Hold­ing court

Clau­dia Kar­van rewrites the rules with New­ton’s Law

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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.”

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