Kate Jenkinson is "stuck in prison and can't see an escape gate", yet she is beyond happy about it. So happy she plans to stay in prison "for as long as they'll have me".

That's the power of Wentworth.

Jenkinson plays drug-addicted former prostitute Allie Novak in the Australian drama about a women's prison, the fifth season of which debuts next week.

It's what the Australian actress calls the "perfect recipe for heightened levels of drama".


"Especially in women's prisons ... you've got this heightened level of oestrogen that's just bubbling under the surface."

Allie Novak played by Kate Jenkinson in Wentworth. Photo / Supplied
Allie Novak played by Kate Jenkinson in Wentworth. Photo / Supplied

"You just feel that female energy and just how powerful it is when you have that many women en masse. I don't even know how to describe it ... there's definitely a sense that anything could happen at any time with those hormones bouncing around the walls."

Wentworth is known for its more realistic portrayal of prison life, the flipside to Netflix's breakout hit Orange is the New Black. To prepare for her gritty role, the 35-year-old actress visited Melbourne's Dame Phyllis Frost Correctional Centre for women, where she met people "at the lowest point in their lives".

"I think that's what makes shows about prison so fascinating because, ultimately, our basic human right is freedom, and it's taken away. Once that key part of your humanity is taken away, that's when you really start to unravel as a human. That's why you see these women in such heightened, vulnerable situations.

"I think [there are] themes of survival, life and death, trying to maintain one's humanity while being locked up in a cage ... They're not everyday themes that we're dealing with."

The governor of the correctional centre consults on the set of Wentworth to make sure the scripts and characters stay true to what a real women's prison is like.

"We will often go back and ask her, 'Would this happen in the prison? Is this realistic?' A lot of the Wentworth sets are based on parts of that prison so it is really interesting to get a taste of what the lives of those women are [like]."

It's a major shift of tone for Jenkinson, who previously earned big laughs in comedy series The Wedge - alongside Aussie star Rebel Wilson - and Super Fun Night, but it was a welcome one.


"I find it simpler to play drama because your biggest worry is just being truthful; with comedy, you've got to worry about making people laugh. I like the simplicity of a life behind bars. You just have to kind of go for it and work with the amazing script that you've got."

In Bea Smith's name. #revenge #seasonfinal

A post shared by Kate Jenkinson (@katejenko) on

Last season, Jenkinson played the love interest of Wentworth heroine Bea Smith - played by Kiwi actress Danielle Cormack - and says it's a role she feels "incredibly lucky" to have had.

"I just loved working with Dan so much. She's a phenomenal human and incredibly talented actress.

"She's just so generous and lacking an ego and just really into doing great work, and I loved having her present on set and she's greatly missed. It was really, really wonderful to have that influence on set and I'm sad that it couldn't continue."

The action-packed season finale saw Bea meet her untimely end and Cormack departed the show. Now, Allie is out for revenge.

"She's got a hell of an agenda and that's to bring down The Freak (Governor Joan Ferguson)."

I got that teal-ing feeling.

A post shared by Kate Jenkinson (@katejenko) on

"It's her only reason for living at this point. She is at rock bottom. Allie has bottomed out many times and I think that she is right now at the lowest point of her entire life.

"I think the only thing that is keeping her afloat is the idea that she might get to bring down The Freak. It will take a lot of courage and cunning to be able to do that."

Who: Kate Jenkinson
What: Season five of Aussie prison drama Wentworth
When: TVNZ 2, Monday, 8.35pm