Erica Davidson might have only been present in Wentworth Correctional Centre for one season, but she surely made a lasting impression– not only on inmate Franky Doyle (Nicole da Silva), but the fans of the hit Foxtel series Wentworth, as well. Leeanna Walsman, who plays the complex and often timid lawyer turned Governor, can be seen in season 1 playing this sexy, feminine and often sympathetic character on the prison drama. Davidson’s moral ambiguity is often tested at the hands of inmate Doyle, whose intriguing but ruthless demeanor peaks Erica’s interest and panders to her questioning sexuality. Those just tuning in, major spoilers ahead. OK, I warned you.
Unfortunately, because the universe doesn’t like us to have nice things, Erica’s time was cut way too short due to the murder of inmate Jacs Holt at the hands of Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack) at the end of the season. This act forced our doe-eyed new Governor to resign from her position as governor never to be seen or heard from again. Yeah, major bummer. Although Walsman has moved on to do other projects since her time on Wentworth, fans, including myself haven’t given up hope that someday, there will be a Frerica reunion. And SPOILER ALERT: now that Franky is out of the pokey and onto… perhaps properly studying law– we’ll see these two cross paths again. One can hope right? Or just succumb to good old fanfiction, ha.
Walsman was kind enough to chat with me about her time spent on Wentworth, as well as the many possibilities to bring back Erica to the hallowed halls of our favorite prison. We also talked about potential roles in the states, trolling fans on Twitter– and the overwhelming response years later for her character on the Australian drama.
Let’s get casual…
MCKENZIE MORRELL: I know you’ve got some other projects going on, but before we chat about what you’re currently working on, we’ve got to throw it back a little and get into some Wentworth questions for the fans, if that’s OK?
LEEANNA WALSMAN: Sure.
MM: Wonderful! For all of the international viewers who are kind of just tuning into the show on Netflix and kind of getting to know your character, was there something specific that drew you to the role of Erica Davidson? How was that role described when you were auditioning for it?
LW: When you’re auditioning for a new show, sometimes you’re just not told that much, to be honest. You’re told enough that you’re intrigued and you understand the potential of your character and maybe a character breakdown. But because it’s a brand new show, you’re not given all the scripts until it’s a confirmation. And for me, just the initial excitement of them recreating or basing a show on Prisoner, which was very famous in Australia and internationally, and also, more so that we were going to do a show that had a predominantly female cast, which isn’t really— well, there aren’t any, anywhere. Well there are now, obviously, like Orange is the New Black, but this was a few years ago now and it was strange that there wasn’t anything that empowered women. So, that was already very, very exciting. Then as the process goes and you’re auditioning, there was one point where it was finals for call backs and all the potential actresses were in the room together, including Robbie (Magasiva) and the male cast, and that was exciting. The caliber of the actors were really high and that was another massive draw to me– the opportunity to work with these women.
MM: Now, in terms of your character, did you find you had anything in common with her? I mean, she seems very timid and perhaps career driven.
LW: Yeah, I guess with any character, you have to find a common ground and each role requires something different. You know, if it’s very much beyond me, even physically, then you can create something. But when it’s sitting in the real world, you have to find aspects of a character that are very similar because then you can make it real. But otherwise, their actions are not your actions, they’re obviously written and you find common ground to make those actions your own and believable to other people. You also have to draw on parts of yourself to make a piece believable, so when you speak as the character, it’s some sort of truth. That’s performance. [laughs]
MM: Oh, yeah! Now, how would you describe your personality to a stranger? Do you have an quirks or something fans usually don’t know about you?
LW: Probably easier to ask someone else those questions. [laughs] You can ask Danielle [Cormack] that. I don’t know! Quirks? Do we even know how to describe our own quirks. I’m a bit of a lone ranger. I’m a slight extremist, so when I commit to things, I can get obsessive about things and then just completely stop altogether. And I always pick up a new hobby constantly to keep myself busy, because I guess with acting, it’s so on and off, but my mind is really creative, so I’m constantly thinking of things. At the moment, I’m doing pottery. [laughs] But then, like last week, I was doing macramé. And then before that, I’ll be painting and then maybe I’ll be drawing and I’ve been jewelry making, and all of these things and not necessarily great at any of them. [laughs] So it means that I live in a small place but it’s always just full of what feels like junk, but they’re just bits and pieces. I’m fairly active, too. As active as my mind is, I like to keep my body the same way.
MM: Well, that’s fun! It’s never a dull moment, right? You don’t want to be bored.
LW: Yeah. [laughs]
MM: Now, is it kind of weird for you to have people look to you now— obviously, you’re not on the show anymore— and seeing you for the first time and being so into your character? Is it strange, since it’s two years later?
LW: Yeah, it is a little. For me, I was just in the first series, that was it. And then I guess after that came out, there’s definitely a lot more interest in my character from people overseas than in the Australian crowd, and that’s really interesting. I guess different countries are attracted to different traits perhaps, because my main fanbase for Wentworth was definitely overseas from what I can gather through Instagram and Twitter and all those sort of mediums. And also I guess because then it was released on Netflix and other channels overseas, the first series came back into my life again, so I have people asking again, “Are you going to be in the next series?” and all this sort of stuff. At the time, when they had started to film the second series in Australia, I wasn’t allowed to say anything. But now it’s been a few series now, I’m definitely not in it. It’s really flattering and I’ve never really been part of something where people were still asking or still wanting to know if I’d be back. Yeah, it’s flattering.
MM: Even the fans who are currently awaiting Season 4 next year, they still seem to think your character and Nicole da Silva’s character have some unfinished business. Now in a perfect world, would you ever reprise your role and tie up those loose ends?
LW: Of course! But it’s not up to me.
MM: That’s true.
LW: In the story line, they didn’t really say anything. Well, I don’t know if they did. So, they could do whatever they want. They are constantly writing the series. I’m sure they haven’t finished whatever the series is they’re shooting now, so that’s completely up to them. It’s that thing of everyone asking what’s happening, but it’s not really the actors that have any role in that part of the… you know, we’re involved when we’re there and we have a voice about the scripts that we read and we’re actively working on set. But when it’s a matter of being employed or not [laughs]. They’re in production now, so it’s their call.
LW: I’m completely hopeless at it. I attempted to go back on the other night and that was fun, but I just never know what to write! [laughs] I can reply to people but I just don’t know what to write as far as I’m concerned. I am there, [laughs] but I’m much better at Instagram.
MM: Oh, OK! But have you gotten any out-of-the-ordinary messages? Have people been like really weird at all?
LW: No, just kind of the same audiences really on Instagram and everywhere else. I find that Twitter is completely unique to me because I can see conversations that people are having about me, but not to me, but like in front of me and I think that’s really— it’s so unique, that’s for sure. Yeah, I don’t know what to do. I often just look at it thinking, “Right. So they’re just saying that, I’m just sitting here reading that.” I don’t know if they know that we’re reading it. I don’t know. [laughs]
MM: You can just sneak on them and interject into their conversation and really just make them be like, “What’s going on?” [laughs]
LW: Yeah, occasionally!
MM: That’d be funny. So now, in a distant land, what do you think happened to Erica after kind of failing at being the governor? Do you think, wherever she is now, she finally accepted her sexuality and just left her fiancé?
LW: I don’t know. I think that’s… Danielle and I often talk about how many things you can do with that and there’s so many storylines you can go with on that, but I don’t know. I see people write fan fiction?
MM: Oh, yes!
LW: Yeah, I’m sure that their stories are much better than mine.
MM: [laughs] I saw something on Twitter that they wanted your character to come back now that Franky’s out of prison and they cross paths in like a lawyer setting, and I think that would be pretty interesting. Maybe the writers will take some notes from the fans and we’ll get what we want.
MM: Now, if you had been trapped in a TV show for a whole month, what one would it be?
LW: Well, I was! [laughs] Oh, I don’t know. Like, my favorite? Like, what I’d love to work on?
MM: Yeah! I mean, like a favorite show that if you had to be yourself and get stuck in there.
LW: Oh, myself? Not playing a character? I don’t know what that answer is. Because that means, if I’m myself in a show, that means the drama—it would just be drama because there’s always conflict with a character, so I don’t know if I want to throw myself into that situation. As another character, it’s fine.
MM: [laughs] And do you have any favorite TV shows, whether it be over there or in the states?
LW: Yeah, I’ve got loads. Well, I don’t watch loads and loads of shows, but I’ve got quite a few I really like. But I think if I was acting, it’s different. I love House of Cards and there’s one called Transparent. There’s loads of different shows that I love, but if I wanted to act in a show and be in a show, I think my pick would be…what’s the show with Jessica Lange?
MM: Oh, you mean American Horror Story?
LW: Yes, that’s the one I’d love to act in. I think that would be most fun because every series you come back as another character. And I think as an actress that would be right up my alley!
MM: Yeah, the whole concept is really awesome. I mean, you can always reinvent yourself.
LW: And it’s so out there and the actors are great. I think for an actor, to be able to come back to a whole fresh new slate with the same people is really exciting.
MM: Right, I know! It must be really unique to be a part of something like that.
LW: Yeah and it’s just getting bigger and more amazing. And I come from a theatre background as well, so it’s really theatrical and I really like it. But as far as all those other things, there’s loads of others. There’s so many shows, my God.
MM: Are you like a binge watcher or do you like to watch week to week?
LW: No, I used to not watch much TV and I’m not very good at routine, but then, yeah, I’ve binge watched a few things and [laughs] it really messes with me. Like, I’m just there for three days. Not going to sleep and watching it all at once and just that kind of addictive, tired-eyed, red-eyed bulging eyes, saying “Just one more, just one more.” Yeah, that’s me.
MM: [laughs] That’s awesome! And now, I like to ask this question to my interviewees because I’m just strange like that. If you were a donut, what kind would you be?
LW: I’d be a cinnamon cronut, I think. [laughs]
MM: That’d be delicious! Alright, so let’s talk about some of the new projects you have going on. Everybody in the states is eager to find out when Manny Lewis is coming to the states. Can you tell us a little about that project and the character you play?
LW: Sure! I did that a while ago and it’s a romantic comedy. I play a woman who’s completely opposite the Erica Davidson character, a girl who’s a bit lost and she meets this lonely comedian. It’s very much a romantic comedy, sweet, set in Sydney. Carl Barron is quite a famous comedian here. Actually, he’s quite famous around the world— I think that’s why it’s getting a release in America. And to be honest, I only found that out a couple of days ago. [laughs]
MM: Oh, wow!
LW: So I don’t really know when that’s happening. They haven’t really told me much, so hopefully you’ll get to see it soon. I’m in another show called Cleverman, which actually hasn’t been shown here yet. I haven’t even seen it. It got sold to Sundance channel, so it will be on the Sundance channel in the U.S.
MM: Oh yay!
LW: Yeah, that’s a really exciting TV show. I’m really excited about that.
MM: Did you find any challenges playing these different roles?
LW: No, I love it. I prefer it. To be honest, I’ve never really worked on a show for years. Just one series for most shows. And I really like having new characters, new scripts, new people. I enjoy that. I’m happy about that.
MM: Well, that’s good to be happy about what you’re doing!
LW: Though my bank balance probably isn’t happy because it means that I spend a bit more time probably not working, but I find it really stimulating.
MM: Do you find you prefer filming TV over a movie or doing theatre? Do you have a preference?
LW: I love theatre. I haven’t done it in a while but I used to do a lot of it and I really love it. I find it’s the most challenging out of all of it because there’s no escape and it’s very much about pushing yourself each night. You’re not being edited into the version that, you know, like a lot of performance can be edited and you can do a lot of stuff where you just go, “Oh that didn’t work” and you’ve done four takes and the director goes, “That’s OK, I’ve got all the shots I need.” So they put it together. But with theatre, you’re very much responsible for your performance each night. It’s terrifying and it’s a lot of work and you know it’s not about putting a sound tech behind you— it’s about you giving that sort of energy so it’s tangible for the audience. It’s very much like any other medium; it’s very much a collaboration. But, yeah, there’s an expectation that it’s your responsibility and I think that’s incredible, but it’s very, very hard work. And I tend to give myself an incredibly hard time because you come off the stage and go, “Uh, that wasn’t very good tonight” or that was and you are responsible for that when you walk out. But it’s also incredible to work on something consistent like a team of people in television, and there’s so many people in TV and film involved and that’s really exciting, too. I think crews are incredible; they work the longest hours and they’re consistent and they work very, very hard and they’re amazing as well. Each medium is completely different but there is some sort of excitement about waiting, just like you wait, the audience waits for a TV show. In film, we do the same. I do something a year and a half ago and I have to wait to see what it is, the finished product, because I don’t know what it’s going to be either. [laughs] And often, I see it at the same time everyone else sees it.
MM: That’s kind of a cool aspect, to have you waiting with us.
LW: And it’s also terrifying! [laughs] You’re like, “Oh my God, what’s it going to look like? I hope I wasn’t bad.”
MM: [laughs] Now you mentioned you keep in touch with Danielle. Do you keep in touch with any of the other Wentworth cast members and would you consider doing a convention in the U.S. or U.K. of a Wentworth meetup?
LW: Oh, 100 percent! I’d do that. I love traveling. Any excuse for me to travel and meet people, I’m totally in for. Yeah, Danielle I love. Pia Miranda was just on the show and she’s a very old friend of mine. We did a film maybe 15 years ago or something now, so we’ve been friends for a long time. I worked with Socratis Otto a lot in theatre, so I just know him. We were very close in the past. I haven’t spoken to him in a long time, not because of any other reason, just because I haven’t seen him around, but I love Socratis. He’s an incredible actor. Yeah, I think everyone else lives in different places but those people are people I’ve known really well in my life.
MM: That’s amazing to see that you guys are still in communication and that you knew each other before. It’s a great dynamic of where you guys come from.
LW: Yeah, I’ve been in the industry a long time here. I started in the industry when I was 16. I think with actors all around the world, some are lucky and you see them straightaway and then there’s other people who have been around forever doing all sorts of stuff that people know about, but it’s not commercially massive. So if you’re in all mediums, you end up kind of knowing people in the industry and working with most people in the industry and crew. There’s always somebody on a set that you know.
MM: Now, would you ever consider coming to the United States and living here for a little while and maybe trying some roles over here?
LW: I’ve been to the states so many times. When I was younger, I used to come to the states all the time. When I get off the plane in L.A., it feels like a second home. Yeah, 100 percent.
MM: That’s good to hear.
LW: I stopped coming for the last couple years because it’s where I always went, so last year I went to Europe because I hadn’t been there for 10 years. But the last time I went to the states I was in New York, Detroit and Ohio. Yeah, Detroit was amazing, I’ll be honest. It was incredible.
MM: Yeah, I’m on a mission to get the Wentworth folk over here to New York City for some sort of event, so I’m adding you to the list. I think it’d be awesome. I think the fans would really dig it and it’d be great to have you guys over here.
LW: Oh, yeah! New York will be great. I want to go to New York with Danielle. [laughs]
MM: Right? This is my mission. I’ve told everyone that I’m trying to make this happen, so as much support as I can get, I am going to make this happen.
LW: Cool. Yeah, make it can happen.
MM: Right? So now, I think that’s all the questions I had. Probably the last thing would be, if you have any message to the fans, especially the Wentworth ones who are just finding you and losing you at the same time?
LW: Oh look, I’ve been really flattered and overwhelmed by the response to Wentworth and my character, Erica Davidson, and I’ve never really experienced that before. Only with something like Star Wars, which obviously has a massive fan base, so that for me is where television goes. It’s been a really unique and incredible experience, and I do see people’s messages on my Instagram and my Twitter, but mostly Instagram, and I do go on and have a look at who they are. [laughs] I do stalk and have a look at who all the different fans are. And like I said, I’m super flattered. It’s a new experience for me.
MM: That’s hilarious, you definitely should give Twitter another try. I think that eventually you’ll fall into it. I know that people are happy to have you on there. They sent a lot of questions in, so I think that they would be happy to see more of you. But, it takes some time to ease your way into that, for sure.
MM: You can just hire someone to do it, basically. [laughs] But yeah! I wanted to thank you again for taking the time to chat with me.
LW: Thank you!
Catch up with Leeanna on Twitter @WalsmanLeeanna