Jess Marais and Jonathan LaPaglia at a swing­ing ‘60s cross­roads in Love Child

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Front Page - DEB­BIE SCHIPP re­ports

JESS Marais and Jonathan LaPaglia had plenty of per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences to draw on for their char­ac­ters in Nine’s new drama Love Child.

As mum of daugh­ter Scout, Marais – who plays a mid­wife fight­ing the good fight for un­mar­ried moth­ers be­ing forced to give up their chil­dren for adop­tion – can iden­tify with the an­guish at the thought of be­ing sep­a­rated from a pre­cious child.

And the fact that LaPaglia was once a doc­tor – who de­liv­ered six ba­bies as a med­i­cal stu­dent – meant play­ing the head of ob­stet­rics at the fic­tional Kings Cross Hos­pi­tal wasn’t too much of a stretch.

“I’ve ac­tu­ally never played a role as a doc­tor be­fore,” re­veals LaPaglia, who walked away from a ca­reer in medicine af­ter be­ing un­able to squash the act­ing bug.

“Sur­pris­ingly, a lot of the med­i­cal terms are still there. Rusty … but still there.

“I think the pro­duc­tion crew on Love Child were a bit an­noyed by me be­cause they’d write some­thing and I’d be like, ‘Nope, that doesn’t work that way’.

“They’d be rolling their eyes and say­ing, ‘Let’s just shoot it’. And I’d be say­ing, ‘No, no, no, it’s all wrong, we can’t’. So now I’ve come to un­der­stand why I haven’t been cast as a doc­tor be­fore. Be­cause I’m ac­tu­ally a li­a­bil­ity to a smooth pro­duc­tion.”

What is not a li­a­bil­ity is the pair­ing of Marais and LaPaglia’s char­ac­ters in Love Child – an in­trigu­ing mix of at­trac­tion and com­bat­ive­ness.

Marais’ Sis­ter Joan Mil­lar is an in­tel­li­gent, opin­ion­ated pro­fes­sional, “but she’s also a woman of her time, and caught be­tween progress and fight­ing the sys­tem and ac­qui­esc­ing to cer­tain so­cial pre­scrip­tions that ex­isted then,” says Marais. “She’s just back from work­ing in Lon­don, which is a lit­tle more pro­gres­sive, and the rules and reg­u­la­tions with the run­ning of the hos­pi­tal and the ways things are done prove a lit­tle re­stric­tive.”

Which puts her on a col­li­sion with LaPaglia’s Dr Pa­trick McNaughton, who is the “king of his do­main” at the hos­pi­tal.

“A lot of doc­tors of that pe­riod, es­pe­cially ob­ste­tri­cians – be­cause they were bring­ing life into the world – had a bit of a God com­plex,” says LaPaglia.

“That’s a weak spot for him in the end be­cause he does think he’s un­touch­able.”

Mil­lar and McNaughton share another weak spot: For each other.

“Joan has trou­ble be­cause she can be at­tracted to the wrong kind of men,” Marais hints. In this case, she has an un­de­ni­able chem­istry with a mar­ried one.

“His per­sonal story gets a lit­tle sticky,” LaPaglia con­fesses.

“He’s mar­ried and he’s hav­ing prob­lems with his own per­sonal re­la­tion­ships. Aside from his un­de­ni­able at­trac­tion to Joan, there’s a sto­ry­line that brings them into con­flict pro­fes­sion­ally. It all gets kind of messy.”

Set in 1969, Love Child show­cases a so­ci­ety in flux – which on one hand cel­e­brates the sex­ual rev­o­lu­tion but on the other cases is reel­ing against the change.

It jux­ta­poses the wild streets of Kings Cross against the con­fines of Stan­ton House – a home for un­wed preg­nant women – at a time where to be sin­gle and preg­nant was a source of shame. The think­ing was adopt­ing those ba­bies out was best for all con­cerned.

“They called it the pri­vate adop­tion process – which in 1967 be­came il­le­gal in NSW,” says LaPaglia.

“This story is set in 1969, so what they were do­ing was I guess, in the eyes of the law, il­le­gal, but the prac­tice still hap­pened.

“I don’t think it came from a ma­li­cious stand­point. I think they re­ally felt they were at the front­line, and they knew bet­ter than the sys­tem in terms of find­ing the right homes for th­ese ba­bies.

“Un­for­tu­nately in some sit­u­a­tions there was co­er­cion in the adop­tion process. And when we look back now that prob­a­bly wasn’t the right thing to do.

“At the time they thought they were do­ing what was right for ev­ery­one.

“Cer­tainly Pa­trick does. That’s who he is.”


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