REMAKES are par for the course in TV land – especially when the creative coffers hit a dry spell.
By the same token, while some of these undertakings do mirror the success of the original shows, others fade into oblivion for their pitiable execution. Look at Melrose Place, a monumental flop, and, on the flip side, Beverly Hills 90210, which curried favour with the revamped version.
Of course, stylised drama is much easier to adapt and resell. But, with a prison being the backdrop, it does require a bit more ingenuity on the writers’ part.
To date, viewers have been privy to some truly exceptional jail-centred dramas like Oz, which brilliantly magnified the gritty underbelly of life behind bars. We also had Prison Break, with the oh-so-dreamy Wentworth Miller courting a bevy of fans (um, before they found out he’s gay), as well as Bad Girls and Prisoner.
Now Wentworth is generating a lot of hype, more specifically for being a remake of the latter show (aka Prisoner: Cell Block H).
New Zealand actress Danielle Cormack has the formidable task of carrying the series in her role as Bea Smith.
Set in Wentworth prison, Bea, separated from her daughter, is there to await trial for attempting to kill her spouse. While in this limbo, she feels the full brunt of prison life that comes with a different set of rules.
In an interview with Closer Online, Cormack, who is best known for her work in Xena: Warrior Princess and Legend of the Seeker – among a long list of other credits – shed light on playing an inmate in Wentworth.
“It’s a huge departure from Prisoner. I think if they had kept it like the old Prisoner it would feel like a comedy. All the characters have been reimagined. Everything is brand new. We delve more into the characters’ backgrounds in this version and it’s much more violent.”
The actress goes as far as pointing out that when fans of the original watch this version, their loyalty will shift.
Delving deeper into her character’s plight, she says: “Bea is on remand (awaiting trial) for the attempted murder of her husband.
“We meet her on her first day in prison so she’s at the bottom of the hierarchy. She’s scared, anxious and highly distressed. She has a daughter who is her whole focus of getting out of prison. But it’s not as easy as that.”
In the storyline, Bea has to overcome those who target her as an easy pawn, amid all the manipulation, turf wars and confrontations.
As a mother of two children in real life, it was easy for the actress to tap into the angst of her character and – something she really enjoyed – dress down for the camera.
Orange might not be the most flattering of colours, but Cormack makes it work. With Wentworth given the green light for season three, she must be doing something right. Talk about captivating!
l Wentworth debuts on M-Net Series Showcase (DStv Channel 113) on Sunday at 9pm.