William McInnes the interviewee is a million miles removed from his seemingly cold and distant character on new Australian drama The Time of our Lives.
McInnes plays Matt on the excellent new ABC drama, a serious and unhappy man who on the surface is living the dream with a high-paying job, a beautiful wife (played by Claudia Karvan) and a young child. McInnes, however, is a hilarious interview subject who breaks off into impersonations of Australian politicians, especially Christopher Pyne, during the interview. The actor and author, best known for his roles as Constable Schultz on Blue Heelers, Max Connors on SeaChange and Nick in his late wife Sarah Watt’s film Look Both Ways, describes the show created by Judi McCrossin and Amanda Higgs (The Secret Life of Us) as “entertainment with a brain”.
“I know there’s lots of stuff on television at the moment, Australian stuff, and that’s great but this is a contemporary drama that’s trying to elaborate on the theme of real life,” McInnes explains. “Accepting that Australia’s a multi-dimensional, layered society and it’s still entertainment. Hopefully it will get a few people watching.”
And it should. Even though it could merely be seen as The Secret Life of Us characters hitting their 30s and middle age, it has more depth than the aforementioned show, which was also written and produced by the Higgs and McCrossin partnership. Focusing on an extended Melbourne family, the Tivolis, the ensemble cast (which includes Justine Clarke, Stephen Curry, Shane Jacobson, Tony Barry and Michelle Vergara Moore) explores everyday Australian life with wit and wisdom not seen on local screens for some time. With The Time of Our Lives, it’s fascinating to invest in local characters that are a reflection of your own peer group, so you don’t have to escape to the castles of Westeros or the Mob-owned strip clubs of New Jersey to find interesting characters.
While most of the characters seem to be happy-go-lucky, McInnes’ Matt and Karvan’s Caroline aren’t. From the first few episodes they actually appear to be cold and unlikeable, which is a revelation for a local drama to contain unfriendly characters that aren’t merely caricatures.
“On the surface he’s got everything he wants,” McInnes explains about his character Matt. “He’s got a successful career, he’s got a beautiful wife but he’s still not happy. He’s got a charming little boy, he’s got all the bits and pieces anyone would want but he’s not happy. The attraction of this show was the idea that people even within a tight-knit family… it’s quite disparate in its make-up in many ways and they continually look to each other’s lives and are either bewildered by what the other people in the family are up to but also envious that they’ve got everything they haven’t got.
“He looks at his brother and the relationship he has with his wife, his partner, and I don’t think Matt has any idea how his brother can function. How can he be so happy with so little? That’s interesting, I think. There’s a reference there to the wider idea of Australia. Anyone else in the world would look to Australia and think how can people that are blessed with a terrific society, a relatively strong economy and lots of opportunity, how can they be so almost unimaginably worried about the future and scared of themselves? With Matt and Caroline, Claudia [Karvan] said they were a first world problem, and I think that’s exactly right. They’ve got everything they need but they’re still not happy. The secret is, I think, they’ve got that awful malaise that lots of people have and that’s this feeling of entitlement – that they’re owed something in life. That what they’ve got isn’t enough. It’s just a crazy thing. I guess the other crazy thing about the show is that Christopher Pyne makes an appearance,” he jokes.
The Time of our Lives premieres on ABC 1 on June 16 at 8:30pm.