“I’ve worked in television very little,” says David Field. “I have such a strange relation with the business, I always have.”
As Detective Superintendent Terry Jarvis on Seven’s City Homicide, this stage and film actor is getting used to the machinations of network television, even where it requires opening up and giving interviews to press.
“There’s always been a certain amount of fear and respect,” he told TV Tonight. “I guess I haven’t played the game with anyone very much. I’ve always tended to be a little bit on the outer, which I don’t mind. I probably set myself up for that.”
While his CV is distinguished by such considered pieces as Oyster Farmer, Chopper, The Night We Called it a Day, Ghosts of the Civil Dead, BlackJack, Mary Bryant, Water Rats and Wildside, he’s had few resident roles in episodic television.
“It took me a couple of months to get my head around how quickly it moves, and to get all the dialogue and thought patterns together. I think it’s a practised thing, the same as theatre. If you don’t really know theatre you sort of stumble around a little bit. I had to work a little bit harder than the guys who are used to it. But now I find there’s a flow.”
As a charactor actor, his presence is one often drawn upon by casting directors for crime dramas.
“When I was younger I was playing crims and as I get older I’m playing cops. Sometimes I wonder how much difference there is between the two. There’s just a badge and a suit.
“The ambiguity is really important for me as part of the character.”
And in a show where the fictional State Police have the freedom to venture down paths that Blue Heelers could never do due to its association with Victoria Police, could Jarvis ever be a future candidate for police corruption?
Field isn’t giving much away, noting he is at the mercy of the show’s writers. But an upcoming episode does raise the question.
“There’s a bloke who makes an offer to me and … he considers it. I think it’s always important to my character that he’s ‘old school.’ People used to pass around paper bags. Who knows whether he’s involved or not? That’s his business. Where he decides to go is his business,” he says.
“The writers always imply a certain amount in Jarvis’ character that what you don’t know about him, you don’t know about him. And I like that ambiguity. His thing is always ‘if you want to go and beat it out of this guy…go and beat it out of him, I’m not lookin.'”
Field opens up on bigger themes, drawing attention to newspaper headlines and even Queensland’s Fitzgerald Inquiry. Such issues are all around us, he notes. But in drama it is indicative of the human condition.
“It’s not about saying ‘this is a comment on Police corruption,'” he says. “This is a comment on human beings. If you’ve got power and you can exercise it, and you think someone’s a prick, you’re going to exercise that power. Same as if you’re a journalist and you think someone’s a prick. You’re going to exercise that power. You’re going to write that story. It’s a human thing.
“It doesn’t mean that’s typical of journalists or that’s typical of cops, that’s just people. And people exercise that power in their own families.”
By the end of our interview, David Field has almost gotten the hang of being at ease with this whole publicity thing. In truth, he’s far more comfortable with a script or being part of an ensemble.
“That’s really what makes it work: the way we operate as a team. Regardless of who the audience loves or love less,” he says.
“Ultimately the team works well together and that is the key to any good show.”
City Homicide airs 8:30pm Mondays on Seven.