Hamish Michael and Marta Dusseldorp. Picture: Ben Timony

The dark shadow of child sex abuse lies over the ABC's action-packed new series Janet King, pushed aside in the beginning by the bigger story of a senior policeman charged with a mercy killing but always there in the background.

And it fits well with the sensitivities of a new, softer version of the icy crown prosecutor, Janet King, who was the stand-out character of the legal show Crownies and who has earned her own eight-part spin-off series.

It begins with King, played by Marta Dusseldorp (A Place to Call Home), at the end of her maternity leave, reluctantly leaving her year-old twins with her partner Ash Larsson (Aimee Pedersen) and returning to work, forced to stand in on her first day for a sick colleague in the trial of an online sex predator.

Dusseldorp agrees King is unhappy about resuming her career.

"I think she has changed, you know you do when you have your kids," said Dusseldorp, who has two children.

"So you see a woman who is unwilling, and within that unwillingness she makes a mistake and that is what I love about what they (the show's makers) have done with her.

"The genre has changed with this series. It is not procedural like Crownies: there is a political thriller at the centre in this story.

"The intention is that you have to keep watching because at the end of each episode there is a springboard into the next. I am hoping that it becomes a page-turner."

Several regular cast members from Crownies are in Janet King but there are also new faces, the two most prominent being Vince Colosimo as Chief Superintendent Jack Rizzoli, who is assigned to liaise with the prosecutor's office, and Damien Walshe-Howling as ambitious crown prosecutor Owen Mitchell, a former member of the police force.

Both men are furious when King charges Assistant Commissioner Steven Blakely (John Howard) with manslaughter after he admits giving his terminally ill wife an overdose of morphine.

This triggers the chain of events that form a story arc covering all eight episodes of the series.

Mitchell is particularly aggressive in his attacks on King but she does not flinch, projecting a serene stillness that is a part of Dusseldorp's on-screen persona.

"I think Janet can be a little bit unpleasant but she only gives as good as she gets," Dusseldorp said.

"I wanted her to sit quieter at the beginning and find points of stillness because I knew that would not last.

"Episode five explodes for Janet. She is threatened in the most personal way and is removed from her family, so I wanted that to be the time where we actually see the stillness disappear and there is an agitation and urgency that can't be suppressed."

Dusseldorp has extensively researched her character's background. For Crownies, she sought advice from Sydney prosecutor Margaret Cunneen, who has been appointed as special commissioner to inquire into child sex abuse allegations in the Catholic diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

For Janet King, Dusseldorp has gone further.

"Margaret obviously is working on the inquiry and I have been talking to her about that," she said. "I don't know how she does it.

"And through Margaret I have met some of the police and had a bit of a chat to them," she continued. "I went back to the court and just sat there for days."

If Janet King does well in the ratings there are plans to make another season.

"This is the scary bit where you put it out and people walk by and decide whether to poke or punch," Dusseldorp laughed.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

Compare & Save

Follow Us

More from The West