Marta Dusseldorp and Brendan Cowell: Raising the Bar

June 21, 2022
The actors discuss their return to local screens in Foxtel’s highly-anticipated, big-budget series, The Twelve.

Marta Dusseldorp has worked on a plethora of major TV shows – including Janet King, Jack Irish, A Place to Call Home and Wentworth, the latter two for Foxtel.

Likewise, Brendan Cowell became a household name with his role in the Foxtel series Love My Way, and has continued to work steadily, both at home and overseas, with recent roles in Game of Thrones, and the upcoming Avatar 2, to name a few.

The two have returned for Foxtel’s most ambitious and biggest series yet, the 10-parter The Twelve, which revolves around the jurors of a murder trial, who must decide the case of an accused woman.

Starring opposite the likes of Sam Neill, Kate Mulvany and Brooke Satchwell, Dusseldorp anchors the series as a public prosecutor, while Cowell is jury member Garry.

You both can pick and choose projects. What was it that attracted you about this series? 

Marta Dusseldorp: I love working with Foxtel. They develop their projects in such a nuanced way. They really care about the story and go above and beyond to make sure that there’s enough diversity of plot. So, when you step on screen with them, they’re gonna take care of the character. On this role, I was really intrigued by the legal argument. That was really my responsibility. And I went to great depths with a legal consultant to make sure that I could push it as far as I could without being chucked out of the court (laughs).

I enjoyed that and I enjoyed [the character] not going home with me. I actually really liked just being on the legal argument of it and fighting for justice, because what I know about the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions] is you never wanna be involved with them, but if they’re on your side, then you’re lucky and they are fighting for the truth. So, I take that quite seriously because I have friends who are in the legal profession.

Brendan Cowell: I was probably about to head back to London and then this came through, and I felt like it was the best show in town. With Foxtel, you’re likely to get a script that’s been given the love and the time, which isn’t always the case. And they’re probably going to cast it with some people who have worked in theatre. I had really positive experiences with Love My Way and The End. So, continuing on that lineage, I thought, ‘Well, this should be good’.

You both play characters unlike those you’ve played before. Was this part of what attracted you?

Marta Dusseldorp: It was, absolutely. It was an exciting challenge. I’m 50 next year and I really love being an older woman and I wanted to bring that to screen. My character doesn’t care what anyone thinks. She doesn’t walk to win. She walks to breathe, and I want all women my age to know that’s what you should do. I just wanted to emulate what all these fabulous women around me do.

Brendan Cowell: I really liked the first episode and I wanted to shed a different light on a character that could easily be kind of stereotypical. My character, Garry, who’s one of the jury, his behaviour can get quite abhorrent and dishonest, but there’s a beating heart, a big heart underneath all that, shrouded in the mishaps of the addict. Balancing that was really interesting.

Brendan, your character is one of the key members of the jury. Can you tell us about his journey?

Brendan Cowell: He starts as part of the team, but he quickly splits off and the past comes back to haunt him a bit, and he has to perform a role. He doesn’t necessarily fancy himself as part of the camp. I really enjoyed that. Playing him was about pushing that. All of the directors really cared about the characters. There was always an ongoing dialogue. There was always time for character, which isn’t always the case in television.

The series has an incredible ensemble cast, led by Sam Neill, as well as some newcomers. How exciting was it to work with such a large cast?

Marta Dusseldorp: When I get to stand and watch these incredible actors on the witness stand, I learn so much, and we played it like theatre. We played it right through from beginning to end pretty much each time. So, the integrity of the performance was intact, and we had some of the best television directors in the country who guided us, as well. The jury, I didn’t get to go home with them, but I cannot wait to go home with them when I watch the series because I think they’re all incredible in their own right, whether it’s theater or screen or first time.

Marta, you anchor the show with Sam Neill. How was it to work with him?

Marta Dusseldorp: I think Sam Neill is one of the most extraordinary actors in Australia, New Zealand, in the world. He really is the most charismatic, dynamic, clever man. He’s navigated some incredible stories in his life. He has the human behind it to match, which is not always the case. It was such a pleasure to know him, to work with him. I learned heaps and we laughed a lot and hopefully we’ve created something that matches each other. It was an absolute pleasure to work with him.

What is the biggest thing you took away from your experience of making The Twelve?

Marta Dusseldorp: The humanity. It’s a piece about humanity and it’s how we try to survive day in, day out. And sometimes we can’t always see things for what they are, but they’re from our frame of reference. It just allows people to realise everyone comes with an attitude, comes with a history and you need to appreciate that and recognise it and don’t get in the way.

Brendan Cowell: The way people listen, and the way people perceive information, and the way people digest information and bounce it off their own lives, their own prejudice, opinions, values, is fascinating. I think that the scenes in the jury room – it really hots up – are very little about the case. They’re more about where people stand.

The Twelve premieres June 21, 2022 on Foxtel.

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