The moment Wentworth Prison fans have been excitedly anticipating and dreading in equal measure arrives this week; as the tense second series of the hit prison drama reaches a nailbiting climax that will leave viewers stunned. It’s been a rollercoaster of a series; matching the quality if not exceeding the fantastic debut series. Viewers old and new have embraced Wentworth Prison and it is the ensemble efforts of the writers, crew, cast and production team that have created such a successful show.
I was lucky enough to catch up with writer, Pete McTighe, to chat about his work on Wentworth. Pete has been at the forefront of the Wentworth team since day one, penning the very first episode and five of the other episodes of the first series. After the runaway success of Series One, a further two series were commissioned and Pete has written his fair share of these episodes too, including the explosive finale about to hit our screens.
For a PauseLiveAction exclusive, I present the fruits of my conversation with Pete below as he shares the secrets, triumphs and challenges of working on one of the strongest dramas currently on television.
How long does it take to write an episode of Wentworth and what is the biggest challenge of doing so?
Generally I’m pretty focussed and quick – it’ll take a week or two depending on the content of the episode. When I wrote Episode 1, I finished the first draft in 7 days as we had a very tight deadline for delivery to the broadcaster. I force myself to be quite regimented when I write, I’m in a routine now where I try to write for about 8 or 9 hours a day (with short breaks), or give myself a daily page target and don’t stop until I meet it.
The biggest challenge comes from the closed environment of the prison – it’s a great device to slam characters together and create/build tension between them, but can also be problematic – for instance figuring out exactly how someone could escape from prison in a grounded and believable (but also exciting) way.
Do you have a favourite character to write for?
For Series 1, it was Jacs and Franky. For Series 2 and 3, I’d have to say Ferguson and Boomer. It was a real thrill writing Ferguson’s introduction, that was something I’d been eager to do ever since we started the series. I loved Maggie Kirkpatrick’s interpretation of the character back in the day and as a writing team we were all interested in finding a new take on her. Pamela Rabe just nailed that character. We were so lucky, our producers & casting people put together an amazing ensemble.
Series Two Episode Three
You know when you have been away from home for a while, perhaps on a holiday or work trip, and you return back to hugs and good wishes? It was kind of like that in Wentworth last night, when Simone returned to the prison for another stretch. Except she was welcomed with a sexual assault, a fork in the stomach and a vicious beating that nearly ended up in a knee capping courtesy of a cue-ball wielding Boomer.
Yep, this is the crazy world of Wentworth. Once an ally of the fearsome (and much missed, as far as I am concerned) Jacs Holt, Simone was on Franky’s radar the moment she set foot back in the prison. With the drug supply emptier than Boomer’s head, the prisoners, particularly the gloriously crazy Sky, looked to Simone for their fix.
Fearing that her leadership was under threat, a desperate Franky subjected Simone to various violent attacks in order to ensure she held on to the coveted Top Dog role. This culminated in a night-time ambush in the library where Bea stopped Boomer going too far in the nick of time. Continue reading
She’s taking Wentworth Correctional Facility by storm and has won the adoration of fans from Australia and beyond and, today, one of my new favourite actresses, the ridiculously talented Nicole da Silva, celebrates her birthday. With previous roles in All Saints, Dangerous and Carla Cometti PD, Nicole was already well established in the field of acting, but arguably her biggest break has come from her debut in Prisoner Cell Block H re-imagining, Wentworth Prison.
She already has an ASTRA for Outstanding Female Performance in her role as conflicted top dog, Franky Doyle, and here, I take a step back and look at one of drama’s best recent creations.
Despite her first scene being caught in the midst of a lesbian romp with her on/off girlfriend Kim Chang, there is a lot more to Franky than meets the eye and she is a character whose loyalties struggle between her desire for power and her conscience to be a good friend. This conflict often veers to extreme levels, with Franky giving hugs and advice in one episode, and stabbing someone in the gut with a fork in the very next. Continue reading
Season 2 Episode 2
There was a lot going on in Wentworth Correctional Facility this week. Bizarrely, the main focus was on a new foreign inmate’s constipation, which landed Franky in the shit – but not in the way she had wanted.
After breaking down the language barriers, it emerged that the newcomer had a stash of drugs lodged in her digestive system, but they were in no hurry to escape. Franky, having upset a lot of her customers through lack of supplies, was eager for her to go to the toilet, which left Boomer on faecal watch duties.
Well-meaning Liz was on hand to try and keep the situation under control but tragedy struck as the drugs got into her system after a struggle and left her convulsing to death. This gave the underrated Celia Ireland, who plays Liz, a chance to shine as her alter ego broke down in guilt as she wept her apologies to the dying person who had been left in her care. The scene was daunting, dramatic and heavily emotional, sapped somewhat by Channel 5’s warning before it aired that gave away exactly what was going to happen. Continue reading
I know that it’s easy to think that the only things Australia has brought for us is Fosters beer, Kylie Minogue and the questionable Home and Away, but occasionally, those Aussies can deliver something that is top notch.
In fact, the subtly hidden in the depths of Channel 5 gritty prison drama, Wentworth, goes beyond top-notch; it’s an absolute masterpiece, with sharp writing, moving storytelling and some of the best dramatic performing I have ever seen.
I will try to avoid spoilers as best I can in this post but the series closed in a similar grim fashion to the way it opened, with an adversary of the women of Wentworth impaled with a sharp implement and the ten episodes of drama in between was just as gripping.
Based to a heavy degree on the 80’s cult classic, Prisoner Cell Block H, Wentworth replaces the shaky sets and hammy acting with a modern reimagining of the tough life in a ruthless women’s prison and it doesn’t pull any punches. Continue reading