Claudia Karvan found time in her busy schedule to play an unlikely character, writes Holly Byrnes
CLAUDIA Karvan has just arrived from the daily chaos of doing the school run and settles down with a bowl of baked muesli and a pot of milky tea.
We’re meeting over breakfast to chat about her latest TV series for the ABC, The Time Of Our Lives, just a week or so after filming began on the second season of Channel 10’s nostalgic hit, Puberty Blues.
That sounds like enough on any working mother of two’s plate. But take a seat — this could take a while — there’s more. There’s ‘‘ the little bit I did on Dark Side, this really exciting project with ( Samson & Delilah film director) Warwick Thornton,’’ and ‘‘ a little bit on The Better Man, an SBS four-parter, with Anh Do and David Wenham’’.
After that, she did The Broken Shore. ‘‘ That’s going to be great but probably won’t come out until next year ... ( Little Fish filmmaker) Rowan Woods directed it, Ian Collie and Andrew Knight wrote it, as an adaptation of Peter Temple’s novel, down at Port Fairy.’’
Between mouthfuls, she says: ‘‘ I didn’t know a town like that existed in Australia, it’s just authentically heritage.’’
Karvan bubbles along warmly about the town, the landscape, the cast (including her co-star Don Hany — ‘‘ don’t even look at that guy, he’s too handsome’’) and the happy family memories she has of filming it.
‘‘ My kids were on school holidays and my partner had time off work, so we had two weeks of horse-riding along the beach and abalone fishing, surfing ... it was such a beautiful job, a gift.’’
Karvan also has two more projects in development: a Gina Rinehart mini-series with the controversial working title Mother Monster Magnate for Channel 9; and another series for the ABC she’s producing with Love My Way collaborator Jacqueline Perske.
Even taking into account the boom time for local drama production, Karvan’s full slate is a testament to her extraordinary talents, popular appeal with audiences and a Midas touch, especially on television.
Which makes her latest role on The Time Of Our Lives, playing neurotic lawyer-turnedhelicopter parent Caroline, par- ticularly intriguing. Why would someone so nice want to play someone as unlikeable as this?
Karvan admits her first reaction to the character, who is so absorbed in mothering only child Carmody she doesn’t notice its impact on her marriage to sports manager, Matt (William McInnes), was irritation.
‘‘ The level of neuroses, the level of perfectionism, the level of self-involvement, I found, um, unfortunate,’’ Karvan says.
‘‘ Then I just became so curious about her and why she behaves the way she does . . . I longed to get into her skin and understand how she operated, so I couldn’t resist playing her.’’
The ongoing debate about who and what makes a perfect parent will connect with the audience who, a decade ago, were working out their 20-something angst watching
I just became so curious about her andwhyshe behaves the wayshe does
Karvan on The Secret Life Of Us, then settling into adult relationships in their 30s with Love My Way.
This search for the best parenting practise has given Karvan, mum to Albie,6, Audrey, 12, and step-mother to Holiday, 19, pause for thought about her own style.
‘‘ I’m a modern parent in that I always think, rethink and then unthink every process,’’ she says.
‘‘ Everyone is susceptible to that now because we’ve got so much education in the parenting department, but then again I’ve got a reasonable level of recklessness and freedom and irresponsibility as well.
‘‘ I’m a big believer in giving children freedom. Freedom to make mistakes, freedom to break their arm . . . I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think it’s important to learn how to light a fire, get dirty and go to bed with your clothes on. All that stuff is important.’’
The extended Tivolli clan at the centre of The Time Of Our Lives reflects the ‘‘ terrific messiness’’ of real family life, Karvan says, from adoption, to divorce, to raising happy kids with former partners. She laughs at the comparison between clinical Caroline in this and playing soulful but scatty Frankie on Love My Way.
‘‘ They wouldn’t even talk to each other,’’ Karvan says. ‘‘ But I probably wouldn’t have been able to play Caroline if I hadn’t been Frankie. It’s nice to exercise certain muscles in your personality. Once you exercise one, you want to try the polar opposite.’’ The Time of Our Lives, ABC1, Sunday, 8.30pm