Claudia Karvan on playing a 40-something with authority in ‘Newton’s Law’

14 February, 2017 by Harry Windsor

Claudia Karvan in 'Newton's Law'. 

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How did you get involved in Newton’s Law

I think they originally wrote it for Miriam Margolyes. She was originally devised as an old, fat Jewish woman (laughs). I've never worked with them before so I don't know how I came on their radar. I was a big admirer of the film Mallboy that Fiona [Eagger] produced a long time ago. It's one of my favourite Australian films. It really packs a punch. 

I've never heard of it.

It's really worth checking out. I loved it. And then, obviously, [I’m] a big fan of SeaChange and totally appreciate the extraordinary phenomena that is Miss Fisher, and what successful producers they are. They just approached me, I read it, we had a few conversations and then it was all happening. I really wanted to play a character who was emotionally intelligent and had authority and was heroic in her actions because, as much as I've loved all the roles that I've played, there is a plethora of women in their early 40s who have hit crises, [and] there's not always a lot of optimism and positivity around that age for women. So this was just incredibly fortuitous, because Josephine Newton landed and it was like, 'Yep, this is exactly what I'm after.'

Were there things you wanted to change, when you spoke to Deb and Fiona about taking on the role?

What I didn't understand was the car. I didn't understand why she was driving that car (laughs). And their response was totally upfront and they just said, 'Look, we just think it's so unfair that male characters always get to ride really fancy, interesting cars and women never do. So, we're just going to give her a cool car.' There is logic to it in that Johnny [Sean Keenan], the car thief, is the one who picks the car, and he maintains and loves it. I think Josephine just embraces the absurdity of it. 

How was the shoot?

It was an enormous relief to not be producing. The thing about being a producer is that every person comes to you with a complaint all day, every day, and you have to use all of the leadership qualities you have at your disposal to get through, and you're constantly solving problems. As an actor, I just get to ride on the coattails of Deb Cox and Fiona’s extraordinary hard work. Years of development, and pitching, and putting a team together. 

You had a chance to reunite with Sean Keenan from Puberty Blues on this. 

He was my daughter's boyfriend [on Puberty Blues]. I've glared at him and flirted with him and intimidated him (laughs). He's a really unique young actor. He's in his early 20s but he doesn't have the trappings of ego. He's extremely open-minded, eager to learn. He's just a beautiful spirit to have on set. He's got a monumental career ahead of him and I think he's emotionally equipped to deal with it. 

Is it enjoyable or disorienting working with three different directors?

It was very much Jen Leacey's show. She set it up. She did the first two episodes and the last two episodes. She certainly established the tone. She's got a real knack for keeping the show buoyant and setting the gauge with Josephine, who is non-judgemental, and not self-pitying, and never gets exasperated. She's someone who keeps continually rising to the challenge, which is a little bit like Jen Leacey herself. So I was just mimicking her (laughs). She's worked alongside Baz Luhrmann and Terrence Malick and all the greats as a First AD. So she's infinitely experienced. Her optimism and her enthusiasm for things has been so infectious. And then we had Jennifer Perrott do a block and Jonathan Brough did one block. Jonathan Brough does a lot of ABC comedies and he did [The] Time of Our Lives and Spirited, so I know him very well. He's got an almost scientific knowledge of comedy, in terms of timing and beats.

You must have had a busy six months, producing Doctor Doctor and starring in this.

Yes but your hours are very flexible as a producer. It's not like an actor's job where you are in a make-up chair at five o'clock and you can't shift meetings. It's a very inflexible working life. It's downright uncivilised, basically. Lucky it's so much fun to be on the set and there's so much camaraderie, otherwise you'd go mad. 

Are you more focused on TV these days than features?

Oh, look, I would audition for a film in a heartbeat. I can't think when I last discussed one with anyone but I do have a project that we've now got development money [for] and a producer and director attached. And it's up to its seventh draft. We've got a lovely, lovely actress attached alongside myself. That might be made in ten years (laughs), if you go by the development timelines of feature films. But maybe not. Maybe we'll be lucky and it'll be made next year. That's certainly a love project that I'm working very hard on in between everything else. It's very much a mother-daughter story. We reference Notes on a Scandal crossed with Whiplash. It's a psychological thriller but it's also an art house relationship drama. It'll be a small, low budget, festival film, hopefully. I'm credited with devising the story but I'm not the scriptwriter. 

Are you going straight back into producing Doctor Doctor after this?

I've been on it from day one and the second series is ordered. We start shooting in the middle of the year. We've already devised all the episodes up to episode six. I love that show and I love working with Tony McNamara and Ian Collie and the guys at Channel 9.

You can hop from that to a second season of Newton's Law.

Ah, look, can you just make that happen?

Episode 2 of 'Newton's Law' screens on the ABC tomorrow night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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