Why Danielle Cormack could never play a shy girl

By Siena Yates

Danielle Cormack is stepping behind the cameras
Danielle Cormack is not offered many shy, demure characters.
Danielle Cormack is not offered many shy, demure characters.

She reckons it's part of the reason she gets the types of roles she gets — from Wentworth's fierce prison top dog Bea Smith, to Rake's no-nonsense criminal lawyer Scarlet Engles.

"Everyone's got a different tone to them in terms of their character and those roles do seem to resonate with me and I can't say that I have had a lot of roles where I've played a demure, sitting-in-the-corner, shy girl," she says, laughing.

"But I don't know what that is ... whether the universe is smiling on me or not, or if you believe in all that juju or not — perhaps it's just what sits with me best, where I am placed within myself."

She's probably not wrong.

From the second Cormack answers my call, she's incredibly frank. She accepts praise easily but not hype. She has a distinct sense of self and knows exactly what she wants and how to get it.

Having wrapped filming for both Rake and Wentworth Cormack still hasn't taken a break, and she's not planning to.

She's appeared in a four-part mini-series and a play about pornography and sexuality, travelled to Cambodia as the ambassador for ChildFund New Zealand and Australia, and now she's getting into production and directing, stepping behind the cameras after being in front of them for nearly 30 years.

She's started a production company with her Wentworth co-star Nicole Da Silva with whom she's "working on some ideas" and she's also teamed up with fellow Kiwi actress Claire Chitham (perhaps best known for her role as Waverley Wilson on Shortland Street).
"I think we've come up with a pretty top idea. I can't say much about it yet but I will say it is something that could be filmed only in New Zealand," Cormack teases.

"When I first started writing and being interested in performance, when I was very young, it was all about — for me — the writing and directing, never the performing. So I think it's always been in my bones," she says, but also makes sure to emphasise that it's a "natural career progression" down a "well-trodden path".

At the very least, it means she can finally look at coming back home having previously spoken about her desire to do so, but having had to put it off on account of a lack of work for her here.

She jokes: "Employ me, ya bastards".

But in reality, it comes down to finding the right project — something she hasn't had any trouble with in Australia.

She was drawn to Rake from the minute she started reading the script, which was so good that even though she was about to have a baby and didn't think she'd get the part, she auditioned anyway, simply for the chance to "play with the words and be in the scene" even if it was only once.

Danielle Cormacl and Russell Dykstra star in Rake.
Danielle Cormacl and Russell Dykstra star in Rake.


"I loved the way [her character Scarlet] vacillates between drama and then extreme comedy and absurdity, it's a really nice course to chart," she says.

It is that, she says, and Scarlet being totally different to her well-loved Wentworth character Bea Smith, that is exciting as an actor.

"I think that Scarlet is stronger in ways that Bea could never be and vice versa. I think Bea has a survival strength that possibly Scarlet wouldn't possess, but I think Scarlet wouldn't have put up with as much as Bea did in the beginning and ended up incarcerated in the first place. I think her sense of self is way more intact than Bea's."

Rake's draw was so strong that despite it being filmed at the same time as Wentworth, Cormack had to make it work.

She had Wentworth's writers schedule her out long enough that she could go and shoot Rake and then return to Wentworth.

"I did all of my scenes in Rake in one hit, which was ... quite a feat — for everyone involved." But it's that dedication she aims to take with her behind the cameras.
"Wentworth is just, the minute you feel safe it rips out the carpet from under your feet and it's really painful again and people want to keep tuning in for that — they like to be persecuted.

And Rake, it invites you to partake in cerebral gymnastics with the cases and the way it views the world within the world, it really puts a spin on the circumstance or enlightens you from a different perspective and that's what I love about it," she says.

"I hope to make shows that engage people as much as [those shows] have, that people want to tune in to watch these stories unfold, to watch their characters — most of the fans we have are so electrified by the content of those shows. That's the point of doing anything in a creative way — to inspire keep engaging."


Lowdown

Who: Danielle Cormack
What: Season four of Aussie drama Rake
Where and when: Rake season four premieres Tuesday, August 9 at 8.30pm on Sky's Rialto Channel 39.
Also: Danielle Cormack is also starring in Wentworth, currently airing on TV2 on Mondays at 8.30pm.

- Weekend magazine

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