Wentworth star teases ‘horror show’ as Vera turns ‘ferocious’ in Ferguson feud

Wentworth actress Kate Atkinson has described season eight as a "horror show" after fans learned that Joan "The Freak" Ferguson was alive.

In the first episode, viewers watched as Ferguson stalked Kate's character Vera Bennett, seeming to put a target on Vera's baby girl Grace.

Speaking exclusively to Daily Star Online, Kate said: "It's a horror show. Ferguson is her nemesis and the possibility of her rising from the dead is not really something Vera is expecting, so it's safe to say it's quite a shock!

"When it becomes evident that Vera knows about it, it brings out a few things in her – shock is one of them – but now that she's a mother it also brings out a ferocity in her and a determination to protect herself, her colleagues, her child.

"It brings out a much more equal competition between the two of them."

Kate said it's been a "complete delight" to play this new, stronger version of Vera after an "excruciating" start.

She told us: "You kind of have to surrender yourself to being non-heroic. It's a really interesting place to navigate.

"I'm really submitting myself to the adventure of the writing. They write it, they come up with all the ideas and I am just responding to the writing, so I'm just really lucky that they have decided that this is not a one note character, that she is going to face all kinds of challenges that involve transformative behaviours.

"I never would've known that when I first signed up for the role, I wouldn't have even known I'd be playing her eight seasons.

"They really kept me on my toes. I probably wouldn't have stuck around had they not had that variety of stuff to play around with."

Speaking of how motherhood has changed Vera, Kate said: "It's Wentworth, so what Vera goes through as a mother will be an amplified version.

"Vera's obviously going to approach motherhood with a fair amount of trepidation because she didn't have a great role model, and she said as much.

"She's frankly, probably, terrified, she doesn't have a consistent relationship with the father obviously, and the baby was born in the middle of a siege, so there's all manners of complexities.

"But, just on a general level, I guess all mothers don't get a guide book, so even though she is fearful and determined to do a good job, I think the things that surprise her are the amount of love and joy she feels for this child and what it brings to her life.

"A lot of her journey this season is about preserving that and protecting that, and it's really liberating for Vera to have something in her life that is not about sitting in that Governor's chair and staying in that Governor's chair. It's a really interesting place to play around in."

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Vera isn't in a relationship with the baby's father Jake Stewart (Bernard Curry), but Kate told us he "puts in a red hot show of wanting to be a good father".

Vera took the baby into the prison and even went into the yard so the prisoners could say hello and have a little cuddle with Grace.

Speaking of the jaw-dropping moment, Kate said: "I think any friendships, there are prisoners that Vera would trust, but not all of them. It's not a blanket rule.

"She has a special relationship with Allie as the new Top Dog, she has a special relationship with Boomer, Ruby and Rita, which we've seen previously. Clearly her and Marie are not going to see eye-to-eye. It really depends.

"When we shot that scene I said to the director, 'Well we have to be selective about which prisoners are in the yard.' Vera has a good look around before she makes that call.

"It would never happen in a prison, but it is the drama of Wentworth and it's really just illustrating the point that she trusts these women with her most precious thing."

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She arrives in the scene with new character Ann Reynolds (Jane Hall) who viewers get to see is a completely different personality to Vera, but seemingly a good friend.

Kate said: "The writers wanted to explore this idea of a historical friendship with someone who Vera probably knew 20 years ago.

"The portrait of Vera that we've all known is someone that really didn't have many friends and doesn't keep friendships easily.

"This is a woman she was at corrections college with over 20 years ago and it is someone she had a close friendship with. They're reuniting 20 years later, they have lost contact, lives have changed in different ways.

"Ann – I'm not sure she's a bad influence on Vera but she's a party girl, she's promiscuous, she's reckless and those things 20 years ago were probably things that really appealed to Vera, and had their lives not gone in different directions they might have stayed friends.

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"Ann is a very impassioned person and Vera found some escape in that. But when you bring those qualities into a prison environment and put her in the General Manager role, there's also a deal of conflict between them.

"Some of that's emotional and some is about their friendship, and some is about this new ethos in the prison which is about private corporatisation over public rehabilitation.

"It's about Vera's solidarity with the women, particularly after the siege, and how she thinks they should be treated, and the change that comes to the prison when corporate bodies take charge."

And while Kate refused to give away any spoilers, she did tease a potentially darker side to her character.

She told us: "I think she's already made some questionable choices. She's walked a fine line, but I guess you could always say she has a moral code that when it really comes to the crunch, she would do something like resuscitate Ferguson after a lynching.

"She has made some dodgy decisions, but when it really comes to the important stuff she has a pretty solid moral code.

"I always think her morality is quite ambiguous. I don't think she would ever be a monster, but I think when it comes to, for example, protecting your own child, people would do things that they might otherwise not do.

"I don't think she's ever going to be a villain, but hopefully I'll have a career after Wentworth and I can do that then, play someone else."

Wentworth Prison continues Wednesdays at 10pm on 5STAR in the UK

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