Love My Way: articles

group photo

Cast members from Love My Way: (from left) Dan Wylie, Asher Keddie, Claudia Karvan and Brendan Cowell.

Family first

Claudia Karvan’s new drama shows modern relationships as they really are. Richard Jinman reports.

Inside a smart warehouse conversion in Alexandria, four thirtysomethings are discussing the name of a newborn baby. The vast, open-plan space is the epitome of urban chic: white cathedral ceilings, flokati rugs on a polished cement floor and stainless-steel appliances in the kitchen. However, there’s an undercurrent to the conversation that suggests all is not well in this inner-city paradise.

“I’m thinking Toby,” the baby’s blonde mother says with a hint of trepidation.

“Toby Jackson. I could live with that,” the baby’s proud father says.

“Here’s to Toby,” the proud father’s brother says, raising an alarmingly large glass of neat vodka by way of a toast. “Welcome to the family, you poor bastard.”

Family is the focus of the edgy new Foxtel drama, Love My Way, being filmed inside this architect’s residence on a warm day in July. We’re talking about a blended family rather than the traditional nuclear variety—an increasingly common arrangement in Australian society in which one third of marriages hit the wall.

When the crew breaks for lunch, Claudia Karvan, the star and co-producer of Love My Way, puts her dog on a leash and we walk to a nearby park for a catering-truck salad. She tells me the idea of making a warts-and-all drama about modern families had been with her for some time.

Kramer vs. Kramer had a huge impact on me when I was a kid,” the 32-year-old actor says. “The film was synonymous with the way people dealt with the break-up of families in the ‘70s. People seem to be much better at coping with it nowadays and it seemed there would be plenty of scope for an interesting drama.”

Coping is something Karvan’s character, Frankie Paige, has elevated to an art form. The artist and single mother shares custody of her eight-year-old daughter, Lou (Alex Cook), with Lou’s architect father, Charlie (Dan Wyllie). Money is tight, so Frankie supplements what she earns from the sale of her paintings with shifts as a newspaper illustrator.

“There’s a level of chaos to Frankie’s life,” says Karvan, who has added a vivid red streak to her hair to play the artist. “She has a job, but no real career. Her life is unsatisfactory in many respects.”

Frankie shares a house with Charlie’s brother, Tom. A manic depressive, Tom works as a cook when he’s taking his medication and an agent of chaos when he’s not. He’s played by Brendan Cowell, whose TV credits include the SBS comedy Life Support and the interactive ABC drama Fat Cow Motel. Cowell was also part of the six-member writing team that scripted Love My Way.

Charlie is now married to Julia (Asher Keddie). This blonde, 30-year-old control freak is determined to be the perfect wife, mother and career woman. Rounding out the core cast is Howard Light, Julia’s brooding former boyfriend. He’s just returned from Hong Kong, cashed-up and looking to settle down. Howard is played by Sam Worthington. He’s the series’ biggest male star—a status confirmed recently when he won the AFI Award for best actor for his role in the Australian feature Somersault.

The supporting characters of Love My Way are just as diverting. Di Paige, Frankie’s bohemian mother, is played with gleeful rock’n’roll abandon by Gillian Jones. Max Cullen is endearingly flawed as Charlie and Tom’s big-hearted father, Gerry, who struggles to have a relationship with his sons.

“The way these people relate to each other can be very direct, brutal even,” Karvan says. “They love and dislike each other. It’s extremely frank.”

Love My Way was produced by Karvan and Southern Star’s John Edwards. They’d worked together on the Ten Network’s generation-defining hit The Secret Life of Us and were keen to continue the partnership.

The pair initially discussed a few high-concept ideas that didn’t interest Karvan. Love My Way seemed like a natural progression from The Secret Life of Us and described a world that was relevant to her.

“We’d just done a series that was all about twentysomethings,” she says. “I was moving into my 30s and I’d just had a child. I think it’s an age that forces a reality check. In my 20s I had a feeling that one day I’d do this or that, but you get to a stage when you realise this is me and this is it.”

Karvan says it also felt like the right time to take on the role of producer. She’s been acting since she was nine—she was cast in the feature Molly, alongside Garry McDonald—and believes she has “accumulated enough flying time to chuck my opinion in the ring”.

The actor is also keen to create challenging situations for herself in the local industry because she no longer aspires to an international career. She spent two weeks on the Los Angeles audition circuit when she was 21, but found it confronting. Now she has a young daughter, Audrey, with her partner, set builder Jeremy Sparks, and she has no desire to uproot them. “I like the career I have here,” she says.

Network Ten was involved in the early development of Love My Way, but this short flirtation didn’t blossom into a full-time romance. “We believe it [Ten’s decision not to proceed] was a question of budget,” Edwards says. “It would have been a very different show had we stayed there.”

Foxtel picked up the series instead. Edwards says the cable network believes Love My Way can help it attract subscribers and build its profile as a producer of original drama. “They’ve [Foxtel] seen what’s happened with HBO and wanted a piece of work that’s distinctive and good,” he says.

He’s referring to the American subscription channel’s transformation from a movie channel into a successful producer of original dramas such as The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and Angels in America. At this year’s Emmy Awards, HBO won 32 awards, more than three times the number of any other network.

Foxtel says it is delighted with Love My Way. Kim Vecera, the network’s head of drama and special projects, believes the series explores provocative territory that free-to-air dramas wouldn’t touch. She’s reluctant to give away too many details, but says the characters will visit “some dark and revealing places”.

“These are people wrestling with being 30 and having to make some choices,” she says. “And we’re looking at the quality of different sorts of love: sexual love, parental love, lost love …”

The involvement of Karvan and Edwards makes comparisons between Love My Way and The Secret Life of Us inevitable. Foxtel, keen to tap into the aura that still surrounds Ten’s series, has been advertising its new drama with the teasing catchline: “The Secret Life of Us was just foreplay.”

Karvan is a little wary of these comparisons. She believes Love My Way is “rawer and darker” than Secret Life. “When I look at the rushes, I try to think of other shows to compare it to and I can’t,” she says. “Someone described it as a Cold Feet world with a Six Feet Under tone. That’s aiming for the stars, but you have to start somewhere.”

Love My Way begins on FOX8 next Monday at 8.30pm.

By Richard Jinman
November 16, 2004
The Sydney Morning Herald