Maggie had created. I happily slipped on the gloves and went to work.” Read More