MAGGIE KIRKPATRICK AND PAMELA RABE TALK ABOUT THE LEGENDARY CHARACTER, PRISON OFFICER JOAN “THE FREAK” FERGUSON
Slipping on those famous leather gloves and stalking the corridors of Wentworth Detention Centre, Prisoner’s Joan Ferguson instantly became not only an iconic television villain but also a rare occurrence of a lesbian character in early 80s television. Making her debut in episode 287, broadcast in Australia in June 1982, officer Ferguson – nicknamed The Freak – quickly got to business at the female jail, performing questionable body searches, involving herself with gambling rackets and taking a shine to new inmate Hannah Simpson. Indeed, until the final episode – number 692 – aired in December 1986, there was very little untoward activity that she wasn’t involved in, until finally getting her comeuppance. But that’s not the end of this “sadistic, corrupt, bull-dyke screw”, as the character was originally pitched to actor Maggie Kirkpatrick. The series gained a new lease of life when sold overseas, following the success of exports such as Neighbours and Home And Away. Kirkpatrick travelled the world as the fanbase grew, also appearing alongside Paul O’Grady’s drag alter-ego Lily Savage in a West End musical production of Prisoner: Cell Block H – as the show was renamed in the UK.
Photo by Paul Schnaars / Screen Star Events
Yet that still wasn’t the end for Ferguson. In 2013, a reimagining of the series, Wentworth, began in Australia. Swiftly becoming one of the best drama series of recent years, a familiar name joined the ranks of Wentworth Correctional Centre. Joan Ferguson returned to screens, The Freak reborn and reimagined by actor Pamela Rabe. She’s been so successful in the role that she’s been nominated for, and won, several awards – including having recently picked up a Logie for Most Outstanding Actress. (more…)