Marshall Law: articles

Laying down the law

AMBITIOUS Queen's Counsel Dylan Boyd cuts a flawless figure. Expensive suits drape his lofty frame and his appearance is invariably immaculate.

He spouts legalese in a commanding baritone; a voice he also uses to shred the confidence of his recently divorced ex-wife and "learned friend" Verity Marshall.

But the man who plays Dylan Boyd is a very different character indeed.

In reality, William McInnes is a modest family man raised in the Queensland bayside city of Redcliffe.

He still uses public transport to avoid "getting tickets" on himself or being swept away in the "rarefied environment" of the entertainment industry.

He listens to his mum when she tells him to "say something nice about Redcliffe" in interviews and he tends to compliment all those around him while mocking his own presence.

But there are some things both McInnes and his character can appreciate while suited up and situated near Melbourne's court district.

"My prop car was parked (on location) in Lonsdale Street and a parking inspector came up to me and said, ‘I think the meter's finished there, sir'. I said, ‘Are you going to charge me?' and he said, ‘No, I'm just telling you'," McInnes laughs.

It is not the first time McInnes has been mistaken for a "wig" either. His legal costuming is so impeccable a QC recently approached him to ask what court he would be attending that day. His immediate response: "Oh, Kangaroo Court."

Such is the actor's cheeky sense of humour. It is the same cheekiness that got him in trouble for impersonating a police officer on breaks from Blue Heelers.

But McInnes almost missed his chance to dress up as a lawyer.

The busy actor was toiling away on the film Dirty Deeds when he was first asked to play a part in Marshall Law's pilot. Another actor stepped in to play his part.

Back then the show was a different beast indeed. It was called Leather and Silk and Dylan's wife Verity was played by Kerry Armstrong. She and Channel 7 later made a "mutual decision" to part and the show was completely revamped.

It became less dramatic and more comic. Alison Whyte, who had played hoity-toity barrister Prue Staley in the pilot, stepped into the larger role vacated by Armstrong, and McInnes, then free of commitments, agreed to play Dylan.

"I could either have chosen to stay in Melbourne and work all year doing Marshall Law or I could go back to Sydney again to do more projects up there, but I'd been away all last year with my family which is pretty tough so staying in Melbourne was a big plus," he says.

"And there was the fact that Lisa (McCune) was doing it and Alison Whyte was doing it—they're good friends of mine as well as terrific actors—and the show was a comedy drama which is flying in face of it a bit because historically that's never been successful in Australia. But it's all right and the girls are great—they're really funny."

Marshall Law focuses on the lives of two sisters—Ros and Verity Marshall—daughters of legendary barrister and judge Joe Marshall.

Ros is the rebellious younger sister played by Lisa McCune, a junior crown prosecutor who is messy, fun-loving, promiscuous and currently shares her sister's apartment.

Verity is six years her senior, a stylish freelancer at the Independent Bar who is constantly trying to keep underlying anxieties at bay. She recently divorced Dylan after forsaking her career for his and is now trying to catch up to him. Dylan, however, is adept at getting under her skin.

But while he often rankles Verity, McInnes is loath to label Dylan the show's "bad guy".

"He is not a bad guy, he's not a good guy, he's just a guy making a bit of money," McInnes says."He comes from a working-class background, goes and gets a scholarship to a big private school and goes to uni, does law.

"There's a great line in the series—‘just because I like my clothes to match and fit doesn't mean I'm a fascist'—that's him. He's into self-improvement and nice cars.

"He is nice but you have to temper it with a bit of personal gratuity and ambition. None of the characters is perfect."

While the focus of the show is on the people of the law rather than the law itself, cases are lifted from real events and are often chosen for their quirky appeal.

For example, the show's premiere episode features a case involving custody of a famous dog and a stripper who accuses her boss of sexual harassment.

McInnes is obviously enjoying his role in Marshall Law, witnessed by his jolly disposition and singing as he walks around the show's set. He is quickly getting into the groove of series television for the first time since SeaChange.

Like SeaChange, Marshall Law is a risky television proposition. McInnes is quick to credit the Seven Network for going out on a limb by producing a comedy despite the genre's reputation in Australia.

"It's great they had a go," he says. "Everything's derivative on television, everything's based on something else, but this is a nice effort.

"We have so many cop shows and medical shows and they're good, but they all work from a certain formula. The good thing about this show is that it goes out there a little bit, which is great for Australian television and for commercial television.

"Hopefully people will find it funny—I think it's funny."

• Marshall Law, Seven, Tuesday (August 13) and Wednesday (August 14), 9.30pm

By Jennifer Dudley
August 01, 2002
The Courier Mail