Behind the razor wire

Nicole da Silva and Danielle Cormack star in the TV series Wentworth.
Nicole da Silva and Danielle Cormack star in the TV series Wentworth. Ben King - Contributed by Foxtel

THERE is always a risk in revisiting a TV series with as big a cult following as Prisoner.

But SoHo and FremantleMedia's gritty modern reboot has paid off, doing justice to the original series by not copying it.

Familiar names like Bea Smith, Liz Birdsworth, Franky Doyle and Vera Bennett have been mixed with new ones like Jacs Holt.

Set in modern-day Australia, Wentworth imagines Smith when she first enters prison, long before she becomes the fearless ruler of the Prisoner world.

Underbelly: Razor star Michelle Cormack plays the street-wise but vulnerable Smith in the 10-part drama series.

"In a way it's out of the frying pan and into the fryer," Cormack said.

"It's scary for her. She's separated from the most treasured thing in her world, which is her daughter, but then in some ways she's safe from her husband. She was continually beaten and violated by him."

Wentworth - SoHo - Wednesday at 8.30pm

Locked up in Wentworth on remand, Bea is living in an uncertain limbo until her sentencing.

"She's trying to keep her head down and remain autonomous and not get involved in the power play she sees," she said.

"Over the due course of the series we see Bea become more savvy and work out how the prison works within its own laws. But I think she's pretty naive to it in the beginning."

Rush star Nicole da Silva trades her blues in for a singlet and some tattoos in the role of Franky, revamped as a Gen Y lesbian who uses sex as an armour to hide deeper insecurities.

"I toyed around with the idea that this person might actually be a sociopath," da Silva said.

"She's driven by something that is so dark and of a removed reality that maybe she does exist on a different plane.

"Certainly she has moments of being on the psychological brink of something else but no I don't think she is (a psychopath). I think she's just a really damaged person, and that's not to say she can't be reborn."

Bea's initial harsh lessons at Wentworth are dealt by this cocky 20-something who is solidifying her position in the brief power-void left by the solitary confinement of Jacs.

Aussie TV veteran Kris McQuade plays Jacs, the ruthless matriarch of a crime family who now reigns over Wentworth.

It doesn't take long for her to try and stamp her authority over Bea as well, with the newcomer caught in the crossfire between Jacs and Franky.

As the series unfolds, the back stories of each of the characters are explored.

"They each have their own story and it becomes so apparent that anyone can end up there. Circumstances, upbringing, so many things come into play," she said.

Topics:  the guide tv series

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