In the fourth and final exclusive interview from the Wentworth Prison cast this year on Female First, Socratis Otto opens up about playing trans character Maxine Conway, and what the events of season two will pave the way for in the new third season.
At the end of season two we saw Bea in a good position amongst the prisoners, now Top Dog. Where does that leave Maxine standing in the prison hierarchy going forward?
Loyalty doesn't often remain solid when one's character is questioned - most turn from such confrontation. The beautiful thing about Maxine - but moreso Maxine and Bea is that they share an unspoken connection that's deeper than feeling they owe each other the need to stick by one another.
Yes, Maxine saved Bea's life, but these women have been through a life of struggle, alienation, broken hearts. When one soul meets a kin, loyalty binds them in deeper ways. If Bea was on the bottom of the pecking order, Maxine would be by her side. It just so happens she's Top Dog. There's no questions Maxine wouldn't be right by her side.
We saw some of Maxine's rebellious side come out last season, trying to escape the prison amongst other things. Will that continue into season three?
She was desperate when escaping. Alone but also fresh in the slammer. Her brain was all over the shop. Despite there being a recognition of abiding by heirarchical rules (Top Dogs), one still needs to survive against all threats. Rebellion therefore is executed in both ways. But that's the fundamental and fascinating thing about these ladies and gents when unleashed in such an environment - what they're forced to do and how that shift and shapes their character. It's not altogether pleasant - obviously.
Maxine is not a violent person and often tries to settle disagreements through other means - will her influence drip down to Bea's actions this season?
I can't stress how intricate their relationship is - spoken and not. Whether one takes the other's advice or not, it certainly lingers and surfaces later. That means they do listen and understand each other - understand each other's pressures and secret fears. They trust and understand they must go through things at their own pace.
If you could play another character for the day, who would you choose and why?
Either Booms or Joan. Two delicious extremes. Booms has no filter. Although the huge similarity she shares with Maxine is that they've both grown up feeling and being told they don't belong, mocked, outsiders. They're both essentially abandoned children simply pining for love. Joan only because she looks beyond immaculate and that hair!
Your hair changes this season! Is it your own we see now on-screen?
Most of it, yes. But I have the best of both worlds - male and female locks. 70% is probably mine. I've grown it since we wrapped season three last August.
The trans community it seems now every day is gaining more publicity and through that more acceptance, through figures such as Caitlyn Jenner and portrayals such as your own on-screen. How have you found the response from viewers and the trans community in playing this character?
The response has been great. They are acknowledging that trans represents a myriad of faces and journeys. One's stereotypical notion of what a trans person looks like is constantly challenged - thank God. Even trans children are heavily represented in the media - obviously not near enough but still. Their process of transitioning is very different to an adult transformation but the information is out there and discussions are happening. The dialogue of course still needs to and will continue in alerting people into knowing the essential differences between transvestites, transexuals, transgenders, and so on. Furthermore, that one does not need to have genital surgery to be considered trans. Laws are slow (especially here in Australia) to support trans identities but they are shifting.
I know that seasons two and three were filmed pretty much back-to-back with just a short break in-between, how was that experience?
Pretty gruelling to be honest. There was no time to stop, reflect. It was all go go go. We were finishing shooting season three when season two started airing in Australia. There was no viewer response to the season or Maxine. We didn't know how anything was going to be received. We certainly didn't expect the massive domino effect Wentworth developed across the globe.
The chemistry from you all on-screen is phenomenal and you're all obviously very close in real life, what's it like working with people you don't just class as colleagues, but friends?
The rarest of gifts in this industry. After all this time in the business and unfortunately with so much government funding cuts to our industry, we recognise shows and characters like this come so rarely. It's a very big privilege.
Can you tell us about any funny things that may have happened backstage whilst filming the show?
Haha it's constantly a blast. That's what keeps us sane. We understand we're doing some pretty full-on stuff every day - as does that amazing crew. Their patience and hours exceed ours I tell you! But if you saw the outtakes, Wentworth would be classified a comedy.
Without saying too much, what should viewers expect from the third season?
The Freak Show will be UNLEASHED.
Finally, what other projects are you currently involved in or do you have coming up that you can share some details about?
I just finished performing in Simon Stephens' Birdland in Melbourne which I believe opened in the UK last year. I played a guitarist in an incredibly successful rock band. The play dealt with our fascination and obsession with celebrity and how modern culture wills these enigmas to push all boundaries, do and say things we're unable or frightened to and then how we crucify them in their demise.
Then there's the other little project of finding a good beauty salon for a nice smooth wax and a decent vajazzling before heading back into the jungle!
The third season of Wentworth Prison begins on Channel 5 at 10pm on July 22.
Season 3 is coming to DVD in the Autumn and will also be available to download. Season 1 & 2 are available to buy now on DVD and digitally.