16 October 2015 on Wentworth Prison UK Twitter
What is the best piece of advise you were given when you were first starting out in the acting business?
When you say ‘no’ is as important as when you say ‘yes’. And something that I’ve carried with me throughout my career: “Be specific in one’s criticism; general in one’s praise.”
Can you describe Season 4 in three words?
Watch your back.
What is the most challenging part of playing your character?
Keeping my twirling moustache well under the radar. When playing a character with such epic ambitions, I’m treading a fine line between credible behaviour and full-blown mwah-ha-ha…but if Joan’s enjoyment in her deeds is too submerged, the drama can fall flat. A tricky balance.
What was your first day of filming Wentworth Prison like?
A blur. I do remember apologising in advance to all my fellow cast members for all the despicable things I’d probably be doing to them…
You’ve gained a lot of new fans worldwide via Wentworth Prison, do you have a message to pass on to them?
I love the fans. Their enthusiasm for and investment in the show make me feel less guilty about all the selfish pleasure I get whilst making it. Thanks for watching!
What other type of storylines would you like Joan to be a part of in the future?
A trip to the beach.
You have great onscreen chemistry with Kate (Vera Bennett). Why do you think you both clicked so well and what do you admire most about her?
Kate is a fabulous actress and a joy to be with. I’ve wanted to work with her for ages. And now I want to put her in my pocket and take her with me wherever I go.
Did you watch Prisoner Cell Block H and what have you enjoyed most about working on Wentworth Prison?
No, I never really watched the original series. It screened on tv before pvr’s were around. I was just starting out in my career, often working on stage with many of the fine actresses from the show, looking up to them (well, down actually – I was still taller than most) and learning from them. And now, like the original, the cream of Antipodean acting talent passes through the doors of WENTWORTH Prison. It’s constantly stimulating and challenging.
If The Freak could have 4 guests over for a dinner party, ANYONE in the world, who would she invite?
Well my first reaction is an overwhelming wave of hospitality anxiety – oh my god what would I cook, will they enjoy themselves, will my home be clean enough? But I’ll push those thoughts aside and assume I’ve suddenly & magically morphed into a carefree super-host. I’d love to sit around a table with Leigh Sales, Annabelle Crabb, Fran Kelly and our former Prime Minister Julia Gillard. But given that UK viewers probably aren’t familiar with those powerhouse Australian women, can I gather some pin-ups past & present and break bread with Gene Kelly, Claire Tomalin, Stephen Sondheim and Virginia Woolf? And Danielle can come along to keep the party alive.
Were you given free reign on your portrayal of Joan or did the writers tell you exactly how they wanted her?
I’m always responding to what the writers create. But it’s an organic collaboration. They mould a Joan in their heads and translate that to the page. I pick it p and play with it – with the director, crew and the other actors – contributing my own detail. And eventually it feels like we’re playing off each other.
Have you ever pranked a cast member on set, or was prnaked yourself? We would love to hear a fun anecdote during filming!
We shoot so fast there’s rarely time for pranks! But I do remember one day near the end of Series 3, in the middle of a particulary sombre sequence, Vera (Kate Atkinson) arrived to deliver some devastating information to Joan and she was sporting a mega-bun on the back of her head… ….10 times the size of mine. It took ‘does-my-bun-look-big-in-this’ to a whole nother level!
What has been your absolute favorite Wentworth Prison scene to film so far and why?
Oh that’s so very hard to answer. I love the mechanics of film-making so I can get immense pleasure from shooting intricate technical detail. I am a closet geek. And then, there are the two-hander scenes – playing all the different agendas with Boomer, Vera, Derek Channing, Bea, Franky, Doreen – but probably if I had to choose one it would be a scene we shot near the end of Series 2. It was a sequence where The Governor dragged a number of prisoners into her office to grill them, one-by-one in quick succession, and each refused to give her the information she wanted. The frustration culminated in Joan losing her wad and screaming at poor Linda Miles to “Get out of my office!” The scenes were written with fast intercutting between each stone-walling prisoner sitting opposite me, and the episode director Kevin Carlin let me have all the actors sit on the other side of the desk at the same time, one snuggled behind the other (like a scull crew), firing their lines at me. It really helped retain the momentum and pressure of the sequence, but was also hilariously entertaining.
What was your first reaction when you found out you’d got the part of ‘The Freak’?
I squealed. Then I laughed. Then I got to work.
What do you love most about playing Joan?
I love playing the tension between her public armour and her subterranean, volcanic feelings and ambition.
How do you get your ‘Freak’ on and prepare to play the part of Joan?
That bun does wonders. God knows what I’d do without it… .