The prison’s original governor, Magasiva’s character Will’s wife Meg, played by Catherine McClements, was snuffed out in the first episode and since then it’s been a bit like a B-grade slasher with the number of deaths that have occurred.
At the end of season four, the show’s protagonist Bea Smith (expertly portrayed by the inimitable Danielle Cormack) was cruelly extinguished from the show via a violent shanking in the outskirts of the prison. At the end of season five her murderer, Joan ‘The Freak’ Ferguson, got her comeuppance buried alive in a box at the hands of Will.
And that’s just the main players who have seen their time on the show come to an end.
“That final scene in the first episode where the governor is killed, I don’t think there has ever been another Australian drama that has done something like that, killing off someone they had set up as a main character in the first episode,” Magasiva says.
“I thought it was brilliant and it really set the tone of what we have been able to do in the show and the fact the writers aren’t afraid to do something that other shows might think is too risky.
Magasiva’s presence on set for our interview is a small clue in a show that holds all its secrets very close to its chest. It is the final week of shooting for season six and he is still there, alive, it seems, so fans can at least hope he will make it to the final episode of the next season.
He played a pivotal role in last season’s extraordinary finale, shovelling dirt onto the box in which Ferguson was screaming out her last breaths (we think, anything can happen in Wentworth). It provides a wonderful run up to how the series can lurch forward into its next phase – sans the show’s two most powerful characters, The Freak and Queen Bea.
And Magasiva says the way Will deals with what he has done has provided him with some of the most compelling storytelling he has been given in the series.
“At the wrap party at the end of season five, Marcia (head writer Marcia Gardner) came up to me and said ‘we have a great arc for you for next season’, and you hope for that but you don’t really know until you get the scripts,” he said.
“We came back for pre-production week and I had my meeting with her and the producers and they told me what was going to happen with Will this year and I was like ‘f—, I do have a great arc’.
“I think any actor who came in and picked up this story would be excited by what I get to do.”
Will was pegged as the ultimate nice-guy from the first episode – a social worker who moved into corrections and always seemed to put the wellbeing of the prisoners first. The gradual demolition of everything he held dear and the weight of pressure from the undermining behaviour of his colleagues Jake, his boss Channing and Ferguson herself led him to the decision to be involved in the most heinous act.
And it will weigh on him.
“What led him there was years and years of being manipulated, being framed, having his wife killed and knowing the killer, losing Bea, but you never expect Will would have that in him, it is such a hideous act, burying showing alive,” Magasiva says.
“He has finally broken and what he did weighs heavily on him and it affects him on a daily basis.
“That burden, that guilt, he carries it with him every day. When he is at the prison he sees reminders of Ferguson everywhere and when he is at home there’s the voices which he can’t escape.”
The final moments of last season’s closing episode, with Pamela Rabe giving the performance of a lifetime as Ferguson having the realisation that she was being buried alive, also gave Magasiva a useful motivation tool to push him through season six.
“Out on location when we were shooting that scene the director came over to me and said ‘remember, she is screaming in there’,” Magasiva explains.
“I actually recorded it, the scenes where she is in the box, and kept referring back to it while we were shooting this season as my motivation, I guess, for playing the guilt and the burden. It was a pretty great gift from Pam.”
So will the Freak survive?
“Yeah, the first scene of this season is her hand breaking out through the dirt, and someone comes and puts the leather glove on it,” Magasiva jokes.
“She’s a zombie now.”
WHEN Showcase, Tuesday, 8.30pm
Nathanael Cooper is Fairfax Media’s deputy entertainment editor
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