Claudia Karvan rewrites the rules with Newton’s Law
Claudia Karvan doesn’t always want to bring her characters home. While they may have challenged her as an actor, she often wants to shake them off, move on and try to forget their distress.
But Josephine Newton, her latest starring role, is someone she has wanted to play, and even become, for a long time.
“I’ve played really fraught characters, really challenged characters, characters that are going through really devastating times and I was champing at the bit to play a character who had authority and resilience, and heroic characteristics. So when Josephine came I said, ‘ This is exactly what I’ve been champing at the bit to play’.”
Karvan even wanted to bring Josephine’s qualities home with her after a day spent shooting on the ABC show Newton’s Law.
It’s not as though life’s a piece of cake for Josephine. In the first episode, the suburban solicitor’s practice is burnt down and she’s persuaded to return to the Bar and enter Knox Chambers, alongside her old uni friend Lewis Hughes ( Toby Schmitz).
At the same time, she’s going through marriage separation and trying to figure out her new role as a single mother to a teenage daughter.
But Karvan can’t help but appreciate how this character handles the things that life throws at her. “I genuinely like her,” she said. “There’s just this outlook that Josephine has where she’s never judgmental and she never buys into conflict or challenges, she rises to it and looks at it as an opportunity to solve. And you can take that into your own life and say, ‘ Yeah I can have that attitude too’.”
Karvan sat in on real court cases while researching the show, and there was a legal adviser on set at all times which lends the show a level of authenticity.
“One of my closest friend is a barrister who was working on the Ivan Milat case. So I do channel her a lot when I’m playing Josephine. There’s a lot of humanity and gallows humour. There’s a kind of surprise to the way barristers treat their work so I was lucky to get that insight,” she said.
Sitting in on the courts showed her some of the surprising aspects of that world, including the common ground she shares with it.
“What was really eye-
Karvan: “I was champing at the bit to play a character who had authority and resilience, and heroic characteristics. So when Josephine came I said, ‘ This is exactly what I’ve been champing at the bit to play’.”
opening was how small that world is. It’s a village. The judge may be your friend or the barristers you’re opposing may be your friends,” she said.
“The other aspect of it is how many similarities a barrister’s life shares with an actor’s life. It’s a performance, you’re performing for the jury so the jury has got to like you, they’ve got to trust you, they’ve got to listen to you and you’ve got to win them over. So they’re your audience,” she said.
“There’s a lot of performance anxiety, nervousness, doubt, stress – all those things, a lot of similarities.”
In real life, the barristers Karvan met were keen to talk about their work and inspired all the time, challenged by their careers.
“It strikes me that it can be a very rewarding career, a very gratifying career,” she said.
With all of that real- life inspiration to hand, many of the cases tackled on the show have a basis in the real world.
“There’s a transgender story which I think was heavily influenced by an Australian
Story, there’s a hilarious storyline about the custody of a pet, there’s refugee storylines,” she said.
Early on in the series, it looks like one of Josephine’s potential suitors could be her new colleague and old friend Lewis. At least if the palpable on- screen chemistry is anything to go by, it’s inevitable something is going to have to transpire between these two.
“He’s a great character, Lewis. He’s so sardonic but really is reaching to be a warmer and more connected person,” she said.
Josephine is another strong character Karvan can add to her arsenal after more than 30 years appearing on Australian TV screens.
“I’ve always been pretty blessed,” she said.
“I love the characters I played in The Time of Our Lives,
Jack Irish and Puberty Blues.” “I feel like we’ve created magnificently complex, unique, unusual, independent women. They’re all very distinct and that certainly was always supported by Nine. I think statistically women are the ones that hold the remote at home so if you’re giving women recognisable women to watch, and women they might aspire to be or want to engage in the drama of their life, then there’s a lot to be gained from that,” she said.
There’s certainly one woman Karvan is hoping to have in her life for quite some time, despite whatever else she has going on in her career.
“There’s always ways and means to fit everything in but I would love to play Josephine again and work with all those wonderful actors.”