The Time of Justine’s Life
She grew up on Australian TV, but Time of Our Lives allows viewers to see Justine Clarke as a mature performer.
To many, Justine Clarke grew up on Australian television, with her youthful appearances on A Country Practice, Home and Away and later roles on Come in Spinner, Love My Way, All Saints, The Surgeon and Play School.
But it was Tangle where she began to show her range as a mature performer, if to a Pay TV audience.
With last year’s ensemble role in ABC’s The Time of Our Lives, she finally returned to a series drama role on Free to Air television, allowing many more viewers to watch her at work.
“I haven’t done that forever,” she admits.
“I think Play School means that people know me.
“But there were a lot of people wanting to discuss (Time of our Lives). That’s it’s strength I think. The drama is based in something that’s either happened to you or you know someone that it’s happened to.
“Lots of men watch Time of our Lives with their wives. Usually they won’t come up and say anything to you or they are less likely to talk about it. But there were lots of blokes who identified with Shane (Jacobson) or William (McInnes).”
Clarke returns as school teacher Bernadette, mother of two and married to Luce (Shane Jacobson).
This season kicks off with some heavy-duty drama by writers / producers Judi McCrossin and Amanda Higgs.
“There are some quite serious life-concerns for Bernadette and she’s basically making a big decision. And you’ll see how much that affects everybody in the family and how everyone’s concerns are very different in the end the only person who can really make the decision –regardless of whether it’s made for the family or not- is the person in the situation,” says Clarke.
“It tests her relationship with Luce and you will hopefully see a little bit more, perhaps, of her darker side.
“There are more challenges for everybody this season, but I think that comes out of having to be more rigorous when you only have 8 episodes. The journey has to start strong and build.
“I reckon Judi has done a fantastic job in creating a good, tense, piece of writing.”
Returning to the cast are Jacobson, McInnes, Claudia Karvan, Stephen Curry, Michelle Vergara Moore, Tony Barry and Sue Jones. It’s a formidable ensemble as the extended Tivolli family.
“They’re all really good. Shane’s an actor who wants to talk through the scene and have a game plan about what will best serve the scene, which is really great. Some actors will come all prepared and know how the character is going to respond. But he’s so used to thinking on his feet in the other parts of his life,” she says.
“So that makes it really fun and stimulating. And he is so entertaining with the crew. I feel lucky because even though we have long days in the studio when Stephen Curry comes they’re a double act.
“William is an extraordinary actor, and Claudia of course.
Clarke promises more between Caroline (Karvan) and Bernadette this season, playing up to the two in-laws dealing with family matters, sometimes behind closed doors.
“You get put into situations with family members and you know the relationship has to last. So there’s a way of communicating to be diplomatic, which is interesting,” she says.
“We all get frustrated and annoyed with the people that we love. You have to vent somewhere.
“People respond to that. You realise ‘I’m not the only one who does that.’
I definitely think there is lightness and humour.”
But while the Tivolli’s differ markedly from other TV families such as Rafters, Proudmans and the broader tone of House Husbands, how does it deal with lighter moments?
“I don’t think it gets bogged down in drama, and I didn’t feel that with the first season. I know there are some heavy storylines but I think it’s a pretty good balance. I guess it depends what you like?” Clarke suggests.
“But it definitely lifts through the episodes. It starts at it most dramatic point and it lifts from there.”
The Time of Our Lives returns 8:30pm Thursday on ABC1.