“Since Love My Way I’m just seen as a good crier!” reflects Claudia Karvan.
“‘Get her if you want to be destroyed!'”
The 2005 Foxtel series is widely regarded as a turning point for Pay TV in Australia, and one that cemented Karvan as one of the country’s leading actresses on screen.
“People still talk about it, which is really curious because when we were commissioned to do it, TV was still something that you ate up overnighting forgot about. We never could have imagined it would have the longevity that it’s had.
“I guess it was when HBO was breaking and people were changing their attitude to what television is and how to digest it.
“It was the perfect storm. It was the first order from Foxtel and we had the wonderful Kim Vecera as our boss. There was a hell of a lot of freedom. Everything was a first.”
But despite being known for her dramatic artistry, Karvan has done her share of light and comedic work too: The Big Steal, Dating the Enemy, Paperback Hero, Spirited amongst others.
With ABC’s new drama Newton’s Law, what began as a dramatic role has morphed into something that taps into both drama and comedy.
“I hadn’t realised there was so much physical comedy. I didn’t realise it was so screwball,” she reveals.
“A lot of it comes from the way the director chooses to block the scene.”
Karvan plays barrister Josephine Newton, who returns to the bar after more than a decade of battling to help the less-fortunate. At Knox Chambers she works alongside a former Law School colleague, Lewis Hughes (Toby Schmitz) and sparks fly amid their unresolved sexual tension.
“Toby Schmitz is so experienced and theatre trained. Working opposite him has been a real delight. You have to lift your game with Toby, he’s really smart,” she continues.
“I was sent the first script and had a chat with Deb (Cox, producer/creator) and Fiona Eagger (producer/creator), got the role and jumped on board. For a lot of different reasons.
“It was on my wishlist to play a female character who was a hero and had authority. Then along came Josephine. I had just finished producing Doctor Doctor and I was thrilled with the idea of not having to manage a production or solve problems behind my computer all day.
“One of the beauties of acting is I very rarely have to check my emails! It’s such a relief, you’re not stuck on the screen. Acting is much more physical work.”
Karvan came to the project as a fan of the producers but without having worked with them before.
“I was a big fan of Mallboy, one of Fiona Eagger’s first films. But I’d never done anything (with them). I didn’t do a ‘guestie’ on Miss Fisher, didn’t do East Everything, didn’t do SeaChange,” she continues.
“I really admire them as producers and as a team. I trust them, they are very experienced, and I’m very confident they know how to create a female character.
“They take creative license, they just know how to set up the infrastructure to support a character like this.”
When she isn’t acting Karvan pursues her producing interests, Doctor Doctor being the latest in a growing line of creative projects (Spirited, Love My Way, The House of Hancock) For ABC’s drama she can happily focus on performing duties.
But she constantly has her eye on other performers in case there is an opportunity to ‘borrow’ them for a future project.
“That’s the other naughty thing about being on someone else’s production. I’m always taking notes! Don’t worry. I’m not stupid!
“I’m constantly astounded at the depth of talent in this country. Some people I’ve never seen before who you are acting opposite are seasoned talented actors.”
Sean Keenan, who recently played a young Paul Hogan, plays Josephine’s former employee Johnny and is one to watch.
“I think he will have a huge career. He’s such an unusual boy. Smart, eager to learn, and the character that he has created is hilarious,” she says.
With Newton’s Law having completed filming, next up is a second season of Doctor Doctor for Nine, with screwball put to one side and her drama producing cap back firmly in place.
“Both hemispheres of the brain get a full work out. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m very lucky.”
8:30pm Thursdays on ABC.