FOR YEARS, she was one of the most feared villains on television, a
ruthless, sadistic prison warder known as The Freak.
In the cult Australian drama Prisoner, Maggie Kirkpatrick's character Joan
"Freak' Ferguson would stalk the corridors of the all-female Wentworth Detention
Centre, terrorising the inmates.
And now, nearly two decades after that role ended, Maggie's back in jail -
but this time with a twist.
"It's been 17 years since Prisoner finished and I've not played any role that
was remotely like a prison person in all that time," Kirkpatrick said. "And now
here I am back behind bars."
Don't expect to see her in a warder's uniform, however, for her guest role in
Home And Away starting this week, she's on the other side of the law as an
inmate - "The Guvnor".
She's the top dog of the women's prison where Tammin Sursok's character Dani
Sutherland is sent after being convicted of killing Kane Phillips and she takes
the new arrival under her wing offering to help her with her appeal.
"She's a legal person who's been wrongfully incarcerated," Kirkpatrick said.
"She was a magistrate in the children's court who uncovered in her line of work
a pedophile ring
- stop me if you heard this before - consisting of judges, lawyers and
"When she tried to expose them, they set her up and she's in jail."
She might be the resident tough, but The Guvnor's more likely to be seen
wandering with a legal text book than a homemade knife. Her cell is home to a
mini-library, her computer and there's a Streeton print
on the wall. "She's tough,
but it's brains not brawn," Kirkpatrick said.
As you would expect, Kirkpatrick said she's been having a ball playing such
an over-the-top character.
"It was great fun! We filmed up at the old Maitland jail which has such an
enormous history - Tammin is convinced there's a ghost in one of the cells - and
I just had the best time," Kirkpatrick said.
"To go into a series that is so established is always a bit of a hard call
for an actor, but this was taken away from [Home And Away's regular setting]
Summer Bay so that made for less pressure on me, rather than having to fit in
with the Summer Bay way of life.
"Then we had all these insane extras from Newcastle, which had me a bit
worried because I was a Newcastle girl, but they were great fun, they were such
a motley lot they really made the inmates of the old Prisoner days look like
Kirkpatrick said she tried not to think too hard about the Prisoner days and
to create an entirely new character for the role, but some of her new colleagues
kept reminding her.
"A lot of the extras couldn't seem to get over the fact it was me and it was
a prison situation," she said. "But I did love it and when I was offered the
role I thought I'd have a play around with it, give the writers what they want
and then come up with some other ideas to make it a bit different."
For Tammin Sursok the experience in jail was "quite realistic". "We were
filming next to [convicted backpacker killer] Ivan Milat's old cell I think,"
she said. "There's a lot of sadness in that place and it's definitely something
I'll always remember."
The change of pace, although grim, was just what Sursok wanted for Dani, who
had become known as one of the more solid, dependable characters.
"I said [to the producers] I know I've been established with all my
storylines, but I really want to be able to push myself and really work with
something ... they said 'OK, well you're going to jail'.
"I asked for something new and I definitely got it."
And as for The Guvnor, don't be surprised if she shows up again in Summer Bay
some time in the future.
"I'm angling to come back," Kirkpatrick said. "I'd love them to have me