Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Wentworth corridors to welcome new faces - Prisoner: Cell Block H

Article author: Alwyn Ash

Women's prison drama to be ressurected.

Fans of cult Australian show Prisoner Cell Block H will either rejoice or frown at news that forthcoming modern-day drama series Wentworth will be greatly inspired by its classic counterpart, though clearly it will not be a sequel or prequel. It has been reported, however, that names such as Bea Smith and Erica Davidson will be used, characters to be portrayed by different actors from those in 1979.

The original series, which itself was inspired by British television programme Within These Walls, focused on the lives of women inside and outside of the Wentworth Detention Centre. Actually titled Prisoner, it was necessary for the show's name to change for UK audiences (considered by UK-based ATV to be too similar to Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner).

Created by Reg Watson, and originally broadcast between 1979-86, Wentworth witnessed the day to day lives of women inmates who lived, loved, and died within its corridors and cells. Famous characters included Top Dog Bea Smith (played by Val Lehman), Lizzie Birdsworth (Sheila Florance), Rita Connors (Glenda Linscott), and the sadistic lesbian prison officer Joan Ferguson (portrayed delicously by Maggie Kirkpatrick).

So what do we know about the new series? Well, it has come to light that the show will take a contemporary look at the story of new inmate Bea Smith (reported to be played by Danielle Cormack) as she integrates into prison life and works her way up as Top Dog. Storylines and characters will be loosely-based on their 1979 versions, with some slight differences; for example, Erica Davidson (originally the governor of Wentworth) is now a lawyer.

The series will be filmed in new, purpose-built prison sets in Clayton, Melbourne and will surely be the Bad Girls of Australia? Seeing as an American remake of Shed Productions' Bad Girls is in the works, this could be perfect timing if Wentworth is sold overseas, depending on reaction from critics and fans alike.

So will original actors from the 1979-86 show make an appearance in this new outing? No news as yet, but if the drama picks up positive reviews there is likely to be further nods to the programme that inspired it.

As also reported by On The Inside (the official Prisoner Cell Block H fanclub), other cast members for Wentworth will include Catherine McClements (as "Governor" Meg Jackson), Leeanna Walsman (Erica Davidson), and Kate Atkinson (Deputy Governor Vera Bennett).

Filming for Wentworth starts this month.