Wentworth's new inmates pack a real emotional punch
LEAH Purcell was ready to put acting on hold when she got the call for Wentworth.
The award-winning actor, director, singer and playwright was busy working on her feature film debut - a re-imagining of The Drover's Wife - when she was offered the chance to write for and star in season six of Foxtel's acclaimed prison drama.
"I was kind of ready to give up the acting for a while to focus on my writing and directing," she says.
"Then all of a sudden you get this phone call: 'You're going to be the new kid on the block and we want you to collaborate on the story'. It was a gift. I went 'I've got to do this'.
"I've watched every season. I don't know if it was season one or three, but at some point I said 'I've got to get on this show'. I love the physicality; in a lot of roles we (women) don't get the opportunity."
Following season five's jaw-dropping finale, season six resumes with almost all of Wentworth's inmates and officers stunned by the apparent joint escape of Franky Doyle and Joan Ferguson.
As Sonia Steven's life and Vera Bennett's career hang in the balance, Kaz Proctor steels herself for 'top dog' duties again and the truth surrounding the Freak's demise weighs heavily on guards Will Jackson and Jake Stewart.
Into this pressure-cooker environment walk two new inmates: bikie gang affiliate Rita Conners (Purcell) and young boxer Ruby Mitchell (Rarriwuy Hick).
It's a reunion for the indigenous actors, with Purcell directing Hick in her breakthrough roles in both Cleverman and Redfern Now.
"We were happy to see each other on set. It's daunting to walk into an established show," Purcell says.
"These women have five series behind them and we were the strangers coming into a team firing on all six cylinders."
While Rita is quiet and observant, Ruby's cheekiness quickly gets her into trouble.
"She's had a car accident. That's in the past but she has a lot of trauma in her life," Hick says.
"She's pushed it under the carpet until she gets to Wentworth and she is confronted with it and has to really deal with that.
"Ruby's not afraid to speak up, and she likes to wind people up for a tick. She's trying to serve her time and keep her head down, but it's challenging to do that when she's such a smart ass."
Rita comes to Ruby's aid, but is it a simple act of kindness or something more? Viewers will find out the connection between the two women as the season progresses.
Susie Porter also joins the cast this year as feared criminal matriarch Marie Winter.
Season six of Wentworth premieres on Tuesday, June 19 at 8.30pm on Showcase.