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.
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.