Marshall Law: articles

Back in the picture

Lisa McCune is regarded as the classic girl next door by millions of TV viewers but her latest character might dent that image. The Perth-raised star talks about her long-awaited return to television drama.

"I DON'T think she's a slut," declares Lisa McCune of her new TV character Ros Marshall, much to the shock of Seven Network publicists," She just wants to have a good life and I think she's looking for Mr Right in a roundabout way."

Marshall is a junior crown prosecutor who shares an apartment with her older sister, Verity, a barrister dealing with her recent divorce from a top QC.

The sisters' personal and professional lives form the basis of Seven's long-awaited new drama, Marshall Law.

The series, developed with Perth-raised and WA Academy of Performing Arts-trained McCune in mind, also has its funny moments. It gives viewers the chance to see another side to a performer who has managed to move seamlessly between television, miniseries and musical theatre.

McCune, 31, who shot to stardom in the country police series Blue Heelers and won four consecutive Gold Logies as Australia's most popular personality, plays down the notion that Marshall was created for her.

" I don't think it has been tailored around any particular talent I have because I certainly don't think I am particularly funny," she says, adding that she also looks shocking in a lawyer's wig.

Seven Network head of drama John Holmes begs to differ. "Yes, the role was always intended for Lisa," he says.

"After her tremendous success on Heelers, we were looking for a vehicle for Lisa and another female co-lead. She came up to me after we shot the pilot and said, 'I'm no good; you must tell me and recast the part'.

"But, my response was, 'Darling, you aren't going anywhere.' To me, Lisa has a lovely accessibility that the audience identifies with. Despite her enormous success, Lisa remains the girl next door and the audience can see that. She has no inflated ego."

The girl-next-door image takes a battering in the first episode when Marshall is chastised for overusing her mattress by Verity, played by former Good Guys, Bad Guys and Frontline star Alison Whyte.

Marshall later has a go at Verity for not having enough sex and fakes having noisy sex to annoy her. In the second episode, Marshall picks up an off-duty policeman at a bar with one thing on her mind. The pristine Maggie Doyle would be turning in her grave.

Although a few eyebrows were raised when McCune did a nude scene in The Potato Factory, it was in the context of the period drama.

Is it easier for McCune to play a contemporary character like Marshall now that shows such as Sex and the City have paved the was for sex to be less of a taboo topic?

"Ros doesn't fall into the Sex and the City category," McCune reassures us, "She's not that sassy. She doesn't think about it as much as those girls. Ros is just out there, it happens to her.

"I love Sex and the City; it's great for women and for

conversation. It's a bit like Melrose Place; it just made people talk. That's what TV is good for—it's fun, it's entertainment."

More than two million people tuned in to see McCune's departure from Blue Heelers in February 2000 when Maggie was murdered. Thousands packed theatres around the country later that year when she took to the stage as Maria in The Sound of Music.

McCune says she at first fought against killing off Maggie because she was concerned that many young girls had followed the character's trajectory," I was quite passionate about that. In retrospect, it's a very good thing now, they were right, I was wrong."

With her popularity at its peak, McCune had no hesitation in taking time out tackle a new challenge—motherhood. The birth of son Archer 14 months ago gave her a break from the spotlight and allowed the dust to settle on Maggie's grave.

McCune has enjoyed watching Archer grow up and being part of a mother's group. She can discuss nappy brands and baby products with the best of them. Despite her covergirl status, McCune says fame and prying have never been an issue. When not working she uses her married name and suspects most of her mother's group probably never saw her in Blue Heelers.

"it's funny. In a way The Sound of Music created more interest with people coming to talk to me than Blue Heelers ever did, which I find amazing," she says.

McCune's husband, Tim Disney, recently stepped into the shoes of Mr Mum to allow her to start work on Marshall Law so juggling work and motherhood hasn't been an issue. But McCune misses her family in Perth—and the weather.

"It's really wonderful when you have a supportive partner. It's really hard because my mum is in Perth and my side of the family is in Perth but I have a terrific husband who is fortunately in a position where he can take time off work.

"Because Marshall Law is only ever going to do X number of episodes per year, I'm not in a position where I have to worry. With Heelers it was 42 a year; I don't think that workload would probably be quite appropriate at the moment."

McCune is sporting a bruised lip from a close encounter with enthusiastic Archer's head. She doesn't think he misses her as much as she misses him while at work. "He does the wave now and I make sure I try to deal with that. I find it harder than him; for him it's kind of, 'yeah, seeya.'

"it's great when your partner can actually see what it's like to look after a child. Their bond is terrific. These 17 weeks have been a wonderful gift for them in a way."

Marshall Law, which started out with the title Leather and Silk, and with Kerry Armstrong (now starring in the ABC's MDA) as Marshall's sister, arrives at a competitive time for Australian drama. McCune obviously wants to succeed but refuses to put herself under too much pressure.

"I am not putting any pressures on myself because it's too fickle to do that," she says. "I can't learn lines, go home and be a mother and think about whether or not I'm going to carry a show that may or may not work. I think it's ridiculous to do that to yourself—you don't come up with any good work.

"It's not like I am the only well-known person in it (William McInnes of SeaChange also stars, as Verity's former husband). I very much feel it's a company show, every character needs the other. It's certainly not like a Halifax where you have the one character as how is based around."

McCune like the idea of doing a legal series instead of another police show and spent a few months of her pregnancy sitting in court doing research. She was surprised how interesting and funny the cases could be.

"People used to say the things that happened on Blue Heelers were ludicrous but then one day a cop said to me, 'If you put on TV what actually happened, no one would believe it because it's so absurd.'

"Marshall Law is dealing with some of that absurdity a little more. I was also really attracted to the idea of working with another female, playing sisters. I don't have a sister and I thought that was a really interesting area to explore."

The first series of Marshall Law will run for 17 episodes.

McCune has signed up to star in the show Cabaret at the end of the year but would happily return for a second series because it allows her to keep pursuing stage work.

"I'm really happy when I work, and doing stage is lovely because I can be at home all day with Archer. Then he'll go to bed at night and I'll be off to the theatre, so that's really nice."

Motherhood hasn't dampened McCune's passion for acting but it has changed her outlook. "I'm not as uptight about the whole thing any more," she says.

"unfortunately and fortunately in Australia, you don't really pick and choose your roles. Some actors do but there's very few who can.

"I think I will become choosier now. I have grown into myself a little but more now. I'm not as scared.

"And I can't waste time any more either because I have someone I need to be home for."

By Sue Yeap
August 03, 2002
The West Magazine