WHEN Socratis Otto was first approached about auditioning for the role of Maxine – Wentworth’s first trans character – he was busy working on television movie, Carlotta.
Otto described the timing as serendipitous as he had undertaken quite a lot of research for the role, and the real life Carlotta had even visited the set to talk to the cast at length. By the time it came to audition for Wentworth, Otto felt he was able to slide easily into the role.
“The casting agents [for Carlotta] were also casting Wentworth so they recommended that I audition because I fit the brief,” Otto told the Star Observer.
Initially introduced as one of three new inmates who were suspected by viewers as potential assassins sent to kill the show’s main character Bea Smith, Otto’s Maxine quickly found her place as part of the show’s main cast.
But it wasn’t until this season that Otto got to truly sink his teeth into his own juicy storyline – Maxine was diagnosed with estrogen-sensitive breast cancer.
“When the breast cancer threat was revealed, I was flabbergasted – I was scratching my head,” Otto said.
“I knew there was so much work and research to undertake.”
Despite there being no widespread documentation of breast cancer in trans people, Otto delved into researching the disease and discovered that it doesn’t just affect women.
“To give me that [storyline] was incredibly brave – a testament to the creatives here and the trust they had in me,” Otto said.
The cancer diagnosis led to a tough decision for Maxine – should she have a mastectomy? Otto could understand why the character struggled with it so much.
“The psychology of ‘all my life I wanted to be like this, I know you’re giving me an option here’ but really she’s thinking ‘what the fuck, this [woman’s body] is what I’ve worked for all my life, why would I sacrifice this?
“It’s kind of perverse but the psychology of ‘I can die proud, I’ve got a woman’s disease’,” Otto said.
While Otto knew the importance of the storyline during filming, he has been shocked how far it has reached and affected so many walks of life.
“I was watching the episode with a girl friend of mine who was teased all of her life for having really large breasts,” Otto said.
“She had always been sort of ashamed of them, but then she heard Maxine say this is who she is and these are a part of her no matter what.
“My girl friend said ‘I have never thought about what my breasts actually meant to me and what it would mean to lose them’. As a straight woman who is not battling the disease, she got something out of it.”
The response on social media has also flourished, with Otto being approached by people from all over the globe wanting to share their own stories.
With the season finale next week, Otto said when you think you finally know what’s going on in Wentworth, it gives you a punch in the face.
Watch the season finale of Wentworth at 8.30pm Tuesday.