From 8 days to 8 years, Jacquie Brennan reflects on Wentworth.
As Officer Miles, Jacqueline Brennan was never assured of having her role renewed, but writers could not resist.
When she first started on Wentworth in 2013, Jacqueline Brennan was only guaranteed eight days of work as Officer Linda Miles.
Eight years later, she’s still there, as one of four remaining original cast members.
Her supporting role was initially given so little to do, a running gag developed around her ‘door opening’ skills on the prison set. But persistence pays. Writers began to notice her presence in key scenes.
“In the early days I had some fantastic one liners, where I’d think, “I know exactly how to play that!’ So I would just grasp anything I was given, and run with it,” she tells TV Tonight.
“I made the decision, right from day one, that it was not a small role. The old saying, ‘There’s no such thing as a small role, only a small actor.’ I always had something going on… there was always some subtext.
“We want to keep writing more for you”
“One of the writers, I think Timothy Hobart, came up to me and said, ‘We’re really loving what you’re doing and we want to keep writing more for you.'”
By Season 2 a back-story began to emerge of Linda Miles’ gambling addiction. It helped to paint a picture of her behaviour, not just with prisoners, but fellow staff members.
Brennan describes the character as being ‘flawed and riddled with addiction.’
“In my mind, she was a teacher, quite successful, married, but the gambling basically broke up her marriage. She lost the house, she lost everything and went into Corrections, because it’s quite well paid,” she explains.
“From there, she just started to spiral downwards. I also think she was quite a heavy drinker.
“It was sort of a role by drip-feed”
“They just kept adding a bit more to the character. It was sort of a role by drip-feed. Each season, there’d be something else that I could cling on to. But I never knew if I would be back every year. It was never a guaranteed job for me.”
As a performer Brennan fleshed out the back-story in her mind, to help her justify Linda Miles’ motivations.
“I have a full story for her that none of you have seen, but that I can draw on.
“I also had to be prepared to be flexible, because in my mind, I might imagine it going one way, and then I’ll get the script and find we’re going another way. So you’ve got to be prepared to ditch the story and go in another direction.
“I want it to look like she lives in that car”
“There was a scene in the car with Jake (Bernard Curry) where she was really quite terrified. There were people chasing her for money. Shooting in that car, I told our props, ‘I want it to look like she lives in that car,’ with her uniform, fast food packaging, … that was as close as I ever got to Linda’s house!”
Having never watched the original Prisoner (“I used to sneak down the hallway and try and watch it… I wasn’t really allowed for some reason”), Brennan confirms the role was never guaranteed to return in subsequent seasons. But she relished being surrounded by an acting elite.
“That was an incredible moment to be on set”
“I always loved working with Pam (Rabe). I loved being with Celia (Ireland) for her death scene that was just such a privilege and Katrina (Milosevic), that was an incredible moment to be on set. Kate Box, …all of them, really. There is no one that I worked with that I didn’t learn from in some shape or form. It was like a masterclass in Acting and sometimes when I wasn’t on set, I’d go and watch the (monitors). I just loved watching people’s takes.
“In the early days I thought ‘This is a great learning opportunity, to just sit back and watch.'”
Such is the enduring success of Wentworth that Brennan is looking forward to reconnecting with fans when travel allows to the UK in early 2022. She has already had a taste of previous fan events.
“It was nuts! They were queued up for miles. The fan base is really strong for this show. You only have to look at our Instagrams. It’s just crazy, how many followers we’ve got from this show. They are so vehemently in love with it!”
But she also concedes it is time for the series to draw to a close. Final episodes are due in coming weeks.
“All good things should come to an end. We’ll go out on a high. We’ve created this amazing piece of television that can have a final chapter and be closed. Onwards and upwards to whatever is next for everyone.
“What I think is lovely about this series is that they were writing it to end it. They knew where they were heading. But I must say it was very sad getting my last two scripts emailed and knowing that was it. It’s something I’ve looked forward to every two weeks when we’re shooting. Every time I would just stop when those scripts would land in my inbox.
“Most of the actors are actually fans of the show”
“Most of the actors are actually fans of the show. It’s just such good television and you do not come across scripts like this that often in your life.”
Wentworth continues 8:30pm Tuesdays on FOX Showcase.