When Wentworth Prison fans watched Marie Winter carry out a murderous siege to try and escape, it seemed unimaginable that we would eventually feel sympathy for her – and see her open her heart and arms to the other prisoners.
And it was a bit of a turnaround for actor Susie Porter too, who plays her. We were lucky to grab her for a chat about Marie’s season eight journey – which seems to be a genuine redemption arc for the character.
The star told Metro.co.uk: ‘I suppose it was a surprise to me – I didn’t really knew what the outcome would be. For a while we didn’t know we were going ahead with these seasons. But the writers amaze me and they do the best job at actually making it believable. We really wanted people to like Marie as we have read online how much people hated her – which was important for me as she was the antagonist, that was the role.
‘But it has been a journey, truly. She had a lot a hell coming in and then she lost everything – her son, money, contacts, alienated from Allie, hated by the other women. I found it really hard – it was quite depressing portraying that body language. When she had power, she had this swagger but when I am getting thrown on the floor, waterboarded, punched, spat at – my shoulders were hunched, looking at the floor a lot and I felt flat. I felt it much more than I expected.
‘But it was important for an actor to feel that – you can only do the power thing for a few seasons. With Bea, she came in and then broke bad – it’s been the opposite with Marie. She is now on a redemption arc. Before, everything was for herself – she didn’t even know she had good in her. She was on the streets from such a young age. But seeing her grow like this, she might still do risky things, but it’s now for the greater good and for other people.
‘She needs to find a reason to exist – when you think you are going to be in prison for the rest of your life, what would you do? I really got flat about it, thinking about women in this situation – how the hell do they manage. They need something to do, something to look forward to and to be loved – and she had none of that. It’s been difficult but good.’
The thing about Marie first and foremost is that she was a devoted mum who tragically lost her son. And viewers are now loving her taking Reb under her wing – does Susie think that she sees Reb as a reminder of her lost child.
She smiled: ‘I think so, she said to Reb that she might be in love with Lou but that’s not necessarily good for him. She doesn’t want him to be stuck in prison. She wants Reb to have the operation and to live a full life. That’s Marie’s whole thing – Lou is a bad influence on Reb but they do really love each other. But Marie does love Reb and he reminds her of her son.
She needs someone to love and focus on and also the character Reb, the way Zoe plays him is so good. Zoe and I knew each other and were friends before we did this show together and then we spent lockdown going on walks together for hours. We don’t live far from each other so to me that was a real highlight, getting to spend more time with Zoe and work together in that way.
She continued: ‘When people didn’t like Marie, I was never worried, that’s the dynamic she needed to create – but when the writers said “I just want people to like Marie” – I was like, good luck with that, people want her to die! I was so curious to find how she would be made likeable but she’s been very bullied and is thinking of others too.
‘It sounded fun to be given power – I know Jenko said that with being top dog! You feel this really bizarre feeling. I really feel for Marie as well, there must be women existing like this. How do they get up in the morning? They must be so frightened. It makes you feel so grateful for your freedom, playing this role, because we can take it granted.
‘Marie has been a fighter all her life. You are a product of your environments and she has been through a lot – to be able to explore that vulnerability has been a gift but it breaks my heart.’
And she went on to say that Wentworth has been one of the most positive experiences for her – as everyone on set feels like part of the same family. Susie enthused: ‘I was so grateful to join this show – it’s the show in Australia every female actor wants to be on! Every character gets to have a journey, every single one. That’s the real gift of Wentworth. We all get along so well and it’s such fun to be part of this group of actors.
‘When Liz died it was such a big blow because on set Celia was such a mother hen! I also love the dynamics between the H1 block and the H6 block. That’s where all the wayward souls go. That set is downstairs so it’s quite dark – one day Marie would want to get to H1 and just be accepted!’
And of course, all good things have to come to an end as Wentworth will do at the end of the ninth season. And Susie admitted that it was emotional saying goodbye.
She sighed: ‘It was very difficult – we couldn’t have a wrap party or goof reel or hugs, it was so, so weird. After my last scene I completely burst into tears, which I wasn’t really expecting. I was moved by the whole thing that this was the end – I was overcome with emotion, mostly gratitude.
‘It was sad that we couldn’t have a get together but we’re thinking after they show the next ten, we’ll reunite and have a little party and have a thing where hopefully we can finish off with some hugs!
‘It’s thanks to the fans that we got the last 20 episodes, they really love it and we’re so grateful. I am so, so glad people love it, it means so much.’
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