Last week, Janet King star Damian Walshe-Howling emerged from his Brunswick East home to discover the police investigating the body of a lawyer gunned down in the street. Ironically, over breakfast that same day he’d been explaining to Switched On how the subject of the law drama’s second season — a Royal Commission into gun violence — was “very current at the moment.” (Fans of his work as tattooed killer Benji Veniamin in Underbelly noticed a few parallels too). In Janet King, he plays Owen, a former detective turned crown prosecutor.
The show keeps evolving: it began as Crownies, turned into a show about Janet King (Marta Dusseldorp) at the DPP and it’s now about a Royal Commission … It still has the same dynamic between the characters. It’s a totally viable story that they would take a crown prosecutor to run a Royal Commission into gun crime — which is also very current at the moment. With every incarnation it grows.
Do Owen and Janet clash? There were a lot of sparks between them, you know who is top dog. (But now) there’s more co-operation, there’s a grudging respect that’s starting to grow.
Were you a Crownies fan? Crownies was not something I watched a lot of so it was a real surprise to me when they asked me to come and do Janet King. I had played Adam Cooper on Blue Heelers for four years. This guy’s (Owen) an ex-copper so there was a bit of experience I was able to take from doing that because we had a lot of contact with the police. Again when I did Underbelly, I spent a lot of time with detectives talking about various aspects of the story. Lisa McCune said you guys cranked out about a billion episodes of Blue Heelers … Lisa’s right, I think we were doing 45 or 46 episodes a year, it’s crazy. It was relentless at times. But it builds a real camaraderie, and that remains in a show like this too, but you’re only doing it for three months.
How do you find spouting legal jargon? On this show more than any other my social life goes out the window while I’m shooting it because I’m just spending hours and hours and hours drilling lines because they’ve got to be tripping off the tongue.
What’s Marta like on set? Marta is a machine on set. Noone has more to say than Marta in terms of dialogue and any scene Marta’s in, Janet King is driving those scenes. She has a very good eye for story and where the key conflicts are.
Congrats on being one of four winners of the Lexus short film competition ... At the moment I’m doing a lot more writing and directing. They asked us to write a twopage treatment based on ‘Anticipation’. That was what won. So I’ve been writing that since December and we start shooting in under four weeks.
JANET KING, ABC, THURSDAY 8.30PM
Damian WalsheHowling is spending more time on writing.