Mediaweek Industry Awards 2019: Best Drama

“Wentworth has been the shining star of Foxtel’s extensive slate of Australian dramas’

Last year Wentworth was the first-ever recipient of a Mediaweek Industry Award when it won the 2018 Best Drama Award, and it has followed it up with another victory for its seventh season in perhaps the closet vote in this year’s awards.

After being renewed in December last year for two more seasons, the Fremantle-produced Wentworth has continued its momentum with both fans and critics after the release of its latest season. 

Speaking of the show earlier this year Foxtel executive director of television Brian Walsh said: “Wentworth has been the shining star of Foxtel’s extensive slate of Australian dramas and we are very proud to call ‘action’ on the new season. We are indebted to the remarkable creative talent involved and to showcase the outstanding line-up of actors who bring to life this compelling series.”

Fans were left reeling at the end of season 7 after the death of two much-loved inmates and the stunning reveal that an iconic character from both the original series and the revival is still alive and primed for a return.

In October Foxtel announced season 8 had commenced production with three heritage characters from the original Prisoner series entering the compound.

In the new season, the prison community will still be reeling from the aftermath of the bloody siege that concluded the previous season with a new leader at the helm.

New characters joining the impressive ensemble of actors include Kate Box (Upright, Les Norton, Rake) as former top dog of Wentworth, Lou Kelly with a reputation for impulsive brutality; Zoe Terakes (Janet King, The End) as Rebel ‘Reb’ Keane a man trapped inside a woman’s skin and Jane Hall (NeighboursHouse Husbands) as the new General Manager, Ann Reynolds who charms her colleagues but treats her prisoners with hard line prejudice.

Coming in a close second to Foxtel’s long running drama is a newcomer from the ABC in Total Control, which released its first season in October of this year.

The title Black Bitch was used all the way through production, but was changed to Total Control just prior to delivery to the ABC.

A chance meeting with Rachel Griffiths in Melbourne and Darren Dale from Blackfella Films was the genesis of what was eventually called Total Control.

“I have had an idea for a show,” Griffiths said to Dale. “And I think you are the only one who could make it. Fourteen months later we were filming the series in Parliament House and Central West Queensland.”

Deborah Mailman was ultimately cast as the lead, and she explained to Mediaweek she had a long relationship with the production house. “Redfern Now and Mabo, so it has always been a no-brainer for me to work with Blackfella Films and Darren and [director] Rachel Perkins.”

Total Control received the 2019 AACTA Award for Best Drama Series and also saw Deborah Mailman and Rachel Griffiths take home Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama and Best Guest or Supporting Actress in a Television Drama respectively.

Sigrid Thornton

Third place went to an old favorite with some new faces and on a new channel in Nine’s SeaChange. Nine first announced the return of the much-loved Australian drama at its 2019 Upfront and the series is produced by ITV Studios Australia and Every Cloud Productions. The series was the first scripted drama for ITV Studios in Australia.

In the 20 years between the three seasons on the ABC and the revival on Nine, a lot had happened to the show’s characters and the small town of Pearl Bay.

Nine and the producers were keen to secure the services of Sigrid Thornton and other original SeaChange cast members. Part of the lure for Thornton was being given production responsibilities.

Thornton told Mediaweek: “Executive producing is something I’ve been working towards for quite a long time and this was a great opportunity on a series that I feel deeply invested in.

“I have been involved with the reboot since the beginning and helped contribute to storylines, casting and putting the series together.”

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