‘Wentworth’, Foxtel’s reimaging of the iconic Australian series ‘Prisoner’ has been a ratings smash around the world and the third season is about to start soon. We caught up with actor Pamela Rabe, who plays Joan ‘The Freak’ Ferguson, the governor of Wentworth who joined the show last season inhabiting the role made famous by Maggie Kirkpatrick.
Despite our best interrogation, Pamela wouldn’t give much up about what will happen in Season 3.
Of all the characters in Wentworth, Joan Ferguson has to be the most iconic of them all. Did you have any trepidation before taking on the role?
No, just a lot of excitement. It’s a great role and when I got the phone call I squealed into the phone to my agent.
Maggie Kirkpatrick is someone I’ve admired for a very long time, and I’ve worked with, we played mother and daughter in a play with a very long extended theatrical nm. So I know her well and I’m so full of admiration and adoration for who she is, and what she brought to the creation of this character of Joan The Freak’ Ferguson.
When I found out N be playing this role, it’s like all your Christmases have come at once.
It’s unusual in television, this is largely a show about women, was that part of the appeal of doing a TV project?
Absolutely. I’ve been very lucky in most of the screen work I’ve done. What I love about being an actor is the ‘work family’ that you create because it’s such a peripatetic life. You go from job to job, whatever the contract, sometimes it’s a few days. often with a theatre piece it’s a couple of months and then you move on. So the quality of the collaborations and the connections you make in the work that you do that are really important.
I’ve been lucky enough in my adventures in screen both in film and television that have been real ensemble companies. I was involved in a few films in the ’90s like ‘Paradise Road’ that was about female prisoners of war and ‘Cosi’ which was about a whole group of patients at a mental health facility in the ’70s and also things like this series which is centered around a woman’s prison.
It means you have a cavalcade of the cream of Australia’s female actor talent. It’s such a privilege to get to work with everyone. a huge privilege and, as you said, a real attraction.
A prison is a rich setting for drama. Nobody is one hundred percent good or evil in Wentworth, it’s all shades of grey in-between.
I’ve always thought that to be in an environment where everything is always on the brink of chaos, how do people maintain control? Whether you’re a prisoner trying to stay safe, or whether you’re an officer, or the governor, trying to keep the place functioning and keep everyone in line. The challenges never stop coming and that’s great fodder for drama.
On the show Joan Ferguson has been described as The Fixer’ — has Christopher Pine been watching?
(laughs] I suspect he has, that’s hysterical!
In your off-time from the show you’ve been busy performing Samuel Beckett in Adelaide and directing a play at the Sydney Opera House, how do you fit it all in?
I love working! I was performing on stage in Melbourne in the evenings over the first few weeks of my filming ‘Wentworth’. As soon as filming finished I was off doing more acting and directing. I’ve been very lucky with scheduling and
also sympathetic producers who were able to work their timetable successfully. So I just opened a show two nights ago in Sydney, ‘Jumpy’ with Jane Turner and Marina Prior. It’s been great!
Can you give us any clues about what’s inline for The Freak in the upcoming season?
All I can say is expect the unexpected. The battle truly is on between Bea Smith and Joan Ferguson, and they’re both capable of giving a very good fight.
Whenever we do a story on Wentworth it’s extremely popular, and the show is loved internationally, what do you attribute that appetite to?
It’s an incredibly clicked in fandom. I think it’s the way that the show is constructed. You might sit down to just watch one episode but then you binge watch five in a row. So it certainly releases endorphins. the fans of the show are so engaged. They’re constantly trying to sniff out, like tiuffle dogs, any morsel of information about the show.
Season 3 of ‘Wentworth’ starts on Foxtel’s SOHO channel on Tuesday 7th April.