Clarke en­joy­ing her new House

Best known as a chil­dren’s TV pre­sen­ter, Aussie ac­tress Justin Clarke is rel­ish­ing the chance to try a spot of com­edy, she tells David Dale.

The Press - The Box - - RELATIONSHIP DRAMAS - Fair­fax

Jus­tine Clarke is pleased to re­veal that in her new role in House Hus­bands she does not get can­cer. Nor does she get angsty about the mean­ing of life. It’s a rare ex­pe­ri­ence for her in re­cent years.

An Aus­tralian Play School pre­sen­ter for 16 years, Clarke has also been in in­tense dra­mas such as Love My Way, Tan­gle and The Time of Our Lives.

She was also a found­ing char­ac­ter in Home and Away in the 1980s (re­bel­lious Roo Ste­wart, now played by Ge­orgie Parker), so it is some­thing of a sur­prise to see her as a ‘‘tuck shop lady’’ who com­petes with Kane (Gy­ton Grant­ley) in sell­ing her wares in a school play­ground.

Fair­fax talked to her about her new role.

Does the term ‘‘tuck shop lady’’ sug­gest this is a comic role?

It is. The show treads a fairly fine line. There’s an el­e­ment of com­edy to it, par­tic­u­larly the way that she en­ters the show. She takes Kane by sur­prise on a num­ber of lev­els, and it is a bit screw­ball and fun. This one was re­ally dif­fer­ent for me. She’s a straight-talker and she doesn’t re­ally care what any­body thinks of her. She’s quite driven. The last few char­ac­ters I’ve played have been prob­a­bly a bit more like me, I guess, than this one. I wanted to set my­self a chal­lenge and move a bit away from stuff that I’d done re­cently. It felt like a stretch for me.

Over the years you’ve been a bit as­so­ci­ated with char­ac­ters who get can­cer …

I have, haven’t I? What’s that about? Re­fresh­ingly, I can re­veal that this char­ac­ter does not have can­cer. She’s in right through the se­ries. Ini­tially there could be con­cern about whether she’ll cause a threat to Kane and Alex’s (Dar­ren McMullen) re­la­tion­ship, but, in the end, as with all the char­ac­ters, it’s about fam­ily, it’s about com­mu­nity. What’s charm­ing about the show is they’re all try­ing to be the best peo­ple they can be and do the best by other peo­ple.

Would you call House Hus­bands a soap?

I’m not sure what a soap means any more. I won­der if things get la­belled soap be­cause they’re about fam­ily and about ev­ery­day is­sues that seem in­signif­i­cant but are ac­tu­ally where we live and what we feel, how we re­late to peo­ple and the ev­ery­day life de­ci­sions that we make. I think shows like House Hus­bands and Time of Our Lives are re­ally im­por­tant for peo­ple to see their lives rep­re­sented, to give those lives a voice and a place for dis­cus­sion. Home and Away has al­ways done that from the very be­gin­ning and that’s why it’s stayed rel­e­vant and it’s the most pop­u­lar drama on tele­vi­sion.

But in re­cent years you’ve been more as­so­ci­ated with what we might call ‘‘arty dra­mas’’.

I’ll take a project on for a num­ber of rea­sons. This is just a dif­fer­ent form of drama where it has dif­fer­ent con­straints, a cer­tain struc­ture where it has to build to a com­mer­cial break, and I find that fas­ci­nat­ing. I’m in­trigued how [ House Hus­bands cre­ator] El­lie Beau­mont can write th­ese char­ac­ters that peo­ple re­ally con­nect to and think are re­ally funny, but also build to a cli­max ev­ery seven min­utes. I marvel at how they in­ter­weave all th­ese sto­ry­lines. I’m in awe of tele­vi­sion writ­ers and that’s usu­ally what draws me into some­thing. El­lie asked me to do it and I re­ally jumped at the chance to work with her again, and to work with the cast. They all are very fine ac­tors. They all are very funny ac­tors. And they’ve cre­ated a re­ally good vibe that comes across on screen. The show has great en­ergy and a great sort of truth to it.

‘‘I wanted to set my­self a chal­lenge and move a bit away from stuff that I’d done re­cently. It felt like a stretch for me.’’ Jus­tine Clarke

New House Hus­bands star Jus­tine Clarke says she mar­vels at how the writ­ers in­ter­weave all the show’s sto­ry­lines.

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